One Tank Travels: Blue Spring

It could be argued that Blue Spring is one of the oldest attractions in Carroll County, having been bubbling up constantly clear 54 degree water at the rate of 38 million gallons a day for longer than humankind has been around. Native Americans considered the spring to be sacred ground. The Osage used the spring as the anchor of their trading post. It’s been a resort destination for those wishing to be healed by its waters.  It’s a neat place to visit, even in the hottest part of summer.

The property, the Blue Spring Heritage Center, is on the National Historic Register, officially for its connection with the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee people were camped on the ridge above the spring for nine days in 1839 during that tragedy before being pushed further on into Oklahoma Territory.

There are several other historic reasons for it to have been given the offer. For instance, there was a mill that resided on the banks of the spring, about a quarter mile from where it spurts forth from the Earth. There are remnants of the mill on-site — a turbine still in place, the wooden dam on the spring, and an old grist mill up by the visitors center. That mill, though, is long gone.
 
Contemporary to that mill, gardens were planted, and the spring became a bit of a tourist attraction. The constantly cool water gave rise to all sorts of plants that might not have survived elsewhere.

In 1971, University of Arkansas students under the direction of Robert G. Chenall conducted a dig down from the fount of the spring at a ledge and discovered the remnants of societies as far back as 8000 years. The Bluff Shelter, as it is known, has been providing cover and relief from the weather for passersby for millennia.

In 1993, Eureka Gardens were born around the Spring, and in 2003 the Blue Springs Heritage Center was created to tie together gardens,
spring and history into one very comprehensive and lovely site.

On my visit, a kind hostess shared the stories about the supposed healing powers of Blue Spring, and where to sit on the bridge if I
wanted to dangle my feet in the cold water. The hostess also told me to head down to the spring first instead of the Woodland Garden. “I want to see fannies, not faces. That’s a long staircase,” she said.
There’s a film that covers the history of the place you should watch before you hit the trails.  It’s housed in a building with a small museum containing artifacts about the spring and early Eureka Springs. In addition to the 20 minute film, there’s a snippet of a DVD you can  purchase at the gift shop about the first dive into the recesses of the spring.
 
It’s a good two or three stories down, but there are platforms along the way to stop. Lots to see, too, such as the replica mill near the top, the old grist stone from the old mill, that sort of thing. There are also sometimes mosquitos out along the trail, so pack accordingly.
 
If you take kids, you should stop at the first station, a trout feeding point with fish food kept in a gumball machine. It’s a gazebo on a deck over the water, and if you look down you can see fish as long as your arm.
In spots along the stream, the water is milky white, as if the bottom has been disturbed. In others, it’s greenish blue, and in still others moss under the surface gives it a brown appearance. The banks are stacked with large stones.

The boardwalk will take you over the spring itself, massive Blue Spring in all its quiet glory. The stone wall around the spring was placed
there during a very brief period in the early 20th century when a company was formed to sell the water. That company lasted about a year.  All along the sloping edges leading down to the blue-green pool, flowers and herbs have taken over. It’s a bright spot, quite fragrant and buzzing with insects. At the same time, it’s very quiet.

And there’s a small bridge over the opening where the spring progresses into the stream. Here you can take off your shoes and socks and dangle your feet in the 54 degree water… an especially cool treat when the weather is hot.
There are other areas to explore at the Heritage Center – such as the Medicine Wheel garden, the old dam and the Bluff Shelter – an amazing rock formation that juts out over the bank of the river, the location of Doctor Chenall’s famed dig. There are numbers scribbled up on the wall above that mark out the hieroglyphs left there by ancient folks.
 
You’ll find Blue Spring Heritage Center off Highway 62 five and a half miles west of Eureka Springs. Admission is $7.25 for adults, $4 for
students 10 to 17 and free for anyone under the age of ten. The gardens are open from March 15th through the second Sunday in November. Go. Take water and your camera. You’ll find more information on the Blue Springs website or by calling (479) 253-9244.
 

Kat Robinson is the communications manager for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism's tourism division. She is a lifelong Arkansawyer with years of residency in Little Rock, Russellville and Jonesboro.

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2 comments on “One Tank Travels: Blue Spring
  1. Debra Gray says:

    This is one of the many sites in Arkansas we plan to visit over the next few years. There’s so many places to go and things to do in Arkansas it would take a lifetime to get it all in. If the prices were just a little lower.lol

  2. Denise Collins says:

    My Fiance and I are planning to visit here when we come to Eureka Springs for our Marriage on September 21st. Can’t wait to dip our feet into the spring and see this amazing spot!

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