In the midst of a nationwide heat wave, temperatures have held steady in the triple digits here in Central Arkansas, and folks have been flocking to pools, ponds and parks for a bit of aquatic relief. For some, neighborhoods provide exclusive swimming opportunities, but for the rest of us, the following options are available for anyone with a bathing suit and a willingness to pay a fee.
Jim Dailey Fitness and Aquatic Center Located between War Memorial Stadium and the Little Rock Zoo, this public fitness facility has both an indoor and outdoor pool (a separate fee for each). Outdoors, youths have (nearly) free rein with a big slide, a diving board, jacuzzi and kiddie pool. The dire lack of shade makes lounging poolside on a sweltering day nearly unbearable. The indoor pool is available all year long and is geared more toward those motivated by exercise than fun. Features include three swimming lanes, saunas, and an indoor jacuzzi. 300 S. Monroe. 664-6976. www.littlerock.org/parksrecreation/warmemorial. Outdoor pool: noon-4 p.m., 6:15 p.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-6 p.m. Sat., 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Open seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Admission ranges from $2.50-$5. Indoor pool: 5:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Admission ranges from $2.50-$5.
Southwest Community Center Swimming Pool We were somewhat perplexed by the constant stream of police cars that sped in and out of this area until we realized that the Little Rock Police Southwest Patrol Division was one of the buildings which make up the Southwest Community Center, along with Dee Brown Public Library, a playground and recreation center. The pool is new and features two diving boards plus a poolside basketball hoop. Nobody else was in the pool when we arrived, but a swarm of lifeguards turned up, which made swimming a somewhat more self-conscious activity. However, just as we were leaving, vans turned up and unloaded a gaggle of children, towels and backpacks in tow. 6401 Baseline Road. 918-3975. Noon-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Open seasonally from mid-May until mid-August. Admission ranges from $2.50-$4.50.
Willow Springs Water Park Boasting green water, sand and moss, Willow Springs is really more pond than pool, though the ancient park (built in 1928) claims its water is "chemically treated, chlorinated and pH balanced." Its slides, fountains, trampolines and various inscrutable play objects all seem held together by PVC pipe. The water is shallow – generally around four feet – and diving is prohibited everywhere (although a group of young girls repeatedly flouted this rule on our visit). Willow Springs also lends itself for use as a Bible Camp, which, during our visit, included an opportunity to "go back in time to when Jesus was a kid without leaving our community." We didn't know Nazareth featured a volleyball court. 3903 Willow Lake Road. 888-4148. willowsprings.net. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-8 p.m. Sun. Open seasonally from mid-May until Labor Day (only weekend during school). $7.50-$13 (group rates available).
Cammack Village Pool This pool is located right at the limit of Cammack Village near the Heights. Parking is permitted to the public only on a narrow strip of curb on two sides of the street. The pool itself is small and has a little slide and diving board. Next door are tennis courts and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. 2710 N. McKinley, Cammack Village. 663-4593. 1 p.m.-6:45 p.m. Mon., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue., 10 a.m.-6:45 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thu., 10 a.m.-6:45 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-6:45 p.m. Sun. Admission: $5.
Wild River Country The area's premier water park is the most expensive and most popular option on this list. It is a place that attracts large groups of children and teen-agers with everything the presence of those groups entails. The park features about eight large water slides that whip and snake around in every direction (but fortunately no loops, a la Action Park) and from heights that sometimes offer impressive views of the Arkansas River valley. In addition, a toddler play area, wave pool and lazy river offer activity for the less thrill-seeking among us. 6820 Crystal Hill Road, North Little Rock. 753-8600. Usually open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 12 p.m.-8 p.m. Sun. Open seasonally mid-May to Labor Day. Admission: $19.99-$29.99.
Splash Zone Of all the places we visited, Splash Zone was the most densely crowded. It has the feel of a swimming pool that one day decided it wanted to be a water park and erected two big slides and an impressive toddler play area to realize that goal. The pool has a diving board and built-in jacuzzi, while the toddler area includes an aquatic playground and mushroom fountains. The slides require an extra $1 wristband. 201 W. Martin St., Jacksonville. 501-982-7946. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun. and holidays. Open seasonally Memorial Day to Labor Day. Admission $4-$5.