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to the story's beginning            back to Dodge City

We stopped to refuel in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, near Tulsa. The airport is called Pogue, both on the ground and on the radio. It's named for an astronaut and native son, Col. William R. Pogue, who was scheduled for the cancelled Apollo 19 mission. Instead, he was the pilot of Skylab 4 in 1973-74. This 84-day, 34.5-million mile mission was the longest manned flight in history.

Our plan included two day trips about 100 miles apart, so we used a base of operations about midway between them. That was Hot Springs, Arkansas. This is the view of Hot Springs from the National Park's observation tower, looking southwest. The airport is the cleared area at the viewer's 1:00 position. The tower's observation deck is 600 feet above street level.

Arkansas is named for the river that rises near Leadville, Colorado, and flows almost 1500 miles through four states before it empties into the Mississippi near a place called Catfish Point Landing. We had just spent a couple of days next to this river in Dodge City, and followed it most of the way to Arkansas. At Fort Smith, the river went left and we went right, but we would see it one more time on this trip.

Pronunciation can be confusing. People say "Ar-kan-saw" when referring to the state, but "ar-Kansas" when they talk about the river. Especially when they're in Kansas.

Although our main reason for choosing Hot Springs was to have a convenient place to sleep, the area is very interesting in its own right. Rain that falls in the watershed sinks about a mile deep through faults and fractures. It is heated naturally by the Earth's heat gradient. There is a fault at the base of Hot Springs Mountain that allows this water to rise so quickly that it keeps its heat – this open spring is 143°F (62°C). Although the water rises quickly, the seepage is slow. The water in this photo fell as rain over 4000 years ago, about the time they were building pyramids in Egypt.

Hot Springs Creek was known for thousands of years by the time European settlers found the area in 1807. By the 1830s, there were several log cabins and a store near the creek. People built crude "bathhouses" of canvas and lumber directly over the creek. It was an eyesore, and fires were frequent. To protect the area, federal legislation set it aside as Hot Springs Reservation in 1832. By local reckoning, this makes it our oldest national park, forty years ahead of Yellowstone.

Government control was loose, and by 1875 there were several wooden bathhouses perched right over Hot Springs Creek. There were a series of lawsuits over property rights. In 1877 the government began to reassert its ownership of the reservation, and to stake out boundaries. In the middle of all this, a great fire swept through town in 1878, destroying most of the wooden bathhouses.

As a result of what followed, these open springs are all the visitor can see easily. Large enclosed reservoirs now collect about 700,000 gallons a day, and it is monitored and distributed from there.

After the fire, the government established strict building standards, and the area started to change from a frontier town to an elegant spa. In 1882-83, Hot Springs Creek was enclosed in an underground arch that runs below today's Central Avenue.

Today's Bathhouse Row includes eight buildings that were built from 1892 to 1923. This period also was Hot Springs' heyday as a resort. Sam W. Fordyce opened his bathhouse, the largest of them all, in 1915. Fordyce deliberately stalled construction until after the next-door Maurice was finished, so he could build something better. Bathing declined in the 1950s, and the Fordyce was the first to go out of business, in 1962. Today it is a historically furnished museum, and the national park's visitor center.

The Fordyce has three main floors, two courtyards, and a basement. It also had a roof garden. Let's take a look inside.

Hot water once poured from the shell fountain in the lobby. Patrons bought their vouchers here – 21 baths for $15, in 1919.

This is the ladies' dressing room. The wood is birch, which resists moisture, stained to look like mahogany.

The bathing process began in the pack room, where attendants wrapped bathers in towels that had been soaked in hot spring water and wrung out. This room is full of the same porcelain cots that we'll see in the cooling room.

Next, a short visit to the needle shower cooled the bather off a bit.

After the needle shower, bathers rested at least half an hour in the cooling room while their body temperature returned to normal. They could go to another room for a massage instead, if they wanted it.

The sitz tub and adjacent vapor cabinet are in the hydrotherapy room. From the cabinet with all those controls and hoses, an attendant could spray a bather's back or legs. The idea was to relax spinal muscles and nerves, and to stimulate circulation. A variation on the theme was to alternate hot and cold jets of water, which was thought to be particularly helpful for lumbago and sciatica.

