The Nation's Oldest National Park
A really interesting place in the US is the Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. The town’s name is Hot Springs, and it lays in the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas.
Hot Springs is known for its naturally heated springs. The Native Americans used the mineral rich water for healing purposes. Later, people began to build houses over the hot springs. Now the city has eight bathhouses called the Bathhouse Row on Central Avenue. Park rangers do tours for the visitors. Hot Springs has 47 natural hot springs.
In 1832, President Andrew Jackson set aside the land and springs and deemed them protected from development. This is one of our oldest National Parks. It is a nice walk on the main street (Central Avenue) while you can enjoy looking at the beautiful buildings. Buckstaff Bathhouse has still been offering soothing soaks since 1912. Our favorite was the Fordyce Bathhouse. Here you can find a museum (admission is free).The Park Service restored the building to its former glory. With its original furniture, décor and exhibits it is worth visiting. The visitor can view where men and woman bathed separately. It was frightening to watch the different tools that they used for physical therapy although their modern equivalents are still in use. The soaks are also available in Quapaw Baths & Spa, while some bathhouses are no longer operational.
Most of the hot springs are capped so you can’t see them. The city collects and stores the water and regulates the dispensing of it. There are outlets from where the natural spring water is flowing and is available free, for example, on Central Avenue, next to the Tourist Office. In this way, the National Park makes the water available to everybody. It is really a tasty water. I wish I could drink it every day.
I was excited to see how the hot water comes from the ground. Two of the hot springs are in the downtown area and are not covered up. The water temperature is close to boiling, so you can’t touch it, you can just look.
The springs have been used for a long time by a variety of visitors from gangsters to sportsmen. When gambling was still legal, visitors liked to gamble, bet on horse races (this is still legal) and heal from their wounds. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit the Gangster Museum of America. The museum shows the history of the gangsters such as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, ill famous characters who maintained part-time residence in Hot Springs. We visited the historic Arlington Hotel. Room 443 was used by Al Capone; it comes with a secret getaway in case of danger. The whole floor was occupied by his gang. Now the building is renovated, to restore it to its former glory.
The city is part of a National Park trails and trails start right on Central Avenue. One of the coolest walks was to the Hot Spring Mountain Tower offering spectacular views.
Outside the city, we had a chance to visit the Garvan Woodland Gardens nearby. The best part was the Bob and Sunny Tree House within the Evan’s Children’s Adventure Garden. It is a special experience for both children and grownups. Part of the gardens is one of the best Japanese gardens, picture-perfect, with charming water fountains and lovely sculptures and bridges. Garvan Woodland Gardens provide a cooling shade against the hot sun. From the gardens you can also walk to Lake Hamilton with its recreational areas by trails. Adjacent to the gardens are the Anthony Chapel Complex available for rental events or admission free visiting.