This morning we headed into town about nine o'clock. We wanted to arrive in time to take the early Duck Tour before the heat became too oppressive. We had a free parking space just four stores down from the Duck headquarters, which was very convenient. Our package deal also included a visit to the nearby Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum.
Our tour guide, Captain Carl, was very entertaining with his running commentary about the sites, history and such. He was a bit of a tease, too. At one point he told us to get ready for a good shot of the lake; so Barbara and I got our cameras cocked. Alas! There was little to see among the trees. We had fallen for his joke! Barbara was close enough to hit him on the shoulder. Then he acted "hurt".
The "Duck" departs from downtown Hot Springs in the historic district and then proceeds through town to Lake Hamilton for a cruise around St. John's Island. The amphibious vehicles are from World War II and are called ducks because, during the war when the soldiers were moving from the ships to the beach, they were easy targets for the enemy and were thus called "sitting ducks".
After the Duck tour, we visited the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum. I bought a pair of copper "Sun Face" earrings in the gift shop. I was a bit disappointed in the wax figures. They were not the most life-like I had ever seen. It was still fun, though. By the time we had finished the museum visit, we were hungry. We had some nice sandwiches at The Nut Cellar.
After lunch we walked across the street to the Hot Springs National Park. The Visitor Center is located in the former Fordyce Bathhouse. The park was set aside in 1832 as Hot Springs Reservation. It protects 47 naturally-heated springs and eight historic bathhouses. The park encompasses nearly 5,500 acres, which includes Bathhouse Row, Gulpha Gorge Campground, two scenic mountain drives and 30+ miles of hiking trails. Later it became the nation's first national park.
We walked up the Tufa Terrace Trail to the Grand Promenade, where we had a nice bird's eye view of the Bathhouse Row and other buildings. Then we went to the Visitors Center, where we saw two very interesting films: a short one about taking the baths and another about the history and geology of the thermal springs. The average temperature of the spring water is 143 degrees (62 degrees Celsius). Hot water "jug fountains" are located around the historic section where people can collect the water to take home.
Before going home, we drove up the steep winding road to the 216-foot Hot Springs Mountain Tower. A glass-enclosed elevator took us to the enclosed observation area for spectacular views of Hot Springs and the surrounding area. There is an open observation deck higher up, but we decided that we didn't want to deal with the wind and heat up there. Then we took the North Mountain Loop drive before heading back to the campground.
We had a good time today -- one that we'll long remember.