Throughout the 19th century, the town of Hot Springs prospered as a health spa, with people coming from around the world to "take the waters." Entrepreneurs covered the springs and piped hot water into bathhouses along the city's main street, Central Avenue, which is also called Bathhouse Row. The elegant bathhouses that line the avenue were modeled after some of the finest spas in Europe.
In 1832, the Hot Springs of Arkansas became one of the first natural areas to be set aside for the purposes of preservation in the history of American conservation when President Andrew Jackson afforded it federal protection. The singular area was later established as a national park in 1921, shortly after World War I.
Today, Central Avenue is the heart of Hot Springs National Park. Hot Springs Mountain, from which the water flows at 143 degrees Fahrenheit, rises above the street. Its lower slopes were once covered by an unusual, white porous rock, called tufa, which was formed of minerals deposited by the hot water. But the slopes were altered more than a century ago when the rock was covered with tons of dirt, and professional landscapers planted shrubs, trees, and grass.
In recent years, medical science has detracted from the mystique of taking hot mineral baths, which in the past were believed to cure or provide relief from such ailments as arthritis, paralysis, and gout. Nevertheless, visitors still flock to Hot Springs National Park to bathe in its soothing waters.
Arkansas's Hot Springs National Park has attractions for the active vacationer and the spa-seeker alike. It's easy to see why this area has been cherished by so many people.
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