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Hot Springs, Arkansas

No one knows in what epoch the springs began to flow, bubbling with steam from the rocks. Nor do we know when the Indians first found these waters, but they surely viewed them with joy, for sweatbaths were universal among the native Americans.

In 1541, the first Europeans found the valley. Hernando De Soto and his surviving conquistadors - almost defeated by swamps and cane breaks - floundered alongside the Mississippi and Arkansas. We can only imagine their wonder and delight at the first vision of vapors rising against the chill air of autumn. They must have quickly cast aside shields and lances and shed their helmets and armor for the first refreshing bath in months.

Next to come were the Frenchmen, trappers working their way up the Ouachita to search for furs and bear oil. The French left vestiges of their presence here and there with place names. When William Dunbar and George Hunter came to the hot springs in December, 1804, they found an abandoned log cabin and a few split-board shelters that may have been built by trappers, or by French and Spanish plantation owners who had come to take the baths.

In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte, hard up for cash, offered to sell France's half billion acres of America to President Thomas Jefferson for thirteen million dollars. Recognizing a bargain, Jefferson hastily sealed the deal. The springs and their environs, like the rest of the vast Louisiana Territory, cost the United States about three cents an acre!

Jefferson asked his friend, William Dunbar of Natchez, Mississippi, to lead an expedition into the Ouachita Mountains and report on the Indian tribes, minerals, flora and fauna, and the legendary hot springs. Dunbar enlisted Dr. George Hunter, a chemist from Pennsylvania to join the expedition. They found the hot springs, saying that it tasted like spice-wood tea.

Options for Those Who Choose
to Extend Their Visit to Hot Springs

Other options for extended times in this area: golf courses abound; the Mountain Tower; restored headquarters of Mountain Valley Spring Water Company; Hot Springs Mule Trolley; the National Park Aquarium; or the Ar-Scenic Springs, the oldest commercial business in Hot Springs. You will want to take a walk through the historic Arlington Hotel in downtown Hot Springs, which has hosted Presidents - too bad, they were all booked up for June of 1999. There is a quartz mine about 15 miles from Hot Springs, where you can mine quartz. There is a diamond mine in Murfreesboro (about an hour from Hot Springs) where you can look for your own diamond. Nancy also highly recommends the play, "The Witness," outdoor musical drama of the life of Jesus Christ.

Amenities at The Clarion

Our reunion hotel has a tennis/badminton court, if you want to bring your rackets. Children will enjoy the playground at the Clarion. Boat rentals are available and there is a dock at the hotel if you want to bring your own boat. There are five lakes in this region, with the Clarion being located on Lake Hamilton.

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