It’s bath time in Hot Springs

One of the many, many great things about America is our designated national parks.  There are 59 of them, overseen by the government to preserve the natural lands that make America truly beautiful.  The first was Yellowstone National Park, located primarily in Wyoming and signed into law in 1872.  The smallest is just up the road in Hot Springs.

In all, protected national park land in America consumes 51.9 million acres.  Hot Springs takes up a little less than 6,000 acres of that.

But folks have been knowing about Hot Springs since before Yellowstone was designated.  In 1832, President Andrew Jackson protected the area as a land reservation, with its primary focus not the beauty of the area but its underground water, which was thought to be therapeutic.

People said they felt better after drinking it and bathing in it.  It wasn’t long before people from all over the country – and the world – were showing up at Hot Springs for the healing and medicinal benefits of the water.  Many were sent by their doctors, who hoped the geothermal spring water would have a “miraculous” effect on their ill patients.

From polio victims to sufferers of syphilis along with notables like Rudolph Valentino and Al Capone, they came to bathe in the healing water and to take exercise in the pristine environment.  By 1946, people were taking a million baths a year in Hot Springs.

Then, 20 years later, business had cooled off as the medical establishment found newer (and more expensive) ways to treat disease and folks were routed away from bathing in natural spring water and into systems that today include $100,000 operations and $150 pills.

All the bath houses finally closed, except for Buckstaff Bath House, which is still in operation to provide baths and other related healthful treatments.  If you’ve never been to Hot Springs, maybe it’s worth a trip up there to enjoy both the lovely scenic landscape of northwest Arkansas and maybe have a healthy bath.

And the good thing is, it won’t cost you $100,000.

Nick & Ellie