Hot Springs National Park, known as America’s Spa, has a big birthday coming up: The park turns 100 years old on March 4.
For its official centennial celebration, the City of Hot Springs, Arkansas will deliver an official proclamation via horse-drawn carriage declaring March 4th as Hot Springs National Parks Day. Informally, why not celebrate with a beer brewed from the park’s famed waters followed up by a spa treatment on the historic bathhouse row?
Superior Bathhouse, a centuries-old bathhouse converted into a brewery, brews its beer using the city’s famous 144 degree spring water. (Fun fact: Superior Bathhouse, which once offered hydrotherapy and massages, is the first-ever brewery in a national park).
Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA town skyline in the mountains.
Order a “beer bath” here for $30 and you’ll get to sample all 18 of the brewery’s beers, ranging from an oatmeal stout to a honey basil kolsch to a hazy IPA. Ask locals to entertain you with stories of Hot Springs’ sultry past. This once was a place frequented by Al Capone.
The National Park Service won’t go so far as to confirm the hot springs water has curative properties, but will certify that it is safe to drink. The hot springs water is colorless, odorless and tasteless because it lacks much iron and sulfur. To make it easy to consume, hot water jug fountains are scattered across the national park and throughout town.
Over the course of the last century, the national park has been a refuge and place of healing for those who come to enjoy the 4,400 year-old thermal spring water that sprouts from 47 springs at the base of Hot Springs Mountain.
Hot Springs National Park
According to the National Park Service, Jazz musicians, civil rights leaders, baseball players, former presidents, veterans of war and others have come to “quaff the elixir,” i.e. drink the hot springs water.
Before it gained national park status, Congress created Hot Springs Reservation to preserve the thermal springs for public use and enjoyment in 1832. On March 4, 1921, Hot Springs got upgraded to being the country’s 18th national park. It continues to be the only federal controlled hot springs in the United States.
The park draws about 1.5 million visitors each year. While you can’t soak in the park’s springs, you can fill up your water bottles with the spring water and hike the trails in the park. Visitors here can also stroll Bathhouse Row, which is made up of eight buildings that were built between the years of 1892 and 1923.
Ozark Bath House exterior. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The Buckstaff, which has been in continuous operation since opening its doors back in 1912, is the only bathhouse that offers a traditional bathing experience today. Treatments include a signature whirpool bath, which is 20-minute tub soak in a tub with waters up to 102 degrees.
The March 4th anniversary kicks off a series of planned events the park service has to celebrate this storied national park. Other planned centennial events this year include a park-wide BioBlitz in May, a Block Party in June, a Junior Ranger Day celebration in August, a Thermal Springs Festival in September, an Archaeology Day celebration in October and more.
I was struck with wanderlust at an early age. As a curious kid, I’d go to the library and flip through the atlas and encyclopedias, imagining I was traveling to far-off