Two of a Kind
Both Platt National Park [the present-day Platt Historic District] and Hot Springs National Park are remnants of the great age of hydrotherapy. Each park was initially set aside as a United States Reservation by congress (Hot Springs in 1832 and Sulphur Springs in 1902). Equally anomalous as units of the National Park system, the two parks contributed to the emerging National Park System and illustrate the changing values of what was deemed worthy to be a "National Park."
"Healing Waters" and National Parks
“Taking the cure” at mineral spring resorts became highly fashionable in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, when thousands visited such famous spas as Bath, Aix-les-Bains, Aachen, Baden-Baden, and Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary). As mineral springs were found in America, they too attracted attention. Places like Saratoga Springs in New York and White Sulphur Springs in Virginia (now West Virginia) were developed privately, but Congress acted to maintain federal control of two springs west of the Mississippi.
Hot Springs in the Arkansas Territory comprised 47 springs of salubrious repute emerging from a fault at the base of a mountain. In 1832 Congress reserved four sections of land containing Hot Springs “for the future disposal of the United States.” After the Civil War the Interior Department permitted private entrepreneurs to build and operate bathhouses to which the spring waters were piped, and the Hot Springs Reservation became a popular resort.
In 1902 the Federal Government purchased 33 mineral springs near Sulphur, Oklahoma Territory, from the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations to create the Sulphur Springs Reservation, also under Interior’s jurisdiction. The reservation was enlarged in 1904, and two years later Congress renamed it Platt National Park after the recently deceased Senator Orville Platt of Connecticut, who had been active in Indian affairs.
In 1921 the State of Oklahoma constructed a tuberculosis sanatorium for veterans immediately south of Platt National Park. A trail connects the Veterans Center to Pavilion Springs.
The Mineral Water Parks Today
Congress redesignated Hot Springs Reservation a national park in 1921. Although the park encompassed some natural terrain, it remains more an urbanized spa and historical area than a natural area.
Platt National Park lost that designation in 1976 when it was incorporated in the new Chickasaw National Recreation Area.