Home Sweet Home
Houston Travel Blog› entry 28 of 29 › view all entries
We enjoyed the Hot Springs National Park and then drove, drove, drove finally arriving home just 5 minutes after Ned! He was returning from a trip to Detroit and had all the candles lit so our house hugged us when we got home. This is a good thing since I painted the downstairs when we returned home from Nicaragua since it did not hug us at the time. That was enough work for awhile!
We figured out Hot Springs National Park. Here's the skinny on it, since it is conceptually difficult as a National Park:
Hot Springs water (143 degrees) come out of the earth in multiple places at the base of the mountain. For hundreds of years people have come from far away to soak in the reportedly medicinal water, that has steeped for many years through mineral-rich rock before quickly surfacing as hot water. Because of the national treasure of these waters, they were protected and later became a National Park. The whole town sprung up to provide services for those who would vacation here to take baths at the local bathhouses.
These springs are mostly covered to protect the water, but are also piped underneath and into several hotels that provide bath facilities. The springs are also used in the steaming public outdoor fountains! They also have a water distribution kiosk that allows anyone to fill up jugs of the WARM, colorless, odorless, clean water for drinking. We did too! The water kiosk is right in the parking lot of the town's Visitor's Center, where we found free RV parking on Central Avenue.
The National Parks Service Visitor's Center is located about 5 buildings north of this water kiosk. Along the way are some of the old bathhouses, most of which have closed over time since medicine modernized in the 1950's. However, one hotel still stands and is available for baths and massages still today and we got a brochure- prices were very reasonable.
Another most famous bathhouse, the Fordyce, is the site of the NPS Visitor's Center and you can wander the 3 floors through all the bathing rooms, cool-down room, massage rooms, changing rooms, mechanical pump room in the basement, and the social hall under exquisite stained glass arched ceiling in the 3rd and highest floor. There are terraces and courtyards for outside relaxing too. A movie on the history of the hot springs and their cultural influence, a bookstore, display spring around the corner outside and one that is glassed in located in the basement were also interesting.
There are hiking trails all over the mountain and you can pay to go into the observatory tower on top of the mountain (or just go up the road to see the view from the mountaintop, as we did the night before), but basically, the springs are not in some grand outdoor setting where you hike out to see them (as you might suspect given its a National Park). Instead, it is all about the history of the town that sprang up around these hot springs and how they are still clean and relaxing today.
So that's the skinny on Hot Springs NP. I bet it's a hopping Arkansas vacation spot in in the summer or shoulder seasons as the stores were very tony and vacation-oriented. On this February morning, we had the place to ourselves.