Located atop Hot Springs Mountain in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the Hot Springs Mountain Tower is a 216-foot steel observation tower offering panoramic views of the surrounding Hot Springs National Park area. The area now encompassing the town of Hot Springs and the lands of Hot Springs National Park is home to a population of natural geothermal hot springs, which have been believed to have healing and medicinal properties by a number of cultures, including the indigenous Native American tribes that inhabited the southeastern United States area prior to the arrival of European settlers.
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The Hot Springs area was first claimed for France in 1673 and eventually became part of American territory as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. City settlement in Hot Springs began in 1807, two decades prior to the designation of Arkansas as a state. In 1820, the Arkansas Territorial Legislature requested that the area’s hot springs and neighboring mountain territory be set aside as a national reservation, a declaration that was granted by the federal government twelve years later. In 1921, the reservation grounds were converted into Hot Springs National Park, a 5,550-acre park maintained by the National Park Service.
As the 11th-largest city in the state, Hot Springs has developed into a thriving spa resort town. Eight historic bathhouse facilities and gardens, designed in the style of European bathhouses, are preserved as part of Bathhouse Row, which is designated as a National Historic Landmark and operated as part of the National Park, although the custom of using hot springs bathhouses as medicinal treatment has fallen out of popularity with the advent of 20th-century medicine advances. The city’s historic economic center is also preserved as the Central Avenue Historic District, adding to its reputation as a destination for unique and historic American architecture.
Three observation towers have been built atop Hot Springs Mountain since the late 19th century, serving as a prominent architectural landmark for the city. The first, a 75-foot wooden tower constructed by Enoch Woolman in 1877, was struck by lightning during a storm and destroyed by fire. Its 1906 replacement was the Rix Tower, constructed for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and transferred to the mountain site after the event’s close. Standing 165 feet tall, the steel tower overlooked Hot Springs for nearly 70 years before it was demolished in 1975 due to structural stability concerns. In 1983, the current Hot Springs Mountain Tower opened to the public as its replacement, the result of a yearlong joint construction effort between the city and the National Park Service.
Today, the Hot Springs Mountain Tower rises 216 feet above Hot Springs Mountain, providing panoramic views spanning more than 140 miles of the National Park area and the neighboring Ouachita Mountains and Diamond Lakes regions. Accessible from downtown Hot Springs via State Highway 7 and Fountain Street, the freestanding observation tower is constructed with a system of lattice steel truss work. On the ground floor of the tower, a gift shop offers national park souvenirs and a variety of unique crafts and goods by local artisans, and a grab-and-go food station offers sandwiches, healthy snacks, and other prepared American fare. A glass elevator transports visitors to the open-air 360-degree observation deck on its top floor. The floor below the observation deck at the top of the tower contains a museum with exhibits chronicling the history of the Hot Springs area and the development of the National Park.
Hot Springs Area Attractions and Events
The tower is a popular tourist destination for National Park visitors and those enjoying the amenities of the facilities on Bathhouse Row. Of the eight historic bathhouses located on the Row, three are still open to the public today. The Buckstaff and Quapaw Baths facilities offer traditional bath amenities for adolescent and adult visitors, and the Fordyce Bathhouse has operated as a visitor center for the park since 1989, offering tours of the historic facility as a living history museum. The Lamar Bathhouse facility is also open to the public, operated as the Bathhouse Row Emporium, the official gift shop for the park.
A number of family attractions are also located near the National Park, including the Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, the Mid-America Science Museum, the Gangster Museum of America, and the Galaxy Connection Museum, which highlights Star Wars memorabilia. In addition to the National Park, the peninsular 210-acre Garvan Woodland Gardens offers a cultivated urban oasis on the shore of Lake Hamilton. The city’s historic downtown district features an array of antique dealers, boutique stores, and art galleries, and several annual festivals highlight local arts, including the Valley of the Vapors Music Festival, the Hot Springs Music Festival, and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.
P.O. Box K, Hot Springs, AR 71902, Phone: 501-623-6035