Buckstaff Bathhouse in Hot Springs, Arkansas: What You Nude to Know

Hot Springs Arkansas has a very storied bathing tradition with several beautiful and historic bathhouses located on the famous “Bathhouse Row” which also happens to be part of Hot Springs National Park.

Most of the bathhouses closed down and were transitioned into other types of businesses but one of them stayed open throughout the ages and still continues to operate in the same historic fashion that it did 100+ years ago.

This is the Buckstaff Bathhouse.

It’s the beautiful blue and white bathhouse that’s developed a reputation for its traditional style bathing services.

That means it’s the one where you do get naked as you go through the old-school bathing stations. For that reason, it causes many people a bit of reluctance to give it a shot.

I wanted to test my comfort level by seeking out a bath treatment at the Buckstaff Bathhouse, so I gave it a shot.

Below I want to walk you through my recent experience here and perhaps give you some hope that you can enjoy this type of history despite any of the uncomfortable feelings that you might imagine you’d feel.

My experience at the Buckstaff Bathhouse

Since I wasn’t able to come early in the morning, I showed up at 12:15 PM which was one hour before they opened for their afternoon services (the lobby remained open).

I walked in to see if I could set up my walk-in appointment, but I was told to come back at 12:45. So I sat in one of those iconic blue Adirondack chairs in the front to pass the time listening to an audio book.

You see, they don’t do reservations here and honestly, it’s kind of part of the experience. It certainly takes you back to a time when technology was not rampant in our lives.

Buckstaff Bathhouse

At 12:45 I walked in once again and was then allowed to take a seat in the lobby making me the number two male visitor. From there it was about a 30 minute wait. So once again I passed some time just listening to more audiobook.

Then, they called me up to sign my waiver and make a payment (they do accept credit cards).

I had been debating on whether or not I wanted to also go with the 20 minute Swedish massage at the end and at the last second I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. That put the cost at $89 although the standard treatment comes in at $40.

I was issued a stub for the massage and the bath treatment and then directed into the men’s locker room where I took a seat and then an attendant came in and took my slips and then instructed me to get undressed in a stall, which had a privacy curtain.

Buckstaff Bathhouse

You can go through the experience with a bathing suit on although for me doing so didn’t feel authentic enough and I decided it was time for me to finally step out of my comfort zone as I sort of passed a similar type of experience in Colorado.

At this junction, perhaps because my mind was racing a little bit due to being out of my element, I did make a critical mistake. I forgot my hand loofa in the locker, which meant I did not get the scrub down but to be honest that was the thing I was looking forward to the least, so it wasn’t a major loss.

So I then grabbed one of the bath sheets hanging over the stall to cover up toga-style and then made my way into the bathing room which is a large room with all of the different stalls, tables, and stations.

I then met my attendant, Austin, who was great and he instructed me to step into one of the stalls, discard the sheet, and lie down in the tub. It was the moment of truth and as I stepped into the tub I realized, “Oh, this is really happening.”

I submerged myself up to my upper chest in the hot bath water ensuring its rising tide wouldn’t spill over. Almost instantly, I sensed the powerful jets bubbling beneath me. It felt like I was literally sitting directly on top of a bubbling spring and so I tried altering the position of my posterior every couple of minutes. It was a bit of a ride.

Despite shifting around in the tub a bit, I did find the 104° water very relaxing and soothing. I honestly thought it was going to be way hotter, so that was a relief.

Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center And Museum tub
Example of a similar type of bathtub from a different bathhouse. (My tub was obviously much cleaner!)

After about 15 minutes, Austin re-entered the stall and I then made my way out of the tub and was given a small towel to cover up my front side as I walked over to the other station to face my next challenge.

Now it was time for me to step into the “sitz tub.” It’s almost like sitting into a sink but with water running so that it hits your lower back. You’re instructed to lean forward to stretch out your back and it’s a very interesting position to be in to say the least. I felt the temperature increase on my lower back and focused on relaxing my muscles.

After about 5 minutes or so of that I grabbed my towel and, partially covered, wandered over to the steam cabinet. This was something I was very iffy of trying. I just do not do well in steam rooms plus I’m claustrophobic and this thing just looked like a steamy nightmare.

But I told myself I was going to give everything a shot on this visit and so I stepped inside and within what felt like one second they closed it up, with just my head poking out. Immediately I felt the intense heat from the steam engulf my instantly dripping body but with my head sticking out I could breathe just fine.

