Tourist Review – Hot Springs SD

Our stay at Angostura gave us the opportunity to spend some time in Hot Springs visiting the local grocery store, the post office, one of the local barbers, the Pioneer Museum, the ACE hardware store, and at least three of the local restaurants more than once each during our stay.

We enjoyed visiting with the locals while we patronized their businesses and sought out opportunities to visit with other “travelers” along the way.

Fall River (also the name of the county) runs right down through downtown from north to south along the main drag. There are very few “new” buildings in town with most having been built in the early 1900’s and many including City Hall, the County Courthouse, the old Evans Hotel, the town school, the old hospital and a host of others were built in the late 1800’s.

These buildings are not only old, but beautiful as well for they are made of the brown-pink colored sandstone mined from one of the local quarries back in the day.

As always, click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger picture.

Here below are some pictures of the inside of the former Hot Springs School (used until 1963). It is now the home of the Fall River Pioneer History Museum. It’s three stories of classrooms plus a fourth floor attic that they are currently working to rehab into an art studio and gallery for community use. This school is up on the hill overlooking the town and the students had to climb up a couple hundreds steps (I’m guessing) to make it to class.

And today we see Moms and Dads all over the country driving their kids down a hundred foot driveway to sit in temperature controlled comfort while waiting for a school bus to come and pick them up! Remember when our parents would say “Quit complaining, when I was your age we had to walk 5 miles uphill both ways to and from school!” We were led to believe that we had it lucky, but now these kids today got it lucky even more so!

There are a lot more buildings to marvel at in Hot Springs as well as some nice neighborhoods to drive through as well.

With regard to any of the springs in town, we did not take advantage of a visit personally. The Evans Plunge is the largest, oldest, and most popular boasting a 70′ x 200′ indoor hot mineral spring fed pool that is tempered by cool fresh water from the Fall River. Another newer spring and Spa called Moccasin Spring caters to those that desire spa type treatments in addition to their outdoor multi-level soaking pools.

The following paragraph is taken from (history of Hot Springs web site)

The biggest development in baths was the Plunge, built by Fred Evans in 1891. The building was constructed of wood, iron, and glass, and covered a pool approximately seventy by two hundred feet. Various slides, diving boards, rafts, and other accessories were provided for the enjoyment of the guests. Evans Plunge is still operating at the same site. In 1893, our sandstone City Hall (still used today), and an impressive sandstone public school building (now the Fall River County Museum) were built. By the end of 1893 the population of Hot Springs was estimated at 3350, and the city had laid more than five miles of sidewalk and graded more than three miles of streets in the preceding three years.”

And what’s traveling across the country without experiencing the local “Mom’n Pop” diners and cafes? I mean “Ya Gotta Eat” right?

We ate breakfast or lunch at; Morning Sunshine Cafe, Upper Crust Diner, Winners Circle Bar and Casino (at the bowling alley), Taco John’s, and the (new) Chicago Street Cafe that’s inside WillieJax Antiques and Pawn Shop.

We enjoyed our stay at Angostura Recreation Area and our frequent visits into Hot Springs (only about 4 miles away) but it’s time to move on down the road and meet up with our friends David and Susan. We will be traveling tandem for about the next month as we make our way back to Arizona for the winter.

So long for now, thanks for riding along and please feel free to leave a comment down below. If you’re not already getting automatic email notification of our new posts, you can look over in the right margin (sidebar) and enter your email address. Then you’ll get a brief email anytime we post an update.

Be good, take care of each other and if you’re on the road … safe travels to you. See you next time.

Herb and Kathy

Campground Review – Angostura Lake Recreation Area SD

We knew that after Spearfish SD, we wanted to work our way down by Custer State Park. This was so we could meet up with our friends David and Sue once they finished their volunteer gig there on October 1st.

Our plan was to hook up with them and we’d mini-caravan together on our trip back to Rover’s Roost by November 1st. David and Sue are leaseholders there as well.

We had considered staying in Custer State Park, but we were reminded that during the time we would be there, the annual Buffalo Roundup would be taking place and the park would be mobbed with about 25,000 EXTRA visitors, all coming to see the excitement of the roundup.

If you’d like to see and learn more about the Buffalo Roundup, follow this link.

We really wanted to avoid the crowds and the noise of a busy state park, so we looked for another opportunity south of there since that’s the direction we’d all ultimately be heading.

I use a number of apps and web sites when looking for a place to camp. We have found that there are some nice city or county parks in little towns off the main interstates. We also like state parks and Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds as they are less “commercial” like RV parks and more like campgrounds were meant to be.

