The native Americans revered the springs as a place of peace, and early French and Spanish explorers were also acquainted with the area. Directed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804, William Dunbar and Dr. George Hunter explored the region via the river systems following the Mississippi River to the Red River, Black River, and then the Ouachita River. The Ouachita River led the crew to Gulpha Creek where the expedition investigated the Hot Springs area. Arkansas novaculite was one of the numerous mineral and natural resources discovered during their review of the region. The native stone became a vital source for whetstones from the mid 1800’s until the 1970’s when it was replaced by synthetic sharpeners. The thermal waters were of great interest to the explorers and all those who came to enjoy the springs. In 1832, the area was the first land set aside by the United States Government, as Hot Springs Reservation, in an an effort to preserve the unique hot water springs prior to its designation as a National Park in 1921.
From the late 1800’s until the mid 1900’s, Hot Springs was a thriving spa destination and medical center. With the advent of more effective modern medicines, the popularity of the water therapies wanned. Of the eight grand bathhouses, only the Lamar Bathhouse continued to offer baths utilizing the thermal water. Renovations and reinvestment in the historic bathhouses has resulted in the opening of the Quapaw Bathhouse as a spa, and the Ozark Bathhouse as the site for an art museum. The most elegant of the bathhouses, the Fordyce, has been completed renovated to its former splendor and is currently the visitor’s center for the National Park Service. Guided tours are offered from the center for the historic area. For more information about Hot Springs National Park, call 501-624-2701 or visit on-line at: www.hps.gov/hosp/index.htm.
Hot Springs National Park
101 Reserve Street
Hot Springs, AR 71901
Visitor Information: (501) 624-2701
Park Headquarters: (501) 623-2824