Hot Springs National Park doesn’t feel like a national park. Partly because of its size, it’s the smallest national park by area in the US, but more noticeably, there’s no gate you drive through, no entrance fee, and the visitor center is right in the middle of downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas.
This beautiful National Park Visitor Center is a preserved bathhouses on the strip called Bathhouse Row where droves of people came, and many still come, for relaxing and therapeutic bathing in the hot mineral water.
This bathhouse was built in 1915 and represents the “Golden Age of Bathing” in America. Preserved today, the museum shows the facilities and explains the therapy services provided to people who came to the hot springs looking for treatment and cures for a wide variety of physical ailments.
The hydrotherapy room provided several therapies including an “electric bath” which surprisingly didn’t kill anyone. The vapor boxes (below) were one of several methods used to get the people sweating.
In the Chiropody Room foot problems were treated. A room description states: “Painful cysts between the bones on the bottoms of feet would be crushed and slid off with sideward knuckle punches.” That sure is a horrific mental image.
The facilities came with a state-of-the-art gym for the era complete with medicine balls and ropes to climb.
In addition to all the treatment and exercise rooms, there are many beautiful sitting rooms so patrons could fully relax and enjoy the spa experience.
Outside of the visitor center there is the park itself, with trails and a campground. In downtown Hot Springs the city provides free spring water to the public. Folks come from miles around with jugs for filling. It comes out really hot from the faucets and after a little wait it’s great tasting water.