Oertel Trail Podcast


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Hello, I'm ranger Mark Blaeuer, standing alongside the Hot Springs Mountain Drive, the oldest scenic drive in Hot Springs National Park. However, it was not always just a drive for cars; of course, carriages used it before that, and pedestrians have long used it.

It was, notably, part of the Oertel graduated exercise system. That was "designed," inspired by, a Dr. Max Oertel from Bavaria, who had pioneered the layout of what we call "terrain cure" systems. And there are still a number of these terrain cure routes used at spas today.

Well, of course, this was the great American spa, and in 1914 this Oertel system opened. There was a stone marker every hundred yards along each of the four routes, and each one was of varying steepness and length, the idea being that depending on what level of recovery you were at, from whatever ailments you came here with, you would be prescribed a different trail. There was actually a trail map for users and physicians, and on the reverse side of each of those maps was space for a physician to write a prescription.

The steepest one was called the Red Trail. It was good for making a healthy heart stronger. So: that was laid out in 1914 and used for a number of years.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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