Sightseeing at Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is a place to come if your body is sore and you want to enjoy the rejuvenative waters, or as a natural refuge where you can hike peacefully among the squirrels, rabbits, deer, foxes, warbling vireos, and warblers. Hot water springs have been cherished since the beginning of civilization, from the Roman baths of Pompeii to the ancient thermal springs of England's Bath. At Hot Springs National Park, visitors can know the simple pleasure of resting in water that has been gently warmed in the bosom of the earth.
You can enjoy a hot springwater bath at the Buckstaff, the only bathhouse operating on Bathhouse Row. The Fordyce Bathhouse is a restored spa in which visitors can see stained-glass windows, assorted statuary, and gleaming pipes, as well as the luxurious tubs in which the aficionados of another age undertook three-week therapy courses of daily hot baths and massages.
Hot Springs Mountain, from which water flows at 143 degrees Fahrenheit, rises above the heart of the park. This park includes a total of 47 hot springs, as well as some of the finest hardwood forests to be found in the Ouachita Mountains of central Arkansas.
It offers more than 24 miles of wonderful hiking and bridle trails that wander through woods of oak, hickory, flowering dogwood, eastern redbud, southern magnolia, and shortleaf pine. Local bird-watchers have counted nearly 150 bird species in the hills and valleys of this unique national park. Indeed, it is nationally known as a bird-watcher's paradise.
Hot Springs National Park Photo Opportunities
Hot Springs National Park offers both historical and natural photo opportunities. Here are just a few spots where you can snap that perfect picture:
- Bathhouse Row: While only one of the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row is still functioning, the street is still lined with the grand spas built to mimic 19th century European bathhouses.
- The Cascade: The Cascade is the only hot spring in the park that's in its natural state. Algae growing in the water coats the rocks in a bright blue-green.
- The Grand Promenade: Along the Grand Promenade, which is behind Bathhouse Row, you can see the protected springs that provide water to the bathhouses.
- Ouachita Mountains: The Ouachita Mountains, including Hot Springs Mountain, offer numerous scenic views.
Hot Water From the GroundThere is only one hot spring in its natural condition in Hot Springs National Park. Called the Cascade, it is located approximately a half mile above bathhouse-lined Central Avenue.
The spring was created in 1982 by park officials who cleared away tons of dirt, decaying plants, and other materials that had collected over decades. The water flowing from the Cascade may have fallen as rain as long ago as 4,000 years and then seeped through fractures in the earth's surface. It was heated when it passed over hot, igneous rocks deep within the earth. Eventually the water returns to the surface through faults in the rock of the mountain.
The new tufa rock being created by the Cascade hot spring is building up at the rate of one inch every eight years. The bright blue-green color on the rock is algae, the only plant species that can survive in such hot water. Several concealed natural springs are located along the Tufa Terrace Trail, which is on the opposite side of the Grand Promenade from the Cascade.
Hot Springs National Park was one of the first in the U.S.'s national park system. Go to the next page to learn about the history of Hot Spring's National Park.