Perhaps the most famous national park in America is the country’s first national park, Yellowstone. One of the most popular national parks in the country, Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872. There is one national park today, however, that predates Yellowstone, although it wasn’t a national park when founded.
The thermal spring waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas, were utilized by people long before colonization; Native Americans referred to the area as “the Valley of the Vapors.” Europeans first came across Hot Springs in 1541 when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto visited the site for the first time. It wasn’t until the 19th century, however, that the hot springs were officially protected.
In 1832, Hot Springs was designated Hot Springs Reservation by President Andrew Jackson, becoming the first federal reservation and a popular spa destination.
It wasn’t until 1921, however, that it became Hot Springs National Park after the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. As such, what is now one of America’s most underrated national parks actually predates Yellowstone National Park by 40 years, though it wasn’t officially a national park when founded.
Hot Springs National Park has some of the most beautiful places in America’s parks. Nearly 1 million gallons of water are produced by the hot springs every day, with an average temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit when first coming to the surface.
The historic Bathhouse Row is one place to enjoy the benefits of the hot springs, but today they are also directed into the many spectacular hotels and spas in Hot Springs, one of the most beautiful lake towns in America.