The Fordyce could accommodate a large number of bathers, but not all could bathe at once. This is the men's bath hall, where bathers wrapped themselves in bath sheets like togas, and lounged while they waited their turn. Hernando de Soto visited this site in 1541. The central fountain shows a Caddo Indian maiden offering him hot spring water in a ceremonial vessel. Bathers also filled their cups and drank hot spring water from this fountain.

Neptune's Daughter

Neptune's Daughter.
The ceiling skylight above de Soto and the girl was made by the Condie-Neale Glass Company in St. Louis. It contains over 8000 pieces of glass.


After such opulent preparation, the bath itself must have been somewhat anti-climactic. But there was more stained glass, in little windows over the tubs.

How would you like to be the plumber at the Fordyce?

The chiropodist was the foot specialist of the day, treating corns, bunions, and ingrown toenails. He also provided other services, such as foot massage and pedicures.

Of course there was a beauty parlor. Ladies could get shampoo, finger wave, lacquer, neck-trim, permanent and cold wave, lash dye, oil bleach, facial, and manicure.

Many people came to Hot Springs to be treated for various ailments, real or imagined. Besides bathing there were more exotic treatments available, such as electrotherapy. None of it looks very pleasant.

The well-equipped bathhouse also had several Zander machines. Gustav Zander was born in Stockholm in 1835. In his youth, medical gymnastics were in vogue, but he realized a limitation. Human attendants couldn't always provide the type of resistance a gymnast might need. So Zander invented machines that could provide a standardized, calibrated workout. The machines used weights and levers to vary resistance, and could be adjusted to match an individual's needs. He also invented some motorized machines to be used by people who were paralyzed or extremely weak, to keep their muscles from wasting away completely.
The text is from signs near the machines.

Type B-12 Adjustable Ankle Unit
Sitting in a wheelchair, the patron stretches his leg out, placing the ankle in the U-shaped stirrup and the foot on the iron plate. The foot is secured to the plate and the stirrup adjusted so that the ankle is parallel to the floor. The wheel is set in motion by hand, moving the foot in a circle to get the patron started; after that, he continues the motion by flexing or extending the foot.

Type D-2 Dual Direction Motorized Side Sit (Camel) Hip Twist
The long name for this device effectively describes its motion. A horizontal wheel just above the floor is connected by a rod to the seat. The machine's motor turns the wheel, inclining the seat in a rolling motion. The sensation is similar to taking a camel ride, and the "rider" must simultaneously use several muscles to stay balanced on the seat. Both the inclination of the seat and the motor speed could be adjusted as needed.

This room was considered the largest gym in Arkansas when the Fordyce opened in 1915, and was open to both men and women. It was built large to attract the many famous athletes who frequented Hot Springs, like Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth. The Fordyce also has a bowling alley in the basement – unique on Bathhouse Row – but it was being renovated when we were there, so we didn't get to see it.

The 675-gallon Hubbard Tub was installed in 1939. A licensed physiotherapist was employed to help the patients who used it. The rail was part of a transport used to bring some patients from the elevator to the tub. Patients could either lie on the board or stand, using the steel rails for support. Hubbard tubs are still used today for physical therapy.

Patrons could finish their day in the assembly room. As the Fordyce's literature proclaimed,

Here, under a wonderful ceiling of art glass in five remarkable panels, amid lavish decorations and furnishings, social groups may gather at ease and listen to music of the best. Opening to the south is a ladies' parlor and music room, with the gentlemen's parlor and billiard room at the other extreme.

Verna and Patrick Garvan bought a 210-acre peninsula on Lake Hamilton, near Hot Springs, a few years after it had been clear-cut in 1915. Mrs. Garvan loved the site and decided that she would never allow it to be cut again.

In 1956 she began to develop it as a garden and home site. She personally laid out 4½ miles of paths and trails, marked some trees for strategic removal, and added some others.

Over the next forty years, Mrs. Garvan planted thousands of specimens, including hundreds of rare shrubs and trees.

In 1985, Mrs. Garvan donated the land under a trust agreement to the University of Arkansas School of Architecture. She maintained control of the property, and continued to develop it for the rest of her life.

