Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hot Springs National Park


  French fur trappers and traders were the first Europeans to visit the springs which were on Quapaw land and used by Native Americans for healing baths. After the Louisiana purchase in 1803 and subsequent treaties with the Quapaw the federal government set aside four sections of land to protect the 47 natural springs. Elaborate bathhouses along Bathhouse Row were built around the turn of the century as vacationing at Hot Springs became a popular pastime for the rich, famous, and infamous.


   By the 1960s visitation had dropped drastically and the bathhouses fell into disrepair. The national park service owns eight of the bathhouses and began restoring them in the 1980s. The Buckstaff, which has been in operation since 1912, and the Quapaw are active bathhouses. The Superior is home to a brewery that uses spring water to make the beer. The Ozark serves as an art museum. A small gift shop featuring books on the area and bath-related souvenirs occupies the sunporch of the Lamar. The Fordyce houses the park visitor center with exhibits, films, and restored rooms.

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   The park property extends well beyond Bathhouse Row and includes 5,550 acres of wooded Ouachita Mountain range with hiking trails, a campground,and  two scenic drives to view points.


   All of the public areas of the bathhouses are accessible but I don’t know if the bathing facilities are. Some of the hallways at the Fordyce where exhibits are located are very narrow making it difficult for visitors in wheelchairs to maneuver if other visitors are also in the hallway. The sidewalks and curb cuts are in good condition. The Grand Promenade located behind Bathhouse Row is paved with brick and has two ramped access points - at the north end and at Fordyce Bathhouse where the visitor center is located. Steps provide the only access at the south end. The tower on Hot Springs Mountain Drive has a elevator to the top.


   The campground, which is about 2 miles from town, has 44 first come/first serve, full hookup sites. There were many open sites when we arrived in early afternoon on a Monday. The sites are close together and not very private. Ours (# 25) was pretty good with vegetation on both sides and a creek view in the rear.The campground does not have a designated accessible campsite but most are useable.

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   Parking is limited on Central Ave which runs along Bathhouse Row. There’s a free garage and a pay lot where small RVs may fit.  Free and pay parking is available on many of the side streets. We parked on Fountain Street. I do not recommend turning onto it with a large RV as it dead ends at the entrance to Hot Springs Mountain Drive and there’s little room to turn around. RVs over 30’ are not permitted on Hot Springs Mountain Drive but the parking lot at the Hot Springs Mountain tower is large enough for RVs. I think West Mountain Summit Drive is open to all vehicles but we did not check it out. Park  34.51379, -93.05372



  1. I've got a picture of my grandmother in Hot Springs Arkansas from 1913. She's on a horse, dirt roads & telephone poles.