The Blue Spring Heritage Center, located in Eureka Springs, is one of the most beautiful and historically significant locations in all of Arkansas.
One of the crown jewels of this paradise is the Blue Spring, a 510-foot-deep spring that pumps 38 million gallons of pure water into the White River every day. It is thought that some of this pure water originates in the Pacific northwest. The spring pool and nearby lagoon hold some of the cleanest, bluest water that I’ve ever seen.
Just a few steps away from the Blue Spring sits the Bluff Shelter. Both the spring and the bluff served as sacred places for American Indians. An archeological dig in 1971 uncovered many prehistoric artifacts that date as far back as 8000 B.C. It also confirmed the presence of American Indians dating back to 1700 AD. Historians from several Indian nations, including the Tsalagi (Cherokee), Osage and Quapaw, say their tribe’s members have been making journeys to and living intermittently at Blue Spring for tens of thousands of years.
In the late 1830s, Blue Spring continued to play a significant role in history, as it was a stopover on the tragic Trail of Tears, which was a series of forced removals of Native American nations from their ancestral homelands.
Just 300 feet downstream from the spring sat Blue Spring Mill, which was built in the mid-1840s, and was powered by the water to grind corn. It was later destroyed during the Civil War and eventually rebuilt in 1903 as a saw, grist, and flour mill that was again powered by water. It was dismantled in 1943, but the turbine remains to this day.
Blue Spring has been a tourist attraction since the 1940s. In 1993, the location became Eureka Springs Gardens, and in 2003 it changed to the Blue Spring Heritage Center. The facilities that make up the Heritage Center tell visitors the rich history of the site in the form of a historic film, old photographs, artifacts, and signage posted throughout the walkways of the park.
The spring feeds a trout-filled lagoon on its way to the White River. This is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever walked in Arkansas. There’s a large gazebo that overlooks the lagoon where you can sit and enjoy the surroundings, and even feed the trout if you so desire.
As I walked through the gardens, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe about where I was. Sure, the acreage that makes the Blue Spring Heritage Center is a literal paradise, but it also sits at a historical crossroads. I tried to picture in my mind the people who, for thousands of years, stopped at the spring and the bluff for healing, shelter and lodging.
Thankfully, the Blue Spring Heritage Center has been wonderfully and lovingly preserved for the enjoyment of anyone who wants to visit. Anyone who loves history, the outdoors, nature, water, flowers, breathing fresh air, and walking through a paradise should visit.
Blue Spring Heritage Center
1537 Co Rd 210, Eureka Springs, AR 72632
Hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
March 15 through 2nd Sunday in November
$6.50 kids 6-17
FREE kids 5 and under