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History of Healing in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs Bathhouse Row

In the Beginning

Centuries ago, the Native American Indians in the region surrounding Arkansas learned of the healing powers of the thermal waters of Hot springs, Arkansas. The land then became known as the Valley of the Vapors. Rival Indian tribes laid down their weapons as this land was considered sacred. They came to regain their health, relieve their weary bodies, and enjoy the rejuvenating effects of the healing hot waters. In 1542, Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto was introduced the medicinal powers of the thermal water and rising vapors. The explorer was searching for gold but instead found a genuine fountain of youth.

The Word Spreads About Healing Water

Word spread across Europe of the waters, and by 1851 people flocked to the Victorian Spa. Originally the springs were covered with wood shacks to bath in. Those often fell to shambles with excessive rainfall. In 1877, the government took control of the springs and covered the creek and eventually helped build bathhouse row some outfitted with beauty shops and a gymnasium. Physicians and medical providers set up shop by the waters. Recognizing the water's ability to cure aliments and restore health, the government built the Army-Navy Hospital opened to patients in January 1887. As early as 1886, seeking natural wholistic health, baseball team owners sent their players to Hot Springs to detox and bath in the waters during pre-season. This was the birth of spring training.

What's in the Water?

The waters are heated as they are forced through fissures and cracks for over four thousand years before they reach the surface. On their journey they are enriched with healing minerals. There are different elements in each spring but mainly they include: Calcium, Silica, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Bicarbonate, Sulfate, Chloride, Fluoride, Oxygen, Iron, and Radon gas.

What Does it Help With?

Folklore claimed that bathing and drinking the water lead to clearing ailments and easing arthritis, rheumatic disorders, skin rashes, swelling joints, and sore muscles. Keep in mind the health regiment was usually a combination of drinking, bathing, and a good massage. Research shows that minerals in the water like silica help remove aluminum from the body, while also promoting softer skin, shinier hair, stronger nails, and supple joints. The combination of other minerals helps protect against high stomach acid and constipation. Natural oxygen in the water is attributed to aiding exercise recovery, flushing toxins out of the body, and improving alcohol metabolism.


Although the springs do not bath as many as they did, 1 million, in 1946 they still are a source used to the pleasure of 10’s of thousands. The waters are capped in over 40 wells on the Hot Springs National Park and are a source to Hotel Bath Houses. You can visit and enjoy the drinking waters for free provided by the many fountains maintained by Hot Springs Park Services.