We're in Arkansas and we're so close to Hot Springs National Park that we have to go visit. Not too long ago we were in Colorado visiting Manitou Springs and tasting their naturally carbonated spring water. Here in Arkansas they have naturally hot water that's been heated by the earth! Let's go see it!
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
The Flowers Explore - Hot Springs Arkansas - 2021/07/15
There's free public parking garages here in Hot Springs, but I worry about moving The Beast through tight spaces. Luckily I found 2 hour parking on the street. The Beast just barely fits. There's the back line.
And there's the front. Whew!
Successfully parked, we walked over to the main path and bathhouse row.
It's a celebration of water here.
Even the manhole covers are special to the city.
Our first stop in the park is at the Hot Water Cascade.
This water comes out of the ground hot. But how hot?
In this lower pool, 127F. Yes, I brought the thermometer.
The water here comes from pools deep in the earth. It's not heated by volcano, otherwise it would have a sulfur smell. There's no such smell here.
The water we're seeing started as rain 4400 years ago. It slowly made it way deep underground through cracks n the rock over a period of 4000 years. Every 70 feet down in the ground you go, the temperature rises by 1 degree Fahrenheit. This water goes down 6000-8000 feet before finally coming back to the surface through a fault in the earth's crust. It takes 400 years for the water to come back up to the surface, which means the water we're seeing here started as rain around the same time that the Egyptians were building the pyramids!
The water comes from an upper pool, and even that is coming off the side of a rock, so it's got a chance to cool off a little. Looks like it's around 131F. Too hot even for bathing. On average at the source, the water comes out at 143F!
Bathhouse Row currently houses 8 different bathhouses, each with its own style. We followed a hiking path up towards the Grand Promenade where visitors would stroll after their trip to the bathhouses.
Going up the path, we found the top of the Thermal Cascade. Here there was a chipmunk that the kids liked watching. When we mentioned to the Park Ranger later that we'd seen a chipmunk, she immediately asked if it was by the Cascade and said that his name was Alvin.
At the top of the stairway, Alli loved this tree with the Pink Flowers. The girl does love pink.
People strolled along this Grand Promenade back in the 50s.
Now it's our turn to walk down the Grand Promenade.
Along the way there were lots of these green boxes. There's 47 active springs here in Hot Springs and many of the water springs are collected and piped to a nearby reservoir.
Next we headed to the Visitor's Center and Museum in the Fordyce Bathhouse.
When I was hearing Theresa talk about it, I totally thought she was saying the "Ford Ice Bathhouse". That sounded terrible to me. Who would want to come to the Hot Springs and freeze in cold water? Seeing it written down it made more sense.
Built in 1915, the Fordyce is the largest bathhouse in Bathhouse Row.
It's here that the kids learned about the Junior Ranger program. Ian and Alli each got a booklet and set off on their quest. They'll need to complete at least 7 of the activities in order to earn their Junior Ranger badge. And along the way we'll learn a bit more about Hot Springs National Park, the Bathhouses, and the Hot Springs water itself. Perfect!
If you want to check out the booklet for yourself, there's a PDF version here: Hot Springs National Park Junior Ranger Activity Book.
Inside, the Fordyce Bathhouse was restored back in 1989 to a visitor's center and museum. We walked around the 3 levels reading about the different rooms. Like the Ladies' Cool Down room.
You might need to cool down because you can have a steam bath, a small foot bath.
Or even a full-on submersion bath.
The kids are keeping an eye out for clues.
We're previously seen the Women's section of the Fordyce. The Men's section seems much more opulent.
Fordyce Booklet 1915 - "No part of the edifice gives a more complete effect of the impressive beauty than this court, with marble benches around which patients wait their turn. They sip the health-giving steam, caught as it flows from a fountain representing DeSoto receiving a drink of water from an Indian maid."
"The large domed skylight contains approximately 8000 pieces of glass, arranged to represent Neptune's daughter, mermaids, dolphins, and fish in swirling water. Lounging on the marble benches below and drinking the waters, the men enjoyed the club-like camaraderie encouraged in the Fordyce."
Next we went down to the basement. Here's we saw the hot spring that this bath house is built around. The Fordyce Spring.
Hot Springs New Era 1915 - "The most attractive feature in the basement is the enormous hot water spring, which was developed while excavating. This is covered with glass so patrons and visitors can see the hot water as it bursts bubbling from the earth."
We're still needing quite a few more activities in our book, so we headed upstairs to look for a few more answers.
The changing rooms.
Upstairs there was a beautiful music room with stained glass ceilings here too.
Alli spotted the panel that matched her workbook and they identified the room where they found it.
There's no overnight stays at the Fordyce, but just like many fancy pools where you can rent a cabana, you can rent a room with a bed to relax.
We were looking around and someone asked if we'd seen the gymnasium yet. We hadn't, and I'm glad we searched it out! It totally looks like an old fashioned gym.
I wonder why there's so many sets of rings?
There's a Calisthenics Wand, Indian Clubs, Wooden Dumbbells, and Medicine Balls.
Outside We answered a few more questions about the city itself.
The kids completed their 7 activities and the ranger actually counted both of their workbooks to make sure they really did the work.
One of the activities was to draw a plant or animal that you found at the park. Ian picked the chipmunk we found by the Cascade and it was here that we'd learned his name was Alvin. Alli picked that tree with the pink flowers.
They promised to learn about Hot Springs and look over their home community too.
Their certificates for completing all the requirements necessary to become a Junior Ranger at Hot Springs National Park.
And badges! They loved them!
A closer look at the design on the badge. It's a picture of a Spring Fountain.
We've learned all about the water and had an in-depth look at the bathhouse, but we need to actually have a taste of this water! Just behind the Fordyce, there's a couple places.
There's this Dripping Spring with water that's coming out in drips every couple seconds.
Or this Tunnel Spring. That blue-green algae is called cyanobacteria, and the kids' booklet says that it doesn't hurt the water quality at all.
Let's try it out of the tap instead.
Alli - It tastes like hot water.
Yep! That's all it tastes like! Not metallic or carbonated like the Manitou Springs water.
Next we walked down to the administration building where we filled up a water bottle to take back home with us. It's one thing to drink this hot water when it's 85 degrees outside, but we want to try it when it's cooled off.
Apparently you can face a $5000 fine and 6 months in prison if you attempt to sell this water. It must only be used for personal consumption.
We're starting to near the end of our 2 hour parking limit. There's one more thing we have to do though. To get back to the start, we walked along the Grand Promenade again.
Going on a random Thursday in July was great. Nothing was very busy and we had many places all to ourselves.
Carrying around this 1.5 gallon hot water bottle on my back wasn't all that pleasant.
So let's cool down and have some ice cream!
Kilwins is one of our favorite stops when we're at Disney World in the town of Celebration. They've got one here too!
Inside they've got all the flavors we're looking for plus some new ones that I haven't seen before.
Ian's got his eye on something he's only been able to find at Kilwins.
Ian - Superman Ice Cream!
Alli chose chocolate chip cookie dough.
I'm always partial to Toasted Coconut. And I saw they have something I've never tried before, Chocolate Toasted Coconut. Theresa agreed to split it with me so we could try both flavors.
Yum! What a tasty treat after our visit to Hot Springs National Park!
Tasting each other's flavors.
I didn't know that Superman Ice Cream originated in Michigan, or that the blue flavor was also a special flavored called Blue Moon. I'll have to keep an eye out for that in the future.