Once again I’m back to my Field Trip Foto Friday series and hopefully I can stick with it for at least another few months until I can get all of the field trips I have photos from in 2004-5 reviewed for you here. This week’s review is of our fun and educational trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas… nicknamed the “American Spa”. Hot Springs is the oldest National Park in America. It was made into a National Park 40 years before Yellow Stone. Included are some of our favorite photos from the trip. This was a day trip we took with one other family in our homeschool co-op and it was done in January while we studied about Geology and Rocks with our KONOS Curriculum. The kids were ages 7 and 9. We really enjoyed this trip. I am not sure what I was imagining the springs to be like, but I somehow was not as impressed as I expected to be. I think I imagined vast outdoor pools of heated water that you could get in (hot-tub style), but today, that is not the case. Most of the springs are entirely enclosed by buildings and behind glass for viewing (aside from those that trickle out of hills and the heated water that rises in fountains and water spigots).
We walked down Bathhouse Row (pictured in model scale in the top photo in front of my kids) and toured the historic Fordyce Bathhouse (pictured directly above). Although the bath house had seen better days, you could tell that it was probably a sight to behold in the golden age of Hot Springs. In some rooms there were elaborate stained glass windows and we enjoyed seeing the grand piano and polished wooden gym. You could almost imagine the bustle and steamy humidity as visitors flocked in to be cured or to relax with their rich friends. It was certainly interesting to hear about how people were drawn in from all over the country by claims that they could be healed by the springs.
John Cyrus Hale (early bathhouse promoter and operator) wrote in an 1847 advertisement:
Let each come here, for here alone,
Exists the power to save;
Here tottering forms, but skin and bone,
Are rescued from the grave.
The Park System offered informative historical movies, artifact exhibits from Native Indian tribes that lived in the area, and an awesome Park Ranger tour guide that helped explain things to the kids as we went along. If you are anywhere close to the area, this is certainly a field trip worth taking in my opinion. The fewer people you do it with, the better (one of the blessings of homeschooling… off-season field trips at non-peak hours are a blast!). That way you can learn as much as possible from the ranger and see things without distraction.
The naturally sterile and thermal water is amazing (note the steam in the fountain photo above and the steam over the water photo below). They have water fountains and decorative fountains lining the street along ‘Bathhouse Row’ where you can fill a cup and drink. The mineral water tastes great and it is so fascinating (especially to the kids) that it is hot as it trickles out of the ground. It has to be cooled before you can drink it because it surfaces at an average of 143° F. They sell the water in bottles in their gift shop as well (in case you wanted to bring home a sample for your friends). According to the park ranger, there are 47 natural springs that are located in the general area.
Our park ranger had a mysterious bag of rocks (see photo below) that he was toting around. We stopped on our walk around the area and let the kids sit down and pass them around as he explained what each of them was. One of the most intriguing parts of this discussion was his explanation of the carbonates in the area (the rocks that form from mineral build-up by the springs). There was a HUGE chunk of carbonate that had fallen off of the cliff and they labeled it and put up a plaque for visitors to read. It was the size of a small car. I added a photo of my son looking at one of these carbonate rocks that was scraped out of the piping there in another post I did on our Rock Unit. Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the post if you want to see my other Field Trip Foto Fridays or browse this topic more.
Other Quick Links:
Sprittibee’s Homeschool Series (Links for field trip lists, book lists, other years…)
KONOS Rock Unit Fun
Wikipedia article on Hot Springs, Arkansas (has a few photos and history of the town)
Memories from our KONOS Rock Unit (additional photos and info on this field trip)
Hot Springs National Park (website has good teaching material)
Arkansas: The Natural State (nice review and aerial photo of the park)