Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
4/5 of the 2010 National Parks; 40/50 U.S. States (in 2 years!)
So we had a productive weekend, taking a weekend jaunt up to Arkansas to visit Hot Springs National Park and coming back via Oklahoma on the Talimena Scenic Byway. We still need to revisit Oklahoma to visit Chickasaw National Recreation Area (a 2011 quarter), but we liked the idea of bumping our state count up to 40. That’s 40 states in less than 2 years. Our remaining states are Alaska, Hawaii, N. Dakota, Deleware, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas — some of those are weekend trips, whereas some are longer excursions. We also like the idea of our 50th state being one neither of us have visited — I’ve been to Deleware, he’s been to Hawaii — so those are out. Maybe Alaska? Anyway…
While Hot Springs National Park was not established as a National Park until 1921, the area was set aside as a federal reserve back in 1832, which is why it’s featured as the first of the America the Beautiful Quarters (rather than Yellowstone, the first National Park established in 1872.
The park itself is more of a historical park than the scenic areas one might usually associate with national parks. The natural thermal hot springs in the area piped the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row in the historic area, and it was a popular place to visit through the 1950s for the therapeutic bath treatments. Nowadays, the town looks like it hasn’t changed since the 1950s, and not necessarily in a quaint restored way, but more of a “we haven’t touched some of these buildings in 40 years” way.
The bathhouses themselves are mostly out of use — 2 are used for modern bathing/spa purposes, 1 is the Hot Springs MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), and 1 is the Hot Springs National Park Visitors center, where you can tour the bath facilities as they were 50 years ago.
Other than touring the Fordyce Bathhouse/Visitor Center and wandering up and down historic Bathhouse Row, we visited the Park Administration Building (which has the fountain & door featured on the Arkansas quarter). A lot of the fountains up and down the street are piped with the hot springs water, so they’re hot to touch and you can see the steam rising. There aren’t any natural springs around anymore (except a small “Hot Water Cascade” waterfall/fountain at the end of the street). There are also several filling stations where you can bring water bottles or empty jugs and fill them with Hot Springs water.
We would have considered taking some water (just for fun) if we had known, but we were too lazy to find jugs once we were there. Other than that, we took a mineral bath at the Quapaw Bathhouse, and then wandered around on the trails. We also visited the Winery of Hot Springs (which was mostly very sweet wine) and walked up a tall hill to find a nice panorama of the town.