One of the big items on our travel bucket list is to visit all 58 national parks. There is no timetable, we just want to say we have been to them all. Craig has his passport book and gets stamps to help us keep track. J The next leg of our trip was planned so we could cross another one off the list. Our route from Missouri to Texas took us close to Hot Springs National Park so we planned a short diversion. It was only a day and a half, but it was well worth it.
We wanted a quiet, convenient place to camp with full hook-ups for our rig. Based on some really good reviews, we decided to stay at Lake Catherine State Park. It is a wonderful state park and the campground was very nice. We had a spot right on the lake.
Hot Springs National Parkis in the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was originally established as Hot Springs Reservation in 1832 and was designated a National Park in 1916. It was the 18thNational Park to be established. Originally set aside to help protect the natural hot springs, it soon became a medicinal, recreation and service area. The area is known for its bathhouses, some of which were set up by the government.
The heyday of the bathhouses was in the 20s and 30s. Gangsters like Al Capone and Bugsy Segal frequented the area. It was also a site of major league spring training, attracting players like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Cy Young. The park service has preserved a group of the houses, called Bathhouse Row. One of the old bathhouses, Fordyce Bathhouse, is fully restored as a museum and serves as the park’s visitor center.
There is still one fully operating bathhouse where you can get a traditional bath – the Buckstaff Bathhouse. It has been in continuous operation since 1912. You can also get a more modern spa experience or soak in pools filled with hot spring water at theQuapaw Baths and Spa. It was a hot and humid August day when we visited, so we passed on getting a hot spring bath. One of the bathhouses, Superior, was purchased a few years ago and converted into a brewery. Superior Bathhouse Brewerymakes their beer ( I counted 18 different beers) with the spring water and has a great selection of fresh foods. We had lunch there. Craig had a flight and Jennifer had some homemade root beer.
The actual reason for the park is the surrounding natural springs. There is a forested area surrounding the town, a ton of hiking trails and a nice mountain drive that takes you up to a huge observation tower. It was way too hot to do much hiking, so we opted to go up in the tower instead. The views were spectacular. You can see the city of Hot Springs, the bathhouses and large old hotels. The forest would be breathtaking in the fall, and we could only imagine if we had been there with the leaves all turning colors.
While our visit was a short one, we are really glad we went. It is unlike any national park we have ever visited before, and the bathhouse history was fascinating.