Underground adventures await visitors to exquisite caves
It’s no secret that The Natural State is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. However, many people may not know about the phenomenal spaces hidden below those rolling hills. Those who visit Arkansas’ caves can learn about the limestone structures and their breathtaking formations while enjoying an atmosphere that is simply magical.
BLANCHARD SPRINGS CAVERNS
Located near Mountain View in Fifty-Six, Blanchard Springs Caverns offers three subterranean levels for visitors to explore. The Dripstone Trail is an accessible journey through dazzling cave formations, while the Discovery Trail traces the steps of early explorers past the natural entrance and underground stream. The new Discovery in the Dark Headlamp Tours allow guests to see how the cave looked to early explorers, and those desiring a truly rustic experience can crawl through undeveloped areas on the Wild Cave Tour. Above ground, visitors can watch The Amazing World Below in the Water Works exhibit hall or hike and swim at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area.
“It’s just a beautiful cave,” said Cathy Drew, executive director of the Ozark Gateway Region. “Sometimes I call it an underground wonderland because you walk across the top of the Earth, and you never dream that something so beautiful and magnificent is below your feet.”
Spelunkers can view two gorgeous caves in Harrison. Ozark settlers likely explored the Mystic Caverns in the 1800s, and the cave opened for commercial tours by 1928. The cave’s magnificent formations have long attracted visitors, who can learn the fascinating history of one of the state’s oldest commercially operated caves. In the 1960s, a worker making improvements at the site broke through the ground with a bulldozer and discovered the untouched Crystal Dome, which opened for tours in 1981. Eight stories tall, the dome offers spectacular views of growing cave formations.
Located in Eureka Springs, Onyx Cave is the oldest show cave in Arkansas, having opened in 1893. Visitors can experience the cave during self-guided tours that take about 30 minutes and offer audio explanations of cave features. Onyx Cave might have a special allure for sci-fi fans as the filming location for some scenes of It’s Alive! — Larry Buchanan’s 1969 film.
OLD SPANISH TREASURE CAVE
As its name suggests, the Old Spanish Treasure Cave in Sulphur Springs is shrouded in legends about Spanish conquistadors who hid their stolen treasures in the cave after being stranded by a winter storm and attacked by Native Americans, said Paul Linscott, cave co-owner. In addition to regular tours, guests can take the Lantern Tours to experience the cave in the same manner as treasure hunters in the early 20th century. Scouts and other groups can camp out in the caves and explore lessdeveloped areas on weekends. In addition, the cave’s owners regularly screen movies underground in the large Council Room.