It certainly felt like an upgrade from a steam room for that reason but at the same time I wondered how much time I had before my body would start to have something to say about the experience. Would I actually be able to last the four minutes which in that moment felt muuuuch longer.

I took some deep inhales and exhales as I attempted to pass the slow-moving time.

After about four minutes it was time. Austin came to set me free which I was very grateful for. Also, I felt a bit accomplished that I made it through the entire four minutes. I probably could’ve gone another minute or so but I could already feel the heat swallowing my melting body in there.

Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center And Museum
Example of similar type of sitz tub and steam cabinet from a different bathhouse.

One thing that I sadly did not get to experience was the needle shower. It was essentially out of service at this time but it’s this awesome looking shower with jets that hit you from all different sides.

I believe that it’s cold water and you can see what it looks like by the photo below. They said that it should be operational by the end of the summer but it was a bummer to not be able to experience it.

Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center And Museum shower
Example of similar type of needle shower from a different bathhouse.

After the hell steam cabinet I then was taken over to one of the beds to lay down on my back. Austin then placed the hot towels on my thighs and one under my back. And when I say hot towels I mean hot. Picture the hottest towel you may have ever received in business/first class.

But then my saving grace came which was a cold rag that was placed over my face. At that point, it was almost as if I’d forgotten what cold felt like but it was instantly chilling.

Then Austin folded the wet bath sheets over my body. Once again that claustrophobia came creeping in as I felt like a mummy. People who are claustrophobic will tell you that this is definitely NOT the most relaxing position to be in.

However, I was largely able to settle myself down and breathe through the experience which lasted about 20 to 25 minutes. During that time I focused on the sounds of baths and faucets running in the distance and other patrons entering in the space and beginning there own journey into the world of historic hydrotherapy.

Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center And Museum

I also thought about how awesome it was to be experiencing this type of history at this place. Amidst the hallowed halls of historic Hot Springs, I found myself not merely a visitor, but a participant in a living, breathing narrative of days gone by.

As I dealt with my ongoing mental mixture of relaxation, claustrophobia, meditation, appreciation, and awe, Austin came around and took the cloth off my face. I was officially resurrected. And now it was time for the cooling room.

The cooling room had about seven beds and you can just lie down with fans blowing heavenly air down on your well-warmed body.

I laid down on my back and with my trusty little towel provided myself with some privacy.

After a few minutes the masseuse came in and took me to a room that was just a couple of rooms over for the massage, complete with exposed brick from 1912.

In addition to your attendant, if you go with a massage this will be the other person who most likely will have a 360º view of you in your birthday suit. So it’s a little different from a traditional massage.

I lay down on my back and then got ready for the first part of the massage which focused on loosening up my arms, chest, and neck.

I was able to chat with the masseuse about the history of the town, how it’s changed, and all of the different types of patients that come through to receive treatment including those who have experienced pretty miraculous changes.

I found out there were packages that you could buy and that some people come in every year to receive those extended duration treatments. It’s definitely something to think about if you have a great experience during your treatment.

While some people remain skeptical of the health benefits if you go into it with a positive outlook you never know what type of results you might experience. There is a certain magic to the springs or at least I think there is.

After a while it was time to turn on my stomach with yet another body reveal. At this point, I felt like I had largely gotten comfortable with the nudity aspect of the experience. However, it’s still something that I think would take a few more reps to get fully comfortable with.

The massage continued on the legs, back, and shoulders.

This was one of the lighter open-handed massages which I appreciated as I didn’t feel the need for any kind of deep tissue action. Then after 20 minutes the massage was over and I was showed back to the locker room where I could get back into my stall and change.

I grabbed some cash from my wallet and walked back into the bathroom to give a split tip to both my attendant and the masseuse. I then left feeling relaxed, accomplished, and just really appreciative of the entire historical experience.

Final word

Doing the traditional bathing here in Hot Springs just felt like something I absolutely had to do.

For one, it’s such a unique opportunity to step back in history and experience what so many people have done over the decades including high profile individuals like Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and countless others.

Secondly, there was the nudity aspect. I passed on similar situations at least a couple of times over the years and decided that I needed to just get over this reluctance. I can’t say that I am dying to enroll in a nudist colony anytime soon, but I definitely feel like getting comfortable in this type of situation is much easier than I anticipated.

And finally, there is the health benefits. We will see what comes of this but it is interesting to think about the future health treatments that could be available here.

I fully expected this to be an experience where I for sure would be one and done but it’s actually something that I could see myself doing on a repeated basis.

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