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Family Tree of the National Park System
Part I
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part I



Mineral springs have been sought out for their medicinal properties since ancient times. Medicinal bathing reached its height of popularity in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries when tens of thousands of persons sought out such world famous spas as Bath, Aix-les-Bains, Aachen, Baden-Baden and Carlsbad. As mineral springs were discovered in the New World, they also came to be highly valued. By 1800, places like Saratoga Springs, New York, Berkeley Springs and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and French Lick, Indiana, were on their way to becoming popular American resorts.

When significant mineral springs were found on western public lands it was natural for the Federal Government to become interested. In 1832 Hot Springs, Arkansas, was set aside as a Federal reservation to protect some 47 unusual hot springs that emerge through a fault at the base of a mountain. They were considered to have important medicinal properties significant to the nation. In 1870 the area was recognized by Congress as the Hot Springs Reservation and in 1921 it was made a National Park. Hot Springs is a health resort and spa rather than a scenic or wilderness area. Visitors have benefited from taking the waters at Hot Springs for more than a century and a half.

In 1902 the Federal Government purchased 32 mineral springs near Sulphur, Oklahoma, from the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. They were considered to have important health giving and invigorating properties. The Sulphur Springs Reservation was placed under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior who shortly acquired some additional land. In 1906 Congress passed legislation renaming the area Platt National Park in honor of Senator Orville Platt of Connecticut who had been prominent in Indian affairs and had died shortly before.

When the National Park Service was established in 1916 the Hot Springs Reservation and Platt National Park were placed in the National Park System. They provide an interesting though somewhat tenuous link to the long history of spas and the ancient custom of "taking the waters."


Last Modified: Sat, May 12 2001 10:08 am PDT

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