1) Can I sit in some hot springs out in the forest?
No, you can only bathe in the hot spring water by going to one of the bathhouses. People who originally came to use the hot springs were ailing with rheumatism (arthritis), skin diseases or other health problems. They wanted all the comforts of civilization as those things became available in this area. They were not interested in sitting outside. The current bathhouses were patterned after European spas in the early 1900s; they were considered to be the leaders in spas at the time. Find out about bathhouses/spas available now.
2) What is a bathhouse?
The traditional bathhouse experience has men and women separated into opposite sides of the building. A bath attendant guides you from the dressing area to the tub bath, then to the sitz bath or vapor cabinet, hot packs and cooling area. You may finish with a massage for an additional fee. In years past, the higher-priced bathhouses also provided extra facilities like gymnasiums, music parlors, billiards and even a bowling alley in the Fordyce Bathhouse.
3) Do I have to pay to take a bath?
Yes. The bathhouses are either concessionaires or special permit holders of Hot Springs National Park. They must pay the park for the hot spring water they use for baths. They must pay to maintain their facilities and must pay employees for their work. The federal government at one time maintained a free bathhouse for those considered to be "indigent" or unable to pay for baths recommended by a physician for their health problems. As the number of those requesting this service dwindled and physicians no longer recommended the baths, it was not cost effective to maintain this service.
4) Why isn't there a large outdoor pool?
Hot Springs National Park is charged with protecting and providing the hot spring water for public use and with preserving the historic bathhouses. As long as there are businesses providing traditional baths, that is the highest priority of use for the water in a facility. The water is also provided free of charge to visitors who collect it in person to drink. The park must also preserve the historic landscape of the Bathhouse Row National Historic Landmark District. There is no suitable place within the park boundaries for a large outdoor pool.