When Mrs. Garvan died in 1993, ownership transferred to the University of Arkansas Foundation. Garvan Woodland Gardens continue to flourish through public funds, private donations, and over 3000 members.

This is called the Singing Spring. Sorry, no audio here.

This chair invites the visitor to relax and survey the bonsai garden just below its terrace.

Crape Myrtle
Chinese Hackberry
Japanese Black Pine

Chinese Elm
Japanese Juniper
Dawn Redwood

Right next to the miniatures in the bonsai garden, is the biggest fig tree I have ever seen. By far.

A path begins at the bonsai garden, following a stream down the hill.

The stream flows under the lovely Full Moon Bridge, after a Chinese design.

It continues through the Garden of the Pine Wind, cascading into ...

... a half-acre koi pond. The fish are well-accustomed to being fed. Wherever we stepped, they followed.

Just below the koi pond is a 12-foot waterfall.

Back at the visitor center, a large geode reminds us that we actually came here to look for rocks.


The Anthony Chapel was dedicated in October 2006. It was designed by Jennings and McKee of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The chapel seats 160 people beneath its 60-foot-high ceiling.

Our primary mission in Arkansas was to fund our immediate retirement with diamonds we would surely find at Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro. It was a pleasant, scenic drive down from Hot Springs, but we might have gone through California along the way.

We learned a bit of truck lingo on this route, too. I didn't know what Jake brakes were, but I learned. It's a device to modify engine behavior. If an engine is decelerating, like a truck going downhill, the compression stroke costs a lot of energy. But the following stroke, which would be ignition if there were fuel present, is like a spring; it returns energy to the engine. The Jacobs device cuts off the fuel and opens the exhaust valve during the ignition stroke, which releases the energy that was collected during the compression stroke. This is an extremely effective was of using the engine as a brake, which saves a lot of wear and tear on the vehicle's wheel brakes.

The only drawback of the Jacobs brake is that it's noisy. So noisy, that many municipalities forbid its use within town limits. But I didn't know the term when we passed through Delight, so I took a picture of the sign as a reminder to look it up later. I didn't even notice the much larger sign that celebrated a rhinestone cowboy.

It was hot at this place. It's farther south than Memphis, almost as far south as Birmingham (Alabama, not England). You know these places are hot, so you will understand that many visitors to Crater of Diamonds are happy to wait in the pool while their parents try to strike it rich.

John Wesley Huddleston discovered diamonds while working his farm near Murfreesboro in 1906. Geologists knew that this region should produce diamonds, but earlier searches had come up empty. Huddleston eventually sold his land, and there were a few more transfers after that. The property eventually ended up with the State of Arkansas as the state park that we visited. It's the only place in the world where you can search for gems on somebody else's property, and keep whatever you find without paying extra beyond the cost of admission ($6.50). This is the world's eighth largest diamond preserve. Visitors have found over 26,000 diamonds here since the park went public in 1972.
Put yourself in the shoes of the lucky fellow who found the 40-carat Uncle Sam diamond here in 1924. There are a few markers like this on the minefield, commemorating special finds.

Shirley Strawn is local, born in Murfreesboro. In 1990, she found a 3-carat diamond that is the most perfect gem ever certified by the American Gemological Society, who rated it 0-0-0 (that's a good thing). She insisted that the diamond be named partly for her ancestor, Lee Wagner, who worked for many years as a miner and caretaker for the Arkansas Diamond Company on this site. She has one tip for aspiring diamond hunters: "When you find a diamond, you will know it. There is no mistaking it."
The finished gem was loaned to Hillary Clinton in 1993 for her husband's first inaugural ball.

This is the mine. It's a 37-acre field that the state plows at irregular intervals, depending on weather. Many diamonds have been found here by people just walking along and paying attention. This is called surface searching, one of three recommended techniques. The other two are dry sifting and wet sifting. We chose dry sifting.

Diamonds are formed deep beneath the Earth's surface and brought up through geological structures called pipes. When diamonds were discovered near Kimberley, South Africa, the local soil came to be called kimberlite. Although the term is also used to describe the soil in Arkansas, purists insist that it is actually lamproite, and that it is different.

The park's instructions for dry sifting are

Place only one or two handfuls of lamproite into your screen, and sift the light, loose soil away. Look carefully in the remaining soil for your diamond.

