Well. Here it is folks–Hot Springs National Park.
I’m going to be straight up with you, because we care about you all and you deserve to know the truth haha. You’re probably confused that this street you’re looking at is considered a National Park. I was right there with you. Before researching it at all, when I pictured Hot Springs National Park in my mind, I was thinking, “Ooooh pretty natural hot springs in the mountains, surrounded by thick forest and blanketed in moody skies.”
SIKE! It’s really a strip of old bathhouses lined up in the downtown of a tiny town in Arkansas. (The hometown of Bill Clinton BTW)
Our guidebook said that this isn’t a park that you should drive out of your way to visit. It might be a nice place for travelers to rest and soak during a pitstop of a long drive, but don’t go out of your way to get here. Of course we had to drive 17 hours to get here haha.
We thought that maybe there would be some type of natural outdoor hot springs that we could hike to at least somewhere in the vicinity, but when we asked the park rangers in the bathhouse museum, they said NOPE. Apparently, the hot springs water is an average temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit and since a road was built on top of the creek (the only cold water source), the hot and cold water have no place to mix. Therefore, no outdoor hot springs exist in the park in which humans can bathe. We were bummed.
We took Vlads on a little kitty walk in the only area with grass and rocks.
It was pretty chilly in Arkansas so we left the kitty with a Nalgene full of hot water and left to explore what we could of the park.
The only opportunity visitor’s have to bathe in the hot springs is in one of the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. So first, we checked out the museum to see what these old bathhouses were all about.
Settlers in the early 1800’s immediately found the Hot Springs area to not only be rejuvenating and beneficial, but a potentially lucrative health resort. Small cabins were built up on top of the hot springs where people could soak and relax. Soon, word spread about the healing powers of the water. By the 1880’s wooden Victorian bathhouses were popping up all over, each more extravagant than the next. These were soon replaced in the early 1900’s by fire-resistant brick and stucco bathhouses (some even featured marble walls, billiard rooms, gymnasiums, and stained-glass windows).
“No spa in Rome had finer baths than these.” -quote in Ladie’s Bathhall
“The usual Fordyce regimen was to bathe in 104-degree water while drinking thermal water, and then either sit in a Sitz bath or vapor cabinet. After this, the patron would receive a needle shower followed by a hot pack treatment in the Pack Room. All of this would raise the body temperature, requiring that the patron sit for a while in the Cooling Room until their body temperature returned to normal. A sink served as a drinking fountain, providing cooled thermal water to help lower one’s body temperature before returning to the dressing area.”
I think you could clean every pore on your body with this blast-o-rama needle shower in about 5 seconds.
(No these are not torture machines. They are vapor baths. It’s a common misconception.)
I’m pretty sure these were called “Ozonators” or something like that haha. Don’t ask why. I’m sure they had a method to their bathhouse madness.
“I’m sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.” -Sylvia Plath 1963
We didn’t take pictures of every single room in the bathhouses, but we give a better tour on the vlog if you want to check that out at the end of this post. It was all pretty strange, but interesting.
Afterwards, we took a stroll on the “Grand Promenade”, where early visitors would show off their fancy clothes and refreshed faces.
In order to really experience this park, we caved and paid $15 each to visit the Quapaw Baths and spa. We went the cheap route and instead of getting any deluxe spa treatments, we opted to just soak in giant pools with a bunch of strangers.
It was a little expensive for a giant hot tub session, but we hadn’t showered in a looooong time, so the shower before even getting into the pools was definitely my favorite part. We brought all of our toiletries into the bathroom and took advantage of unlimited, hot water. It was glorious. Even though we have a tiny shower in the RV, we only use it about once a week, it’s not very warm, and you only get about 2 minutes of lukewarm water and you have to turn it on and off in between soaping up. It’s really not very pleasant or satisfying. As you can imagine with my super long hair, it’s quite the struggle. But, it’s definitely better than nothing.
Cees loved this tilted strata, and was hanging onto every bit of nature in this small park.
All I wanted from Santa was all you can eat sushi. Basically, I just crave sushi every day of my life.
This is one of the bathhouses from the outside.
I would have to agree with our guidebook that, although this is an interesting place with interesting history, I wouldn’t drive out of my way to visit. If I had a house with a shower or nice bath tub, I would probably just stay at home with some bath salts and essential oils. That actually sounds so nice. But, we had to go, so we went, and had a nice soak!