The History of Hot Springs
Hot Springs takes its name from the forty-seven springs around Central Avenue. These mineral springs flow with hot water, which is then artificially cooled from its natural temperature of 143 degrees, and pumped into nearby bathhouses and hotels at a more comfortable level.
Hernando Desoto explored the region in AD 1541, and found the Native Americans already enjoying the benefits of the "Valley of the Vapors." In 1804, Thomas Jefferson sent an expedition to the area to explore the Ouachita River. Because of all the area has to offer, tourists contribute more than $300 million annually to the local economy.
Visitors to Hot Springs are often reminded of a bygone era. A time when ladies and gentlemen welcomed the evenings with a promenade past stately hotels and thermal baths, which lined Central Avenue. "Bathhouse Row" saw its heyday from the late 1800s to the first few decades of the 1900s, and much of the historic downtown district is well-preserved and being restored as part of the National Park. The thermal baths are still a local attraction for visitors who come to relax in the healing waters. While here, tourists also enjoy shopping in the art galleries and antique stores that line Central Avenue.
The history of Hot Springs is also spiced with a colorful reputation for entertainment, illegal gambling, and a plethora of brothels, which attracted many famous and infamous visitors, like Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, Theodore Roosevelt, and others.
For horse racing fans, Hot Springs celebrates Arkansas' "fifth season" each year. Thoroughbred races take place at Oaklawn Park and Casino, a major track with many horses qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, from January to April.