Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hot Springs

I had to run another errand in Hot Springs (actually to pick up two pictures of mine that had been on display at the Fine Arts Center), so I took off early one day last week. It was foggy and rainy, which while not the best weather for driving, turned out to be pretty good for taking pictures.

After stopping at the Fine Arts Center, I still had about 45 minutes of light to take pictures before it got dark. The rain had stopped, but a thick fog hung over the tops of the mountains that surround the city. I headed up the road that leads to the Mountain Tower, which was shrouded in fog. There wasn't any other traffic on the road, so I stopped a few times to take pictures.


The next stop was the Promenade, which runs behind the bath houses in the National Park. There is a spot along the walk that provides a great view of the Arlington Hotel, the old Medical Arts Building and Central Avenue. The lawn in front of the Arlington already had Christmas decorations out, featuring a few colorful Christmas trees. And while it is a great view, the location isn't the most ideal for pictures. It is right above the display spring, which meant that steam from the 143 degree water would billow up and envelop the camera. This would usually fog up the lens (until I realized I should probably shield the camera from the steam, duh).


I was recently looking at a group discussion on Flickr where people were talking about their favorite National Park. Most said Yosemite and Yellowstone, but also added that their least favorite National Park was Hot Springs. Which I can kinda understand, since Hot Springs is small and commercialized and located right in the middle of a city of 30,000 people. But it's a little unfair to judge it against the massive parks of the West, and not give any consideration to the unique and slightly crazy history of the city and park. I always enjoy visiting Hot Springs, it's one of my favorite places to take pictures.

Hot Springs is technically the oldest national park in the US, since the federal government began protecting the springs in 1832 (before Arkansas was even a state). The park protects the 43 springs, where about a half million gallons of water flow out every day. The water from the springs was diverted to several elegant bathhouses, which still line Central Avenue and are the heart of the park. Hot Springs was at its peak of popularity in the 1920s through the 1940s, and was the premier spa resort in the country. But changing times, and the removal of illegal casinos, saw a drop in visitors to the bathhouses. They began closing, until only one was still open.


A few years ago, the National Park Service began renovating the bathhouses and opening them back up for commercial use. Now nearly all the bathhouses are back open again, hosting art galleries, a fancy spa and even a brewery (my favorite). This is the Ozark Bathhouse, which was built in 1922 and reopened as a cultural center hosting galleries and events.


Towering over the bathhouses is the old Army and Navy Hospital, built in 1933. The brightly lit building below it is the Buckstaff Bathhouse. It was built in 1912 and was the only bathhouse to remain open.


I couldn't stay out too much longer, since I had to drive home. So I took a few more pictures and started driving back to Little Rock. Hot Springs is only about an hour away, and hopefully we will make a few more trips there soon.

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