The Life I Love… Hot Springs’ Hot Springs

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MARCH 24, 2016

Hot Springs National Park

I just love our National Parks! Just look at our view from the back window of our RV.

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Hiking trails meander and connect to each other across the creek that babbles us to sleep at night. I feel so grounded here, so lifted, so inspired!

We wake up to a cool, crispy, and cloudy day. Since we are spending 3 nights here, we remove all the towels and blankets securing the cabinets, straighten the shifting objects within, rearrange the contents of the refrigerator, clean the bathroom, and set up “house”, sort of. We decide to explore by car today since it rained last night, but oh, my..  A babbling brook and rain on the roof… What a lullaby!


We drive into town to Bathhouse Row.

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We need to talk about the hot springs now. A spring is a natural resource where underground water can be accessed. Springs become hotter the deeper the water is found within the earth. Several thermal areas and fountains in the area attest to Hot Springs’ credibility. Scientists have determined that the waters from these natural springs are over 4,000 years old. (nps.org)

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During the late 1700s and early 1800s Native Americans bathed in the mineral-rich hot springs according to recorded documents. With an average temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit and their trace mineral content, the hot springs became popular for their therapeutic properties. The first bathhouses were little more than tents perched over the reservoirs carved out of the rock. Hot Springs Creek collected the runoff from the springs. In 1884 the government built the creek into a channel and laid a road over it. Today that road is Central Avenue, aka, Bathhouse Row. Seven hundred thousand gallons of water a day is collected for use in the 2 operating bathhouses and for consumption in the public water fountains along the streets. (National Park brochure)

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People pull up with plastic jugs and fill them at the spigots. I spoke with the woman in the picture above. She arrived with a pickup truck filled with boxes of jugs. She told me that she lives about 45 minutes away and comes in to Hot Springs once a month to collect all the water she needs. As we talked I learned that the spigot from which she was collecting water was a hot water source. There is a cold spring fountain located elsewhere. So I asked her why she preferred the hot spring water and she replied, “It just tastes better.” Apparently hot and cold spring water have different chemical components and properties.

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The former Fordyce Bathhouse is now the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center and Museum with 23 restored rooms furnished as they appeared in the 1920s when monumental bathhouses, piping in the hot springs’ water, were built to attract and pamper health-seekers.  (National Park brochure) A video on the second floor shows the bathing process from start to finish and everything in between. The museum exhibits highlight the dressing room to bath hall to cooling room to hot towel pack room to needle shower…

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to massage room to steam equipment to sitz bath room…

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to hydro-therapy room to Zander electro-mechano equipment to chiropody treatment to state room to music room to courtyard to gymnasium to beauty parlor.

I only take a few pictures here. The opulence of the music room’s tile floor and stained glass ceiling impress me…

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As do the gymnasium and its exercise equipment…

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In its heyday there was some device or water therapy available to help cure every muscle ailment. The Hubbard tub was designed for clients with limited or no mobility. (museum plaque)

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By the 1950s water therapies were no longer popular medical treatments and some of the treatment machines were questionable. One by one, the bathhouses closed. The Buckstaff, however, has continuously operated since it opened in 1912, and still provides the traditional bathing experience.

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The Quapaw Bathhouse offers more modern-day spa treatments with coed pools to relax in and couples’ massages.

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After a walk along the Promenade…

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and a drive through town and up Hot Springs Mountain Drive, we order a BBQ carry out from Stubby’s.

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