Flashback Friday #12

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Obligatory tourist signage photograph

Hot Springs National Park lies within the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, approximately 50 miles southwest of the capital city of Little Rock.   Hot Springs Reservation was established by Congress in 1832, and transferred to the National Park Service in 1921, making it the oldest property in the National Park Service inventory, even older than Yellowstone National Park.  The predominant feature of HSNP are the 47 protected hot springs which flow freely from the ground, and the eight historic bathhouses which are located on the famous “Bathhouse Row.”

There is a public observation tower located on a mountaintop above Hot Springs, and for a nominal charge you can ride an elevator to the top of the tower.  From the observation deck you are afforded a 360 degree view of the surrounding area.  The area known as “Bathhouse Row” is located below the tower, and the view of the town from up high is shown in the following photograph-

Aerial view of Hot Springs bath house row

The bathhouse row area is worthy of exploration.  The buildings in this area have been preserved and restored, and the architectural styles are varied and beautiful.  This bell tower is just one of many interesting features that can readily be viewed from the street.

Ornate architecture

On a terrace just above bathhouse row there exists a beautifully tranquil and inviting hiking path which is constructed from brick formed into intricate patterns.

Beautiful walking paths above bath house row

Along this path are many of the protected hot springs from which the town (and park) were named.  The photograph below is just one example of the many springs along the cobblestone lined walkway.

Natural hot spring

There are eight historic bathhouses located along bathhouse row.  At this time, five are operating and open to the public, with steam baths, sitz baths, and massages as part of the services offered to visitors for a fee.  The National Park Service has set up it’s headquarters and visitors center at the old Fordyce Bathhouse near the center of bathhouse row.  The Fordyce Bathhouse is not operational, but rather is restored and open to the public  for self-guided tours.  It is very interesting to tour the Fordyce Bathhouse.  You will see many beautiful stained glass works of art, such as this stained glass ceiling located on the top floor of the building.

Stained glass ceiling at Fordyce bath house

Within the Fordyce Bathhouse you will also encounter unexpected works of fine art, such as the sculpture shown in the photograph that follows. 

Artwork located throughout building

For those interested in the actual workings of a bathhouse, the Park Service has done an admirable job of preserving the equipment that is necessary for a bathhouse’s operation.  The photograph below shows a control manifold that is used to regulate the temperature of the spring water before it is introduced into the baths and showers.

Temperature regulation manifold

The sweat chambers shown in the next photograph were a very popular part of the bathhouse experience.  Personally, I think they look like instruments of sadistic torture, and I do not think I would have opted to enter one without coercion.

Torture chambers?

After a ride up to the top of the observation tower, followed by a foot tour of the historic buildings along Bathhouse Row, a look around the Fordyce Bathhouse, and perhaps some bathing in one of the five operational bathhouses, you might enjoy taking a ride around Lake Hamilton, which is located just south of the town of Hot Springs.  If you are lucky, you might just find an elusive pot o’ gold at the end of a rainbow!

Rainbow over Lake Hamilton

5 thoughts on “Flashback Friday #12

  1. Hot Springs ha truely reinvented itts self. In the late 70’s and 80’s it was not a pretty place to be. I marvel at its tranformation every time I go “down town”.

  2. wow, what an excellent place. did you enjoy all of the “bath house” activities? do they offer a massage, mud-bath or sulfer-bath? it isn’t an unreasonable distance for day trip for us. i’m going to put it in my dream queue.

    thanks for the tip.


  3. Karl – you can find links to all the bathhouse services on the following page:


    Massages, steam baths, mineral baths, mud baths as well as other various spa services are offered. I do not believe that there are any sulfur baths available (these are not sulphur springs), but I may be mistaken.

    Retta enjoyed all the spa type things, while I took the time to do additional sightseeing. She enjoyed the services of a masseuse who sang old time ballads and gospel songs while administering the massage. Retta was very pleased with the service that was offered.

  4. Your tower view image of downtown Hot Springs…. I work at Arkansas Business Publishing Group in Little Rock. We publish and annual “Hot Springs Guest Guide”. I usually use the image from the Arkansas Parks and Tourism but also try to find different photos too. I loved your image I found when doing a Google search for Hot Springs.

    Would you let us (possibly) use the image in one of our editorial sections of the book. I will not be working on the magazine until December or January but I like to start my search for images now.

  5. This is where I grew up. I now live about 70 miles from there, but go back whenever I get the chance.

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