by Sheila O'Connor
eautiful and serene,
nestled in the Ozark mountains and surrounded by a palette of vibrant colors,
no matter what time of year you visit that's Eureka Springs in Arkansas,
with its population of almost 2,500 people. This charming little town with
its blocks of history, Victorian architecture and shops, has been named one
of "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations" and it's no wonder.
The entire downtown has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places
and it boasts the largest collection of Victorian architecture anywhere in
the central US.
So how did Eureka Springs come about? Although the Ozark town is known today
for its incredible history and natural beauty, the original attraction was
Legend has it that the Native American tribes of the area believed that the
cold spring water could cure many ailments and the surrounding land was considered
sacred ground. One story goes that Sioux Indians brought a Chieftain's daughter
to the spring in search of healing. She suffered from a blinding eye affliction,
much to the sadness of the people who loved her. The miraculous water fully
restored her sight.
Victorians later discovered those same waters in 1856 and miracle-seekers
flocked to the area in droves.
Worth seeing in town is the 1886 Crescent Hotel with it charm and resident
ghosts (!). The hotel was originally touted as a cancer cure hospital but
the residents never lost their cancer only their money.
A happier history belongs to the Thorncrown Chapel, built in 1979, when landowner,
Jim Reed, noticed people visiting his land to get a better view of the Ozark
Mountains. Rather than fence them out, he invited them in by having a chapel
built a place where they could stop for gentle rest and respite.
See also Blanchard Springs Caverns, created some 5070 million years ago
(pretty young, actually, considering the earth is believed to be 4.6 billion
years old). There's even a wildlife reserve, a Christ of the Ozarks statue
and a Passion Play in the area all worth visiting.
And Eureka Springs is nothing if not diverse you'll see a mix of hot rods, gospel music, gay and lesbian connections, UFOs and operas all equally at home here. This is definitely a town where anything goes and everything seems to go very well together.
Arkansas Tourist Board photo
Blanchard Springs Caverns photo