Camping at Lake Catherine in Arkansas

This was my first trip to Arkansas and it was as much about seeing the sights as camping. We were lucky enough to score a site on the lake very near the bathhouse at Lake Catherine. It was very hot during our stay with highs in the mid-nineties. Because of the heat, we stayed away from camp most of the time during the day.

We loved our site at Lake Catherine.  It was #29 on loop B,  right on the lake with lots of shade and only about 50 feet from the bathhouse.  Loop B is for smaller rigs and our teardrop fit nicely in the spot.  There are two other loops to accommodate larger rigs.  Being able to fit in a smaller spot enabled us to get a nice place to stay without a lot of lead time. Check in was pleasant and we were given a 25% senior discount (only available for weekdays). There is horseback riding nearby and canoes, kayaks, water bikes, and pedal boats are available for rent.

As we have experienced with many campsites, there was not room for our 10 x 10 screen room to attach.   We could have set it up away from the trailer, but chose not to because we would be away for much of the daytime.  Our only issue was that the water connection was too far for us to attach our hose.

Site 29 at Lake Catherine

The wildlife were very friendly; we had mallards, squirrels, and birds visiting us.  They were accustomed to being fed and my husband really enjoyed seeing them.

Feeding the Mallards

Two days were allocated to see the sights in Hot Springs.  We visited Garvan Woodland Gardens the morning of our first day.  It is a 210 acre botanical garden that was donated to the University of Arkansas School. The gardens were utterly beautiful, but it was very hot.  Much of the area is shaded, but walking in heat that rose to a high of 95 was quite challenging.

Garvan Woodland Gardens
Garvan Woodland Gardens
One of Several Peacocks at the Gardens

The Chipmunk Cafe is on site at the gardens and we had an excellent lunch there.  It offers fresh lemonade and a variety of sandwiches.  My husband raved about his hamburger!  We highly recommend the Gardens and the Chipmunk.

Within the gardens is the Anthony Chapel, Arkansas’ premier wedding venue. It features 55-foot tall glass and has a complex truss system designed to mimic trees.  It is a stunning structure.

Anthony Chapel
Anthony Chapel Interior

After lunch, we checked out Bathhouse Row and the historic district.  It was interesting to learn that one side of the street that held shops, tourist attractions, and restaurants is in the city, but across the street is within Hot Springs National Park.   The buildings along Bathhouse Row are owned by the park service and many are leased to private businesses.  The Visitor Center in the Park is a beautiful old building that was once a bathhouse.

Our evening was spent being entertained by The Magic & Comedy of Maxwell Blade. He is a Hot Springs staple and put on a very entertaining show.  We arrived back at our campsite at around 10 pm, cranked up the A/C, and slept like babies!

Day 2 started early at the Buckstaff Bathhouse. The bathhouse is right above the natural hot springs and has been in operation since 1912.  We each had the traditional bathing package, which included individual whirlpool mineral bath, hot packs, sitz bath, vapor cabinet, needle shower, and 20 minute Swedish massage.  The building and the services are much the same as they were over 100 years old.  It was quite an experience and very relaxing.

Buckstaff Bathhouse

We had breakfast for lunch at The Pancake Shoppe, fresh-squeezed orange juice, pancakes loaded with fresh blueberries, and an amazing omelette.

Our afternoon included a Duck Tour of the city and Lake Hamilton and then a movie to get out of the heat.  We saw “Dunkirk” in our first experience with recliner seating.  The movie was good and the seats were very  comfortable!

Dinner was at the historic Ohio Club, established in 1905. It was once one of many illegal casinos in the city.  During prohibition, it was a popular place of movie stars, celebrities, and gangsters.  Mae West, Al Jolson, Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Al Capone, and Bugsy Segal are all listed as former customers.  We loved the great service, the Ruben sandwiches, and the fabulous live music.  An excellent blues band was playing the night we were there.

Ohio Club

We drove to Little Rock the next day and visited the Clinton Presidential Center and Park.  It is one of thirteen presidential libraries and we plan to visit all of them.  We had a guided tour, which made the visit more interesting.  Of particular interest were reproductions of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room.  A temporary Bug Exhibit showing how the insect world works together was on site.  You can take photos inside the building,  but can’t publish them, so my shots are all outside.   The building is designed to look like a bridge.  The grounds were very nice with an very interesting-looking bridge that crosses the Arkansas River.

Clinton Presidential Center
Portion of the Bug Exhibit
View from the Bridge

In the afternoon, we rode the River Rail Electric Streetcar for a tour of the city. Our driver was very knowledgeable and gave us a running commentary of the city, past and present. It is free for the summer and very enjoyable.

Old State House, Circa 1842

We drove back to Hot Springs late in the afternoon and had dinner at Deluca’s, a pizza restaurant.  We were back at camp at around 6 pm, our earliest time back by far.  We had observed several people swimming in the lake, so we went in for about 30 minutes.  It was very relaxing and the water was a perfect temperature.

While we were gone during the daytime on this trip, we did enjoy the peacefulness of nature in the mornings over breakfast.  The wildlife were the most abundant and willing to come close that we have seen thus far on a camping trip.  We also enjoyed the great rates ($16.50 per night with senior discount).  Lake Catherine is a great campground!

Lessons Learned:

  • Research the weather before booking trips!  We were in Branson a few summers ago and it was cool and comfortable. I foolishly thought that Hot Springs would not be too hot because it is relatively close to Branson and in the mountains.  This was flawed thinking!
  • If it is very hot, it is nice to have an outside fan.  We purchased an inexpensive box fan our first night and it helped a little with the heat and the bugs.
  • Our mini blower purchased at Marvin’s was nice to tidy up the campsite.  Though very small and inexpensive, but does a decent job.
  • If you are not spending a lot of time at a site, you don’t need a lot of stuff. Our set-up and takedown for this trip was very quick and easy because of this.
July 2017

Enjoy your summer!!

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