This time, I used to search an area south of Rapid City somewhere between Rapid and the Nebraska state line. I found Angostura Lake (resevoir) Recreation Area.

We’re now completing 2 weeks here at the park and we’ll be here a couple more days, leaving for Nebraska on Friday.

The park has four campgrounds within it’s boundaries and we just lucked out that we were able to get one of the Camp Host sites with full hookups because it’s the end of the busy season and the hosts have left for the year. All of the other sites have electric only so you have to go to the dump station to empty your waste tanks and take on fresh water.

We’re in the Cheyenne Campground at the top of the hill overlooking the lake. I guess if it was mid-summer we might have preferred one of the other campgrounds down by the lake but then we’d be putting up with more crowded conditions too.

The fact that it’s fall and we are up and away from the lake has afforded us the luxury of having an otherwise vacant campground around us most days.

Here are some pictures of the Cheyenne Campground in Angostura Recreation Area

If we’re sitting outside and see someone walking by we’ll always wave and say hello and sometimes they’ll come on over for a short chat. Sometimes we’ll meet other campers as we take our daily walks and we’ll strike up a conversation. Sometimes the folks we meet and talk with are full-timers like us and often-times they are Weekend Warriors or on an extended vacation from their Sticks-N-Bricks home.

New friends Clark and Anita that camped next to us at Angostura for a few days (their great Oliver trailer in the background)

Today, we had something unusual and unexpected happen. It was about 8:30 am or so and Kathy and I were sitting here having our morning coffee and watching the news on TV. A knock on the door. Who would be knocking on our door?

As Kathy went to the door to open it she looked out the window and remarked “I know this lady”.

Kathy opened the door and the lady apologized for knocking so early, but explained that they were leaving the campground and heading to Cody Wyoming but she just HAD to come over and say hello before they left.

Turns out that the folks that pulled in to the site next to us last night were actually from Ohio. Not just Ohio, but the same county where we used to live. Further, she (Janet) used to do Kathy’s mother’s hair when Lois lived in the local nursing home!

Not only that, but Janet and Homer’s daughter (Staci) and her son (Sammy) were traveling with them and I had sold Staci her home in Cardington back when I was a Realtor in Morrow County. What a hoot!

Janet, grandson Sammy, daughter Staci, and Homer all from Cardington Ohio

We had a nice conversation (although short because they were anxious to get on the road) with them and wished them well on their trip over to Yellowstone and eventually down to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

As we’ve said before … this mobile lifestyle has afforded us the opportunity to see so many places and things that we would never see if we still had our Sticks-N-Bricks home. But far more meaningful to us has been all the people we’ve had the opportunity to meet along the way. Some of these folks are “passing through” like Janet and her family so our visits are short. But there are others who we get to spend more time with through our Workamping and volunteering gigs, so more meaningful relationships develop in those situations. We are so thankful to be able to be exposed to these situations and to meet so many wonderful people. Who knows how long this lifestyle will continue for us? But in the meantime, we’ll make the most of it.

Thanks again for riding along – we look forward to connecting with you again in our next post when I’ll share with you a little about the City of Hot Springs South Dakota.

Herb and Kathy

Our Visit to Hot Springs Bath House Row (Scary)

We really had no idea what to expect.  We were headed from Ohio to east Texas (1449 mile trip) where our winter workamping job would be and looked for places to stay along the way.

We had just been to the Branson, MO area where we stayed at the Escapees RV Club Turkey Creek RV Park.  We spent a couple nights there enjoyed a great pizza dinner at “Mr. G’s” and then of course (since you’re in Branson) took in one of the shows on the strip.

Kathy’s personal deep dish Chicago Style pizza (Chicken, spinach, garlic alfredo sauce)

Smaller family pizza and sub joint in downtown Branson, MO

So we looked at the map and decided that Hot Springs, Arkansas is where we should be heading.  I read the reviews online and found that the Lake Catherine State Park was reviewed as being a nicer campground than the National Park, so off went went.  We were not disappointed!

Our site backed up to the lake

Lake Catherine was beautiful.  The day we got there, it was super hot and humid so once we got things hooked up, we changed into our suits and jumped into the lake to cool off … how refreshing!  Later that evening we could sit out and watch the ducks and geese along the edge of the lake along with hearing the screams of joy from the children jumping into the water from the adjacent dock.  We’ll definitely be stopping back at Lake Catherine State Park next time we find ourselves in the Little Rock / Hot Springs area.

