PICTURED: Pool of hot spring water in Hot Springs National Park. Photo credit: Brandon Rush. CC 3.0.
Hot Springs National Park, in the aptly-named town of Hot Springs Arkansas, on the slope of Hot Springs Mountain, is celebrating it’s centennial today.
It has long been said that Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872 by Congress, is not just the Nation’s oldest, but the world’s oldest; as far as national parks are generally regarding today.
However 1,500 miles south, and forty years before, there was a tract of land that was truly the first ever protected for national recreation by the federal government. Declared a Reservation in 1832 by Andrew Jackson, Hot Springs is pushing through COVID-19 fears to host a year of fun events for people who are looking to visit what was America’s most popular natural spa.
47 naturally-flowing thermal springs bubble up from the rocks on the slopes of Hot Springs Mountain, where a major fault line pulls water down under the Earth’s crust. There it’s heated to 143° Fahrenheit, and slowly forced upward again — a process that takes 6,000 years.
However it’s a process that produces 600,000 to 800,000 gallons of heated spring water per day, which the national park is mandated to give away to visitors; the only national park in the country that does anything like it.
A National Historic Landmark, Bathhouse Row, where 8 communal spas have offer bathing opportunities to all Americans, has prominently featured in American recreation for a hundred years. It was the sight of the first Major League Baseball spring training, and legends like Cy Young, Babe Ruth, and Satchel Page soaked their bones after the days practice in the thermal water.
“Hot Springs was a neutral territory for gangsters from cities like Chicago and New York who would come down to enjoy the baths and racing found in the city,” Amy Bradshaw, from the Arkansas Dep. of Parks and Tourism, told WaL. “Al Capone even maintained a suite, Suite 443, in Hot Springs’ Arlington Hotel, located in Hot Springs National Park”.
The Centennial celebration
A number of celebrations, both monthly, and throughout the year, will be taking place in the 5,500 acre-park.
2021 will be the year of the 6th Iron Ranger Challenge. Athletes or just fit nature enthusiasts that hike, pedal, paddle, or run 100 miles across Arkansas State or Federal public lands, can email Hot Springs National Park to receive a commemorative patch.
Every month, Hot Springs will be featuring a photo of the month, through their year-long photo contest in which contestants can send in pictures they take within the park, corresponding to different monthly themes. Details can be found on the park website.
On April 20th, Hot Springs will celebrate its 189th anniversary as a federal reservation, and will be offering guided hikes and specialty tours of the park.
On June 12th there will be a 1920s themed party, to commemorate the year of the park’s establishment. All guests are encouraged to dress like it’s the roaring 20s, (think Great Gatsby), and attend musical performances and more.
While park officials say COVID-19 procedures may impact some of these events, they aren’t preventing them, and will soldier on come hell or hot water, because most of us could probably do with a trip to the spa these days.
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