Hot Springs Travel Guide

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About Hot Springs

The "Valley of the Vapors," as it was known when first discovered by Hernando de Soto, was a popular destination long before Americans settled here. Native American Indians came to bathe in steaming pools of water believed to have magical healing powers. Their reverence of the mysterious place was such that even warring tribes would lay rivalries aside and bathe together in peace. Dozens of natural thermal springs provide an endless supply of mineral-enriched water at an awe-inspiring 147 degrees. The springs and surrounding area became the first federally protected lands in our nation's history — later named Hot Springs National Park. As 19th-century innovations made interstate travel more feasible, more people came. A settlement sprang up to service the ever-increasing number of visitors and eventually grew into the city of Hot Springs.

A post-Civil War boom produced a brand new city with lavish hotels, bath houses, and of course, the saloons, gambling halls, and brothels that ushered in a sordid element that would claim the city for 100 years. At the turn of the century, betting on horse races joined the mix with the emergence of Oaklawn Park, which remains today and still draws throngs of thoroughbred racing...  Read more »