Sunday, January 1, 2017

Taking the waters at the Buckstaff Bath House

The hubby & I spent Christmas in Hot Springs, Arkansas with the mother-in law.  He goes to visit more often, but I tend to just go every other year.  While I'm there, I make a point of visiting the bath house!  Momma Love had a doctor appointment one day, so while Randy took her to that, I wandered off on my own.  Downtown Hot Springs is barely 10 minutes from her house. 

There will be another post about the rest of the trip soon.  
This is the Buckstaff Bath House, Hot Springs' only bath house that has been open to the public since 1912.  You can also 'take the waters' in the Quapaw Bath House, but they have a more modern take on it.  The Buckstaff is just like walking into the early 1900s.  

I don't have any pictures of the inside (cameras & phones aren't allowed in the bathing area, but why would you even want to take one?  It's time to relax, peeps!), but the Hot Springs Visitor Center is in the old Fordyce Bath house so I got pictures in there so you get the general idea. 

When you first walk in, there's a lobby with the check-in counter where you pay for what package you want - I always get the traditional, but you can also get manis & pedis & facials.  The prices are actually quite reasonable (In my opinion, anyway!).  Normally this runs $71 but they had a Christmas sale going on so it was $66 for all I'm about to describe. 

They ring for an attendant and she comes to you get in the elevator.  This is the cool old kind with the metal grate and manual lever.  They take women to the second floor and men to the third in a different elevator. 
Then she shows you to the dressing room and gives you a locker.  You can wear a bathing suit if you want, but it seems weird to get in a bathtub when NOT naked!  Once you're undressed, the locker room attendant wraps you in a sheet and you wait for your bathing attendant. 
 The tubs in the Buckstaff are in individual stalls.  They're the giant old clawfoot tubs and have what resembles a small outboard motor for the whirlpool action.  The only issue I have with that it that it blasts directly onto the outside of your thigh so one leg gets continually jiggled while the other doesn't.  The attendant takes your sheet and helps you into the tub and brings you a couple cups of hot mineral water to enjoy while you soak.  You really lose track of time, but I think you're in there for 20-30 minutes. Then she comes in and scrubs down your arms, legs & back with a loofah mitt. 
This is a sitz bath.  They sit up a bit higher off the floor, and are in individual stalls so you're not sitting there awkwardly next to a stranger. It's supposed to help with hemorrhoid / prostate / lower back issues but it's interesting.  The attendant helps you off with the sheet and holds it up while you get situated in the running water, then drapes the sheet across your front and you can turn the water off when the bowl is as full as you want. 
This is the steam cabinet.  They're also in individual stalls.  The attendant opens the front and holds your sheet while you sit on a cement beam (with a towel on it) and place your feet on a board over what seems to be running spring water. The front and top closes around you so just your head sticks out (like in the old cartoons!) and you're only in there for about 5 minutes.  It feels weird that your body gets covered in sweat / steam while your head is dry!

They keep a close eye on you in that one and while they may be lax in how long you are at the other stations, they don't let you stay too long in the cabinet.  
Next you go to get your hot packs.  This room was called the "cooling room" in the Fordyce, but the tables are very similar to where you get your packs (just picture them padded).  The attendant lays hot towels across the mat, then drapes one over your shoulders, then has you lie down.  She then wraps a hot towel around each of your legs and drapes a cold one over your forehead and hands you a cup of iced mineral water.  No idea how long you stay here, either.  You just relax. Ahhh. 
Finally, you go to the needle shower to rinse off.  The one in the Buckstaff was similar to this, but instead of actual shower heads at waist level, the vertical bars had 6 or 7 holes that sprayed water at you, from about neck to knees.  You're only in there for a very short time, before you towel off and either head back to the locker room or go for your massage.  

The Fordyce didn't have any massage rooms to view, but they're pretty modern, I guess.  It's just a small, dark curtained room with a massage table.  They do Swedish massages, which concentrates on arms & hands, legs & feet, shoulders, back and neck. Pretty sure I saw that it was a half hour massage.  Glorious!   

Another thing that I really like is that there are locked wooden boxes on the check-in counter so you can stop on your way out and leave tips for your attendants.  They have pencils handy and small envelopes, so you can write their name on the envelopes, insert some dollas and leave it in the box for them.  I always tip big, because I'm touristy like that! 

So this is what makes a 2 day drive from Michigan to Arkansas worthwhile.  It makes me wish there were still bath houses around here so I could have another when we got back home!

Here are a couple extra shots from the Fordyce - they had this awesome statue of a native American woman and a what looks like an explorer and a beautiful stained glass mural of mer-people on the ceiling!



  1. It's been years--no, actually decades--since I was last in Hot Springs. Someday I'd like to go back to visit the town, but I'm not sure about the spas and such though I know my wife would probably love that.

    The photos make the place look so old school. Looks like a setting for a horror movie. Pretty cool though. Hot Springs seems like a rather old school place period--at least from what I remember of it.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. They seem to have kept the Buckstaff and Fordyce restored to what they originally looked like. I heard the Quapaw bathhouse has been modernized but I've never been in to see. I like it old-school!
      Oh man - I never thought about a horror movie setting, but I can picture that!


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