Comfort is essential to the well-equipped dry sifter. She needs a shovel, rock hammer, trowel, and screen. A good stool is mandatory, and a knee pad is useful. Although not pictured, a hat or sun visor would also be helpful. The park allows any equipment that does not use battery, motor, or wheels.

Remember to take frequent breaks in the shade (it's hot out here!), and drink plenty of water. If you bring an umbrella, you can even work in the shade.

Here's a dedicated miner. There were no recorded diamond finds the day we were there, so I hope he kept his good luck to himself. Yes, he's in a chest-deep hole.

He even had a fan club, but they kept a respectful, and shady, distance.

Whether or not you find your pot of diamonds at the end of the rainbow, it's a great way to spend a day.

Some of the gems found at this mine:

1924 - Uncle Sam, 40.23 ct
1956 - Star of Arkansas, 15.33 ct
1956 - Eisenhower, 6.11 ct
1975 - Amarillo Starlight, 16.37 ct
1978 - Lamle Diamond, 8.61 ct
1981 - Star of Shreveport, 8.82 ct
1986 - Cornell Diamond, 7.95 ct
1990 - Strawn-Wagner, 3.03 ct
1997 - Cooper Diamonds, 6.72 & 6.0 ct
1998 - Dickinson/Stevens, 7.28 ct

In the 18th century, a young French nobleman named Chavet got his King's approval to explore a part of the Louisiana Territory, and prepared for the voyage. He was engaged to marry a beautiful Parisian girl, Adrienne Dumont. She wanted to marry him before the voyage, so she could go with him. He refused, because of the dangers he expected on his journey. Chavet promised his fiancée that he would marry her on his return, and would then take her to live in the New World.

Not willing to wait for her man's return, Adrienne disguised herself and got passage on Chavet's ship as a cabin boy. She called herself Jean. Her disguise must have been very good, because nobody recognized her – not even Chavet. The sailors called her Petit Jean, "Little John."

The vessel crossed the Atlantic Ocean and sailed up the Mississippi to the Arkansas River, to the foot of today's Petit Jean Mountain. The local Indians greeted the French party and invited them to spend time on the mountain. The explorers stayed there for a summer, and prepared to return to France in the fall.

The night before the French explorers were to depart, Petit Jean became gravely ill. Her condition was so bad that the group delayed their departure. In the course of events, the girl's identity was finally discovered. She knew that she would not live to return to France, and asked to be carried back to the top of the mountain, to spend her last days there. The Indians made a stretcher and carried her up to a place near their camp that overlooked the mountains and the river. She died there at sundown.

Many years later, a low mound was found on the mountain, with three stones that were placed in an obviously manmade arrangement. Adrienne's enchanting story brings visitors back to this place time and again.

This is the view of the Arkansas River from Petit Jean's grave at the top of her mountain on a hot, hazy summer afternoon.


The picture that introduced this section is the view from the Mather Lodge in Petit Jean State Park. There is a much larger version of it here. The lodge is named in honor of Stephen Tyng Mather (1867-1930), first director of the National Park Service.

There's a trail from the lodge to the bottom of that valley, but we didn't follow it very far.

It took about a hundred years after Petit Jean's voyage for the white man's settlement to take hold in this region. John Walker, a farmer form North Carolina, built this cabin in 1845. Nine years later, it became the home of Owen and Jane West, who reared nine children here. Five of them were born in this cabin, without medical aid.

In 1907, a group of men from the Fort Smith Lumber Company, which owned this land, came to assess its value to the company. They ended up spending a week here, thoroughly enjoying themselves. They also concluded that the steep terrain would only allow them to harvest the trees at a loss. Somebody in the party suggested that the company donate the land to become a national park.

Dr. T.W. Hardison, company physician and a naturalist, met with Stephen Mather in 1921 to pursue that idea. Mather explained that the parcel was too small to justify developing it as a national park, but that it would be suitable for a state park. Dr. Hardison met with the governor, and a bill was introduced to form the park. Citizens in the area added 80 acres to the land donated by the lumber company. In 1923, this area became Arkansas's first state park.

