We didn’t know what to expect when we decided to go to Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs Arkansas. All I knew was I getting the cancellation stamp in my National Park Passport.
Hot Springs National Park is the smallest national park and was the first federal reserve in the United States. For hundreds of years people have come to Hot Springs seeking health in the warm waters. Over time an industry of bath houses grew up around the hot springs. The heyday of bathing has passed and today most bathhouse are no longer in operation. However you can still tour the Fordyce bathhouse, now the park visitor center, for a peek back into history and take baths at one of two operating bathhouses, the Buckstaff or Quapaw.
You can also do the Jr. Ranger program. Hopefully with more enthusiasm than Thing 1 or 2. Try as I might, I couldn’t convince them that the “Ladies Cooling Room” was a spectacular place to fill out their Jr. Ranger activity books. Although the movie about traditional bathing held their attention with it’s 1980′s aesthetic. Apparently, it was so cheesy it was funny.
After touring the Fordyce Bathhouse, we ventured out back to put our hands in the last remaining open hot spring and stroll the paths above the bathhouses. Then we drove up through the park to watch the sunset over Hot Springs before returning to our campground, Gulpha Gorge.
Gulpha Gorge may be one of our favorite campgrounds yet. As the name suggests, the sites run through a gorge along a creek. It was lovely in December and I can only imagine its beauty during warmer months. The sites are large with many of them along the creek with full hookups. I loved hearing the sound of the creek when we stepped outside in the morning. Full hookup sites are $24 or $12 if you have the National Parks Membership Card, a fantastic deal considering the beauty, spaciousness, and condition of the sites.
Two months ago we had not even heard of Hot Springs National Park and today not only it is a treasured place in our National Park system but a treasured family memory.
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