Roaring River Area: Eureka Springs and Environs

Eureka Springs

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Eureka Springs is a fun tourist town that once was billed as a “Little Switzerland”. It is always fun to stroll its rough-hewn stone sidewalks and see the mix of stores and galleries, most of which are locally owned. The entire downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places. I remember when the hippies were all over the place in the early 1970s and it is still quite bohemian, attracting artists, motorcyclists, charlatans, poets, gay men and lesbians, and sculptors from around the world. You’ll enjoy strolling through history.

In-Town Destinations

You’ll want a map to help guide you around the winding hilly streets.  You can usually find some paid parking along main street (Missouri 23), but if it is full up and you don’t want to brave parking on the other narrow streets, you can park “up top” at the Chamber of Commerce visitor center on US 62 and take the trolley downtown.

  • Basin Spring Park – This beautiful little park and pavilion often features live music on its stage and is home to Basin Spring, which supposedly cured blindness and prompted the town’s boom in the 1880s.
  • Basin Park Hotel – I like to ride the ancient elevator or climb the creaking stairway that wraps around it in this 1905 hotel.  On the upper floors is an oddly shaped ballroom, and the fire escapes onto the bluff at the rear of the hotel are a hoot.
  • Sweet Spring – As a kid I loved to climb up the hillside here with its stairway, walls, and paths.
  • Town Overlooks – Drive up to the East Mountain Overlook and the Wall Street Overlook to get some nice views of the town.
  • Crescent Hotel – This grand old 1886 hotel offers virtual tours, but you should see its lobby and public rooms for yourself.  More creaking stairwells to boot.
  • The Great Passion Play and The Christ of the Ozarks – Hmm…did you know that the Christ of the Ozarks was sculpted by the same guy that built the silly statues at the failed Dinosaur World in nearby Beaver, Arkansas?  Given the artistry involved, I can’t say that I am surprised.  You ought to see it regardless, even if they don’t still have a warbling tape playing while you contemplate the, er, artistry.  You should take the far more scenic Magnetic Road to drive up to the statue instead of just whipping around on the tourist-laden US 62.  Up there you can also glimpse the Great Passion Play amphitheater and what remains of a failed attempt to reconstruct the Holy City.  There is a Bible Museum, but please don’t be taken in by the so-called Museum of Earth History. All of this was once the domain of the minister of hate, the antisemitic Gerald K. Smith.

I rode the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway‘s steam train when it opened in the mid 1980s, but be forewarned – it only extends 2.5 miles.

Out-of-Town Destinations

Roaring River Area (click map for details)

Roaring River Area (click map for details)

I’ve tried to locate the following places for you on Google Maps.

  • Thorncrown Chapel is a gorgeous structure in which you can escape the hectic tourism and peacefully meditate.
  • Beaver is an old ferry crossing with a wonderful one-lane suspension bridge from 1949 which you can drive across. There is a camping and swimming area ($5 day use pass) where you can see the old railroad bridge and pilings.  On the other side of the highway from the campground is a free hiking trail along the old railroad grade that ends at another abandoned piling.
  • Blue Spring offers gardens and a good film on the area’s history.

Sadly, Dinosaur World closed, but you might still be able to catch a glimpse of its silly prehistoric statuary from nearby highways.  An even older tourist trap is Pivot Rock.

Where to Stay

There are lots of hotels in Eureka Springs, since it caters to newlyweds. While I love to visit the big old Crescent or Basin Park hotels, for our accommodations Wendy and I prefer the quiet romance of a cabin at the pricey Sugar Ridge Resort over near the Beaver Lake dam.

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