We stayed at Lake Catherine SP for two nights because we wanted to spend time in Hot Springs.  We really had no idea what to expect.  I looked online (again) and found the National Park site told us that (depending on how much time we had) what we could see in; an hour or so, a half day, or a whole day.  We headed to downtown Hot Springs to hit the Visitor Center and pick up a map.

“Bathhouse Row” is where you’ll find 8 of the early hot spring bath houses built between 1892 and 1923 still standing and two of them actually still in operation.  The ones that are not still operating have become museums, gift shops, etc.

drawing, map of Bathhouse Row today with park land shown in green, private property in the city as tan, parking lots as yellow, streets as white, bathhouse buildings leased in dark purple and the Maurice Bathhouse which is not yet leased as light purple. It shows hot spring water fountains as red dots.
Map of Bathhouse Row

Lamar Bathhouse, now a gift shop operated by the Parks Department

The Ozark Bathhouse is now an art museum

This is the Arlington Hotel where Al Capone and other famous folks stayed when they visited the bathouses

The Hot Springs NPS Administration Building

Hot Spring water (at 143 degrees) bubbles over at many locations along the streets and promenade of bathouse row

The former Army-Navy Hospital (the 2nd one to be built on this site) which is now the Arkansas Career Training Institute

The spring water comes out of the ground at 143 degrees, (over 700,000 gallons a week!) and is collected at the base of the mountain just above Bathhouse Row into spring collection boxes.  You can see these boxes along side the Promenade that runs just along behind the bathhouses.

At the top of this picture is the Promenade level and if you look closely, you can see the steam rising from the water as it comes to the surface. It then cascades down to a pool, where it looks inviting, but still too hot to submerge your hand

The hot water pool at the bottom of the small waterfall

The Promenade runs the full length behind the bathhouses. The spring collection boxes are to the left (above) and the right (below) the Promenade

Here’s just a few of the many spring water collection boxes

The Fordyce Bathhouse was built between 1914-1916 and is now a museum that provides free guided tours.  Park Ranger Kevin was our tour guide and he showed us all the rooms used along with a lot of the equipment used for treatment of the aches and pains of the patients.  Although some of the standard hot water bathing could be taken in by anyone, there were other treatment regimes that had to be prescribed by a medical doctor.  The Fordyce doctor was on the 3rd floor and patients could see him for an exam and interview after which the doctor could prescribe a treatment program for that patients ailment(s).

Upon entry, patients were assigned an attendant who would be with them throughout their visit.  This was for the safety of the patient to make sure they weren’t “overdoing it” and to make sure all the proper procedures were followed and laws and regulations controlling hot springs baths were (are) followed.

Fordyce Attendant

Kevin told us that the attendants, although paid a very small wage, were often tipped very well by their patients.  If an attendant was good at their job, it was very often the case that the patient would request that attendant by name when they set their appointment.  It was also very common to find that there were families of attendants, generation after generation.  For local folks, although the work was hard (on your feet all day in sweltering heat and humidity), the tips were good and the work was steady.

Some of the equipment was pretty scary looking (electro-therapy, needle showers, heat-lamp boxes, ice block boxes, spring water enema table, etc.)  Yet, people in need flocked to the bathhouses seeking relief from their pain.  Remember, there were not the pharmaceuticals that are out there now and medical technology was still in the dark ages.

The Fordyce Bathhouse front lobby (notice all the marble) where patients came for their appointment

The ladies “first room” after leaving the Dressing Room. This is where the “needle shower”, the hot tubs, the sun-ray box and the ice box are located

The ladies “cooling room” after initial treatment (bath, shower, heat, ice) where they come to relax and cool down

The “Needle” shower. Hundreds of very fine sprays of hot water pummel your skin and joints

This is the SCARY room. From left to right … tub for electro therapy, water enema table, ICE BLOCK box, Sun-Ray Heat Lamp Box, water cannons

The Sun-Ray box on the right gets close to 200 degrees, after that then right into sitting on top of a block of ice in the ICE BOX

The mens private bath rooms (see the needle shower behind Ranger Kevin?). This is quite a bit more ornate than the ladies side of the building (statue in the center)

Stained glass skylight too!

One of the doctors therapy rooms (Run!)

The lounge on the 2nd floor adjacent to the ladies dressing rooms

Rows and rows of dressing rooms. One side of the 2nd floor for men, the other side of the 2nd floor for the ladies.


We also took a drive up “Mountain Road” where we were able to take an elevator up to the top of the lookout tower where you could see all over town and for miles beyond.

View from atop the Lookout Tower

We had a great time, learned a lot and would definitely go back again to both the state park campground and the downtown area of Hot Springs.