Tag Archives: Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park

Overview

The hot springs that give this Arkansas town its name were the first site ever set aside by the federal government for protection way back in 1832.  That was forty years before Yellowstone National Park came into existence, and is the reason Hot Springs National Park was commemorated as the first minted of the America the Beautiful Coin Collection in 2010.  It is also the reason that Hot Springs is unlike any other National Park in the system, checking in at only 5,550 acres on either side of a bustling downtown lined with historic bathhouses.

Hot Springs National Park is not one of the 50 covered in great detail in our guidebook to the National Parks (available on Amazon), but as one of the 63 National Parks it is included with a photo.

Highlights

Fordyce Bathhouse, West Mountain Scenic Drive, Goat Rock, Hot Springs Mountain Tower, Balanced Rock

Must-Do Activity

When you visit, it is best to start at the National Park Service (NPS) museum within the former Fordyce Bathhouse, where you will learn that the water is heated not by volcanic activity but by gravitational compression.  Whether or not you pay to soak in the non-sulfurous waters at a privately-owned bathhouse, be sure to fill up a bottle at one of several mineral rich drinking fountains around town.  Then you too can “quaff the elixir” the same way tourists have been doing here for nearly 200 years.

Best Trail

There are several hiking options in the forested hills around the town, including the 17-mile long Sunset Trail that provides access to Balanced Rock.  The Gulpha Gorge Trail leaves from the NPS campground up to vistas at Goat Rock or you can also park at the top of North Mountain and hike down to it on the Goat Rock Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Inside the men’s locker room, a beautiful stained glass ceiling lets in light on the sculpture of Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto who came to the hot springs in 1541.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/hosp/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None to visit the NPS museum in Fordyce Bathhouse, but there is a charge to climb Hot Springs Mountain Tower or visit one of the privately-owned bathhouses (like Buckstaff Baths or Quapaw Baths and Spa).

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but there are some tight curves on the scenic drive up Hot Springs Mountain.

Camping

The NPS run Gulpha Gorge Campground offers sites with or without electrical and water hookups.

Related Sites

Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma)

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (Arkansas)

Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

Explore More – In the roaring 1920s, Hot Springs, Arkansas was like the original Las Vegas attracting athletes, politicians, and which famous mobsters?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Overview

This 4,300-acre park memorializes a battle fought early in the Civil War for control of the Union state of Missouri.  It took place in March 1862, seven months after the events at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.  Pea Ridge National Military Park is located near Fayetteville, Arkansas and also contains a section of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.  Two regiments fighting on the Confederate side during the Battle of Pea Ridge were Cherokees that were forced to march to Indian Territory from North Carolina in 1838.

Highlights

Museum, film, driving tour, Elkhorn Tavern, cannons

Must-Do Activity

A quality film and further exhibits at the visitor center help fill in any unclear parts about the battle on March 7-8, 1862 that kept Missouri in the Union.  The seven-mile driving tour includes informational stops that explain the battle in chronological order from the Confederate assault at Leetown to their eventual retreat from Elkhorn Tavern. 

Best Trail

There are ten miles of hiking trails and 11 miles of equestrian trails that run through the park.  Also, a portion of the infamous Trail of Tears follows the route of the telegraph wire road from 1838.  To learn more about the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, we recommend a visit to Fort Smith National Historic Site, which is only a two-hour drive away.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Stop to walk around a reconstruction of Elkhorn Tavern, which was used as a hospital by both sides during the battle and later as a Union telegraph station.  The original building was burned by Confederate guerillas in 1863.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/peri/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Beaver Reservoir is 20 miles away and has public campgrounds.

Related Sites

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (Missouri)

Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

Fort Smith National Historic Site (Arkansas-Oklahoma)

Explore More – The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail has multiple routes; how long is it in total?

Fort Smith National Historic Site

Overview

Along a segment of the Arkansas River serving as a border with Oklahoma, Fort Smith is a lovely 35-acre park surrounded by a bustling downtown and busy railroad track.  The first fort at this site was established in 1817 to assist in the Cherokee relocation at the end of the Trail of Tears.  A second fort was built nearby in 1838, occupied by both sides during the Civil War, then closed in 1871 when it became a Federal Court.