It was another ten years before the park started to look like we saw it. Men from the Civilian Conservation Corps worked there from 1933-1938, building roads, trails, and most of the buildings there. They also built a dam to form Lake Bailey, and a water tower to serve the buildings in the main area of the park.

The park boasts a good paved airstrip with superb terminal facilities, but we chose to arrive by automobile. There is no convenient way to get from the airstrip to the rest of the park unless you have already made arrangements for ground transportation. By the way - that airport has five campsites, with electricity. First come, first served.

Near the airport is Winthrop Rockefeller's WinRock Farms, where they raise beefalo. Strange looking animals, but they do taste good. Rockefeller was a New Yorker who came to Arkansas and decided to stay. In addition to farming, he also was elected governor. His son is the present lieutenant governor of Arkansas.

One of the more accessible places in Petit Jean State Park is Bear Cave Trail.

This rock looks like it might be the bear's head.

This is not Bear Cave. It's just an overhang, but there's room in there for a bear.

This is Bear Cave. At one time a black bear lived in this cave over winter; hence the name.

Parts of the trail give the feeling of walking in a cave, or at least in a narrow hallway.

These lizards are all over the place. They're only about three inches long, so you might not notice them at first.

The trail to the Cedar Falls overlook is another CCC project. Those men worked for a dollar a day, plus room and board.

Several educational signs on the way down to the overlook describe the plant life and local geology. The rock is mainly sandstone, with some fossil imprints here and there. The dark veins are iron. It was deposited when water flowed through the porous stone. In time, the stone erodes, but the iron is much harder and remains. This is called Leizengon structure.

About 300 million years ago, this area was below an ocean. It deposited the precursor to the layered sandstone we see today, which is called Hartshorn sandstone. Cedar Creek has worn its way through the sandstone, creating this canyon, 400 feet deep. The 90-foot waterfall is truly impressive; there's a much larger version of the second photo here.

Red Bluff Drive has two scenic overlooks. At the first one, there is a sign but we couldn't read it. The second line almost looks like it says "try something." We didn't.

At the second overlook, the sign was unobstructed, and its message was clear.

There's a stone shelter at the second overlook that was built by the CCC in 1933. This is the view from there.

There's an easy trail down the hill to Rock House Cave, a large shelter that was used by Indians off and on for about nine thousand years. More rock than usual is exposed here.

These are called "turtle rocks" because the patterns resemble a tortoise shell. The patterns were made by water erosion. One of the formations even looks like a turtle's head poking out of the shell.

About halfway down to the cave.

This is a shortcut to the cave, but it's not worth using. The walk around isn't very long.

Apparently Kathy used this trail. It looks like she gets around.

Somebody left a small inuksuk.

This is our destination on the trail. Rock House isn't a true cave, but an overhang that's large enough to shelter a sizeable family. Archeologists have determined that Indians used the place from 8000 BC until about 1600. There is about fifteen feet of headroom here.


The Indians mixed mineral pigments with animal fat or eggs to record these pictographs. The minerals bind with the rock, making an image that may last thousands of years. It is generally believed that these images are less than 2000 years old. Nobody can say with any certainty what they mean.

Some of the images are much more recent than 2000 years old. Graffiti is a problem everywhere.

At least the other one was humorous. This one is just pointless vandalism.


Hotel Petit Jean once stood near Petit Jean's grave. This was a very popular spot, especially for honeymooners. The original record of the legend of Petit Jean was recorded in an old Bible kept in the hotel. It also served as a meeting place for Dr. Hardison and the owners of the Fort Smith Lumber Company, and it was here they decided to preserve 40 acres of Petit Jean Mountain as a park.

In the late 1920s, the hotel was sold, and subsequently donated to the YMCA. Several facilities were built, including College Lodge, which was begun in 1928. This was the YMCA camp's administration building and conference center. The old picture is from a sign in front of the site. The lodge burned in the 1940s, and was not rebuilt. The camp closed at that time.

The stone work above the mantel includes the YMCA's symbol, an inverted triangle.

Here's a closer look at some of the other stone work.

on to Gastons

Saugatuck   Burlington   Geodes   Nauvoo   Convention   Tiedowns   Beaumont   Hutchinson   Lucas   Dodge City   Hot Springs   Crater of Diamonds   Petit Jean   Gastons   Cahokia Mounds   St. Louis