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Southwest Arkansas is celebrating the 100th birthday of Hot Springs National Park today. And the celebrations will continue all year for the site, which actually dates back much further than its officially recognized 100 years indicate.

In 1832, Congress created Hot Springs Reservation in southwest Arkansas, making it among the oldest federally protected sites in the country.

Eighty-four years later, the National Parks Service was created, and shortly after, Hot Springs National Park became the 18th national park in the country. That was March 4, 1921, thus the March 4, 2021 centennial celebration.

Nearly 1.5 million visitors come to Hot Springs each year to enjoy the thermal spring water, hike the park trails, and explore Bathhouse Row. The park’s thermal springs, estimated to be 4,400 years old, are the only federally controlled hot springs in the United States to be managed for both public health and consumptive use.

Today, Hot Springs city officials will deliver an official proclamation via horse-drawn carriage declaring March 4 Hot Springs National Park Day.

Birthday cupcakes will be served to guests in front of Fordyce Bathhouse, one of the most famous spots celebrating the tradition of the American spa. Visitors will also have access to a 100-year-old birthday photo booth.

National Park officials will also unveil a special anniversary video capturing scenes and moments from the park’s 100-year history, playing it at the celebration and posting it on social media.

The celebrations will continue during the week and throughout 2021. On Saturday, the Mid-America Science Museum will host Build Your Own Bathhouse, an event during which visitors can create a bathhouse out of cardboard.

Monthly events will include a 1921-themed block party in June, a Junior Ranger Day in August, the Thermal Springs Festival in September, and an archeology day in October. Details on these events will be posted on the park’s website and social media accounts.

There are also year-long centennial events, including a photography contest and the Iron Ranger Challenge, during which visitors are encouraged to walk, paddle, bike, or swim 100 miles on Arkansas public lands.

For more on enjoying Hot Springs and the surrounding area, consider:

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