About 200 miles from the Delta and you are in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Arkansas Ozarks begin in Hot Springs and end in Eureka Springs, or the other way around. The main highway is “scenic 7″ that runs north-south and is reminiscent of the Blueridge Parkway or the Natchez Trace. Highway 7 runs on a ridge up over the mountains from Hot Springs National Park through Ouachita National forest, down to the Arkansas River valley, up into the Ozark National Forest to the Buffalo National River. Scenic 7 then continues to the northern border with Missouri.
We started the journey in Hot Springs, a town that hit its peak in 1946, and then completely imploded until the 1990′s when it started recovering — it still has a long way to go. Hot Springs will always be a draw for tourists because, you guessed it, the hot springs. All around the town they have fountains that dispense the naturally hot mineral water free to the public. One side of the main street is lined with the national park headquarters and rows of operating bathhouses with baths for women only, men only, or racier yet couples.
Most people bathe nude but we’re just shy. Anyway we spent a long time with the National Park people learning about the area. The park is the smallest National Park and has no obvious entrance or exit. Actually, most of the city of Hot Springs is in the park.
We also ran into a local constable and learned that the town is constantly undergoing all sorts of seismic activity which makes the springs similar to volcanic hot springs. He said there is real worry out where he lives that the local farm wells will get to hot to use as they are heating up. He was fascinating and lives on a farm that has been in the family for over 200 years. The town is pretty touristy kind of like a 1930′s elegance meets Dollywood.
We stayed the night in an interesting B&B built in 1884 by the Pullman family of Pullman Railcar Co. fame. Mrs. Pullman had the house built for a cool $50,000 — what would that be today. All the wood in the house was from their properties with cherry in the formal rooms and pine in the kitchen and work areas. Very cool if you like old places
One full day in Hot Springs and we were ready to go back to the beautiful highway and our own little bubble.