On our way to Hot Springs we stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas to visit the Clinton Presidential Center. Another fascinating presidential library. The Center contains a very detailed account of the Clinton presidency, including lots of displays, videos, logs, photos etc. It definitely reflects President Clinton’s personality. Little Rock looked like a pretty cute town, but we had to move on to get to our anniversary celebration.
(Clinton’s museum was like the man … noisy, cluttered, messy, brilliant ~ Hector)
The campsite next to Lake Catherine in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, was yet another gorgeous campsite. This was our last stop in Arkansas, and we came here, like so many in the beginning of the century, to “take the waters”. The city gets its name from the naturally thermal spring waters found here, which flow out of the ground at an average temperature of 143 °F and produce almost one million gallons of water each day.
Native Americans called this area “the Valley of the Vapors,” and it was said to have been a neutral territory where all tribes could enjoy its healing waters in peace. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson designated Hot Springs as the first federal reservation. Hot Springs Reservation was essentially America’s first national park, predating Yellowstone National Park by 40 years.
In just a decade, the area changed from a rough frontier town to an elegant spa city centered on a row of attractive Victorian-style bathhouses, the last ones completed in 1888. In 1921, when Congress established the National Park Service, Hot Springs Reservation became Hot Springs National Park. Eight grand bathhouses thrived since their construction in the first three decades of the century but by the 1960s the bathing industry in the park and in the city had declined considerably. By 1985 only one, the Buckstaff was still operating, and it still is. In 2008, a second of the grand bathhouses, the Quapaw, reopened as the only local spa facility with communal bathing. Others have been repurposed – one is about to open as a brewery, another is the visitor center, a third is a modern art museum.
On our 34th anniversary, Hector and I went to the Quapaw for the thermal waters – four soaking pools ranging from 98 to 104 degrees, deep tissue massages, and the steam cave – a small man built cave created during construction of the building. It was relaxing and wonderful and highly recommended.
One evening we went to the Ohio Club, the oldest bar in Arkansas (opened in 1905), to listen to Blues. The club is very interesting with lots of old time memorabilia and photos (Al Capone frequented this bar). Although VERY smoky, it’s a very cool looking old timey bar with as Hector put it “a very atmospheric crowd” and pretty good music.
Next up we have a few days to get to Florida, and plotted a path through Mississippi and Alabama.