MORE ABOUT HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
The city takes its name from the natural thermal water that flows from 47 springs on the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain in the historic downtown district of the city. About a million gallons of 143-degree water flow from the springs each day. The rate of flow is not affected by fluctuations in the rainfall in the area. Studies by National Park Service scientists have determined through carbon dating that the water that reaches the surface in Hot Springs fell as rainfall in an as-yet undetermined watershed 4,000 years earlier. The water percolates very slowly down through the earth’s surface until it reaches superheated areas deep in the crust and then rushes rapidly to the surface to emerge from the 47 hot springs.
A small channel of hot spring water known as Hot Springs Creek runs under ground from an area near Park Avenue to Bath House Row. Bathhouse Row, consisting of eight turn-of-the century historic buildings, lies within Hot Springs National Park and is managed by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Two of the bathhouses remain in operation. The Buckstaff and the Quapaw, which was reopened in 2008. Another bathhouse, the Fordyce, has been converted into a museum to give tourists a glimpse into the fascinating past of the city. The federally-protected, natural thermal waters are also used for thermal bathing at several downtown hotels and a hospital. The water is available free for drinking at several fountains in the downtown area. It is also available free throughout the city in the homes of the residents.
The city has been a tourist mecca for generations due to the thermal waters and attractions such as Oaklawn Park, a thoroughbred racing facility; Magic Springs and Crystal Falls theme parks; a fine arts community that has earned the city the No. 4 position among “America’s Top 100 Small Arts Towns”; the Hot Springs Music Festival; and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, held each October at the historic Malco Theater, one of the top documentary festivals in the world, attracting numerous Academy Award-winning films and producers.
Oaklawn Park has been in operation since 1904. (An additional horse racing park was once within the city limits, but was eventually closed). The meet, which is annually held from January through mid-April each year, is sometimes referred to as the "Fifth Season" and features the "Racing Festival of the South" during the last week of the racing season each April. Many Triple Crown contenders compete in the Arkansas Derby, which is the big finale each year of the meet. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, his brother Roger, and Billy Bob Thornton, all Hot Springs natives, have been known to frequent Oaklawn Park in the past.
Other annual events in town include the free Hot Springs Jazz Festival in September, the free Hot Springs Blues Festival in September, the downtown Bathtub Races in the spring, the Big Barbecue Cook off in Spring and Fall, the World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade every March 17, and the outdoor skating rink November through January.