Highlights

Museum, restored courtroom, “Hell-on-the-Border” jail, Arkansas River

Must-Do Activity

The exhibits here demonstrate the harsh prison conditions and tell harrowing stories of frontier life that will make you cringe.  Do not miss the “Hell-on-the-Border” jail in the basement and the restored courtroom.  Outside, a reproduction of the gallows and several cannon emplacements provide a counterpoint to the idyllic riverfront setting. 

Best Trail

A half-mile trail crosses the railroad tracks to the banks of the Arkansas River.  The scenic beauty of the shoreline at sunset belies the turbulent history of this place, including its connection with the Trail of Tears, designated a National Historic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Take a photo in the painstakingly restored courtroom where Judge Isaac C. Parker heard 12,000 criminal cases during his 21 years on the bench in the late 1800s.  He sentenced 160 persons to hang, and 79 executions took place right here at Fort Smith.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fosm/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and there is free parking on site.

Camping

Two miles north of Barling, Arkansas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages a campground on the Arkansas River.

Related Sites

Arkansas Post National Memorial (Arkansas)

Fort Scott National Historic Site (Kansas)

Pea Ridge National Military Park (Arkansas)

Explore More – Fort Smith was established in 1817 to assist in the Cherokee relocation at the end of the Trail of Tears, but what American Indian tribe already inhabited this region?

Arkansas Post National Memorial

Overview

Arkansas Post National Memorial is in the southeastern section of its namesake state near the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers.  The French first settled this area in 1686 in order to trade with a large village of Quapaw Indians.  From 1763-1800 the fort was controlled by the Spanish, who were attacked by the British here in 1783 in what became known as the Colbert Incident, considered one of the final battles in the American Revolution.

Highlights

Museum, film, ruins, cannons, wildlife, fishing

Must-Do Activity

Following the Louisiana Purchase, the post briefly served as the territorial capital, then that moved to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1821.  It fell into decline until Fort Hindman was built during the Civil War, after which time much of the shoreline was washed away by the Arkansas River.  There are not many human structures left to see at the site, but the bayou offers great opportunities for birdwatching.

Best Trail

A trail passes Park Lake through the Old Townsite to shoreline views of Post Bayou and the Arkansas River.  A trench dug by the Confederate army during the Civil War is also visible from the trail and a side road north of the visitor center.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There are plenty of cannons around to pose with, but Tiff was most excited about the original location of The Arkansas Gazette newspaper that started right here in 1819 and is still printed today in Little Rock (which is where she grew up with Wondon).

Peak Season

Spring and fall when there are less mosquitoes.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/arpo/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Camping is not allowed within the park, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages campgrounds at Pendleton Bend and Merrisach Lake Park.

Related Sites

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (Arkansas)

Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)

Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi-Tennessee)

Explore More – Following the 1863 Civil War battle to take the fort, how many Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner?

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Overview

In the heart of downtown Little Rock, Arkansas is a beautiful high school that took center stage in this nation during September 1957.  A landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision (Brown v. Board of Education) mandated desegregation of schools nationwide.  Blocked from entering the high school for weeks, with U.S. military intervention eventually nine African-American students attended classes here, with the one senior (Ernest Green) graduating on May 25, 1958. 

Highlights

Museum, restored 1957 filling station, memorial benches

Must-Do Activity

Kitty-corner from the still active high school, the National Park Service (NPS) runs a visitor center with an excellent museum on integration.  We were surprised to learn that rather than continue with desegregation, all area schools were closed for the 1958-59 academic year.  Three African-American students attended Little Rock Central High School the next year, and today the school is still operating, serving as a living memorial to civil rights.  Keeping up with the news, it may not seem like we have made much progress in the United States, but looking back to the past shows us how far we have come as a society.

Best Trail

Guided streetscape tours are given on most weekends (reservations required a minimum of 24 hours prior). It is recommended you contact the NPS at least one month in advance to reserve a weekday tour inside the high school.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Across the street from the high school, the NPS has preserved a filling station as it appeared in 1957.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/chsc/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved and there is a small parking lot at the NPS visitor center.

Camping

West of Little Rock, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages a campground at Maumelle Park, near Pinnacle Mountain State Park.  Hot Springs National Park offers a campground 56 miles away.

Explore More – Schools in which Arkansas town had already successfully integrated without any hubbub years before the events at Little Rock Central High School?