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Hot Springs Creek

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - IN THIS ISSUE - By El­iz­a­beth Rob­bins, pho­tog­ra­phy cour­tesy of Gar­land County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

What's been both a curse and a bless­ing to Hot Springs? Hot Springs Creek. Be­gin­ning at a cold-wa­ter spring off Park Av­enue, for a long time the creek flowed un­re­strained through the nar­row val­ley in which Hot Springs de­vel­oped. Peo­ple had to cross rick­ety wooden bridges to the bath houses and busi­nesses on the east side of the creek, which left “scarcely pas­sage for a car­riage” along much of the main street. A flow­ing wa­ter­way was tempt­ing to peo­ple want­ing to quickly dis­pose of garbage or waste, so the beau­ti­ful creek be­came a smelly sewer. Drier pe­ri­ods, when there was not enough flow to carry away the sewage and trash, were es­pe­cially odor­ous, un­sightly, and un­healthy. And when heavy rains came, the creek be­came a tor­rent that de­stroyed prop­erty and some­times took lives.

In 1883, the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior as­signed the job of con­trol­ling the creek to Hot Springs Reser­va­tion Su­per­in­ten­dent Sa­muel G. Ham­blen. Ham­blen, an en­gi­neer, built a con­tin­u­ous keystone arch made from an un­usu­ally hard form of quartz-con­tain­ing sand­stone, which was quar­ried at the base of West Moun­tain. Con­struc­tion, which be­gan at the “Y” where Park and Whit­ting­ton av­enues meet Cen­tral Av­enue, fin­ished in 1884 at a cost of $136,745. The fin­ished cul­vert, 20 feet wide and about 15 feet tall and 3,500 feet long, ran along the west side of Cen­tral and then un­der Ar­ling­ton Lawn and un­der the side­walk along Bath­house Row, down to Malvern Av­enue. The com­pleted arch was cov­ered with dirt, and soon Vic­to­rian bath houses fronted with lux­u­ri­ant lawns lined an el­e­gant Bath­house Row that would have been unimag­in­able a few years ear­lier.

Af­ter the creek was un­der­ground, Hot Springs had a main street that was 100 feet wide, had lost the open sewer, and had bet­ter — but not per­fect — flood con­trol. A very heavy storm can make the creek over­flow, as the floods of 1910, 1923, 1960, and 2008 at­test.

In 1904, the creek arch was ex­tended past what is now Trans­porta­tion Plaza, so its to­tal length is about 2 miles. Re­pairs to the 131-year-old arch have been and still are needed. In 2001 a $795,000 im­prove­ment job was com­pleted, and in 2014 the city re­ceived fed­eral

grants of $53,678 and $480,000 for arch re­pair and main­te­nance.

What about when Hot Springs Creek emerges from its arch? The city has used the creek as the in­spi­ra­tion for the beau­ti­ful Hot Springs Creek Green­way Trail (ac­tu­ally sev­eral linked trails — Trans­porta­tion Plaza Trail, Val­ley Street Creek­walk, Friend­ship Trail, Hol­ly­wood Trail, the Util­ity Ser­vice Cen­ter Trail, and the to-be-com­pleted South­ern and Wetlands trails). Par­al­lel­ing Hot Springs Creek for most of its route, the 4.2-mile trail when com­pleted will ex­tend from just south of Bath­house Row to Lake Hamil­ton.

Preserving and cre­at­ing open spa­ces, pro­vid­ing com­mu­nity spa­ces for fes­ti­vals and events, and cre­at­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties for out­door recre­ation and non-motorized trans­porta­tion are just a few of the ben­e­fits of the trail. Led by Jean Wal­lace of the city's Parks and Trails Depart­ment, Hot Springs has turned the creek that was once a curse into a bless­ing that truly en­hances the qual­ity of our lives. It's a bless­ing that we'll ex­plore more in a fu­ture is­sue of On the Go.

Smashed cars and up­turned as­phalt in front of Kress store, Flood of 1923.

At left, look­ing south on Cen­tral Av­enue af­ter Flood of 1923; below, work­men la­bor on creek arch, 1883; bot­tom, LawrenceEl­lsworth doc­tors' of­fice and bath house, 1867.

Con­struc­tion of creek arch at in­ter­sec­tion of Whit­ting­ton and Cen­tral av­enues, 1883.

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