Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Nestled in the northwest of the US state of Arkansas, Eureka Springs is a small town with a big reputation. The town was originally famous for the natural springs in its vicinity. These springs supposedly held healing properties. Word of these healing springs spread, and culminated in the establishment of the new town of Eureka Springs in the late 19th century. Over time, the town became well-known for other attractions, including historic buildings and numerous natural wonders. Today, the town of Eureka Springs remains a popular tourist destination.

Geography 

Saint Elizabeth's Church-Eureka Springs,Arkansas
Saint Elizabeth's Church-Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Eureka Springs is located in the northwestern region of Arkansas, close to the state’s northern border with Missouri. The town, which is about 11 sq. km in area, is situated in a region known as the Ozarks, also called the Ozark Mountains or Ozark Plateau. The Ozarks cover a large area of northern Arkansas, as well as most of southern Missouri. To the north of Eureka Springs are the towns of Beaver and Holiday Island. The towns of Pleasant Valley and Berryville are located to the east. There are no significant locales south or west of Eureka Springs, but there is a relatively large lake west of the town called Beaver Lake. The center of the town itself is located in a narrow valley at the headwaters of Leatherwood Creek, which is a tributary of the White River.

Demographics Of Eureka Springs

Eureka Springs has a small population of just over 2,100 residents, about 90% of whom are classified as white. Native Americans make up the next most populous group at 4.62% of the population. More than 90% of Eureka Spring’s population speaks only English. Spanish-speakers account for 5.9% of the population, while 4% speak other Indo-European languages.

Economy

The largest industry in Eureka Springs is accommodation and food services, which makes sense because the town is very popular with tourists. Other important sectors include retail trade and healthcare & social services. As of 2019, the median household income in Eureka Springs was $38,214, which is lower than the national average of $65,712. The town’s poverty rate is 15.59%.

History Of Eureka Springs

Eureka Springs historic downtown
This sign describes the reputation of Eureka Springs as a health resort in the late 19th century and its connection to the Civil War. Editorial credit: Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock.com

Before Eureka Springs was founded, the area in which it is now situated was the subject of Native American legends related to the supposed healing powers of springs in the area. The town is said to be built on sacred grounds. In fact, so sacred is the area that Native American tribes who warred with one another would not fight on the grounds of the springs. The first white settler to discover the healing springs was supposedly a man named Dr. Alvah Jackson, who is said to have used the water from the springs to cure his daughter of an eye ailment in 1856. During the American Civil War, the spring waters were used at what was called “Dr. Jackson’s Cave Hospital” to care for soldiers. After the war, Dr. Jackson took to selling the water, calling it “Dr. Jackson’s Eye Water.”

The town of Eureka Springs itself was founded on July 4, 1879. It was originally an encampment of tents and shanties. But as word of the healing powers of the area’s spring water spread, thousands of people flocked to the new town. In fact, by late 1879, the town’s population was estimated to be 10,000. In 1882, the Eureka Springs Improvement Company was formed. Its objective was to bring the railroad to the rapidly-expanding town and build new amenities for visitors. The man responsible for the rapid growth of Eureka Springs was General Powell Clayton, who was once the governor of Arkansas. In just two years, streets, water & sewer lines, and an electric trolley were established in the town, as was the Crescent Hotel, which would gain fame around the world. Many of Eureka Springs’ original structures still exist today, and are well-preserved. The town is also on the National Registrar of Historic Places that have national significance. 

Tourist Attractions In Eureka Springs

Eureka Springs and the surrounding area contain many attractions. Some are natural, while others are man-made. Here are some of them.

Historic Hotels

Historic Eureka Springs downtown
Historic downtown Eureka Springs, AR, with boutique shops and famous buildings. Editorial credit: Rachael Martin / Shutterstock.com

Eureka Springs is home to three historic hotels: the Crescent Hotel, the Basin Park Hotel, and the Hotel Allred. The Crescent Hotel and Spa was built in 1886, and is known as the “symbol of hospitality” in the state of Arkansas. It also has a more obscure reputation for being the most haunted hotel in the entire United States. In fact, so-called ghost tours are given at the hotel, which has also been featured in TV shows like Ghosthunters, Ghost Adventures, and My Ghost Story. The Basin Park Hotel was built in 1905. As its name implies, the hotel is situated in Basin Park, which itself is a famous wedding venue. The park is located in Eureka Springs’ downtown district, which is known for its shops, galleries, restaurants, and nightspots. The Basin Park Hotel plays host to the Ozark Mountain Music Festival and the Folk Festival’s Barefoot Ball. The Hotel Allred, now called the New Orleans Hotel, was originally named the Wadsworth when it was established in 1892. The hotel maintains its historic architecture from the late 1800s, and also contains furnishings from that era.

Blue Springs Heritage Center

Eureka Springs owes its origins to the natural springs in its vicinity. One of the most significant springs is the Blue Spring, the largest spring in Northwest Arkansas, in which 38 million gallons of water flows every day. Today, the Blue Spring is part of the Blue Springs Heritage Center, which also features 33 acres of native gardens, plants, and blooms.

Other Attractions

Pea Ridge National Military Park
Sign marks entrance to Pea Ridge National Military Park that marks a Civil War era battlefield in Arkansas near Eureka Springs. Editorial credit: RozenskiP / Shutterstock.com

Eureka Springs and its surrounding area contain several natural attractions. Among them are Pea Ridge National Military Park, which marks the site of a Civil War battle that saved the state of Missouri for the Union; Promised Land Animal Park, which is situated to the north of Eureka Springs, and is home to hundreds of rare and engendered species from around the world; and War Eagle Canyon, which allows visitors to walk straight through a mountain and see a wide variety of formations. 

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