park sign

Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas has a network of trails up its small mountains, but in other ways it is unlike most national parks.  There is no entrance gate and no fee.  There is and has always been a public/private partnership.

hot spring

We stopped here because it is a park we’ve never visited, and because it was on the way from our home base to where we needed to be two days later.  The park began as a federal preserve to protect the source of the spring water from developers before there was a park system.  A row of bath houses right downtown are fed by these springs, grand buildings, two of which are working bath houses; others are in disrepair, one is the national park office/store.  The buildings and the preserve were established as pleasure places for the elite in the late nineteenth century.  These days the clientele is more varied; the woman who served breakfast at our hotel said she gets “the works” (soak, massage, etc.) once a year.

The water is also available at several open spigots.  People come to fill jugs with the water, which has been extensively analyzed and tastes very good.

mountain road

I was hoping for more wildflowers on the drive up the mountain.  We saw mostly straggly buttercups along the road.  And we came upon one resting place which must have been there a long time.  They don’t build them like this anymore.

rest stop