Hot Spring Day in Hot Springs

About 50 miles southwest from our camp at Maumelle COE, is Hot Springs, AR. This city of 40,000 people is nestled among the hills (mountains?) of Central Arkansas and is perhaps best known as the host city of  Hot Springs National Park. Yesterday, Friday, we drove down that way to check it out during a very hot (high 80's) spring day.

There are 58 places designated as National Parks in the United States. Of these, about a dozen are not accessible by road, or are on islands that we can't drive to from the continental USA. By my count, that leaves 46 that we can visit by RV during our sabbatical. Of these, after having visited Hot Springs National Park yesterday, we've been to 19... with 27 yet to go.

Hot Springs National Park is the smallest in the NPS system. Established first as a "Reservation" way back in 1832, it was promoted to full National Park status in 1921. The focus of the Park is the natural hot water springs that flow from the sides of Hot Springs Mountain... to the tune of up to a million gallons per day of 143 degree water. During the 1800's and early 1900's, the waters became known for their healing properties and people came from far and wide to take advantage of their curative effect. Bathhouses sprang up, along with doctors and clinics who all claimed knowledge of the best regimen for the cure of all sorts of ailments. As the years went by, the bathhouses became more opulent as most catered to a well-to-do clientele. 8 of them are preserved along "Bathhouse Row", the centerpiece of the National Park.

The Visitor Center is located in the old Fordyce Baths building, which is also preserved as a museum of the bathhouse experience. Most of the original fixtures and rooms are left as they were when it closed in 1962 and you can poke your nose around most of the interior to get a feel for what guests enjoyed during their visits.

We also walked the grounds and along the Grand Promenade between Bathhouse Row and Hot Springs Mountain. We stopped in the grand old Arlington Hotel which still caters to visitors... as it has since 1875. There we lingered a while and enjoyed a refreshment.  Our visit to Hot Springs National Park provided an instructive view into this little slice of American history.

After the Park, we drove out to Hot Springs Village about 20 miles north of Hot Springs. The purpose was to explore the largest gated community in the USA. Here's some sense of the scope of this place: over 40 square miles... 470 miles of paved roads... more than 30,000 lots... 9 golf courses... 11 lakes. Once we gained admittance (remember, this is a gated community... you've got to jump through hoops just to get a visitor's pass) we drove through miles of heavily wooded countryside -- only occasionally catching a glimpse of a house, here and there, through the trees. The main roads are all tree lined with intersecting streets leading into "neighborhoods" where the otherwise concealed homes are. Developed in the 1970's, only about a quarter of the lots have homes on them but the population is already over 8,000. It's quite a place... an invisible town...  have never seen anything quite like it before.

On our way back to camp we checked out a couple other State Parks... Lake Ouachita and Lake Catherine... both of which offered very nice campgrounds that would easily accommodate anything from tents to large RVs. But more than that, the facilities were up-to-date, neat, and cared for. Based on these two locations, I think we'll try an Arkansas State Park during our next visit.

Dar is pretty much up-to-date with albums in our online photo collection. See more of our trip to Hot Springs, as well as other pics from recent days by clicking here.
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