Long before we were aware of a virus that would change our world, we made a plan to spend Memorial Day Weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Eureka Springs, located in the northwest corner of Arkansas, is a short 4 hour drive from Kansas City, MO.
Then the virus hit. And we spent so much time inside our houses. Cut off from everyone. And camping reservations were cancelled. One after another. We waited with anticipation as areas started opening back up but that was just one concern. The next concern was could we go camping and stay staff from a virus we could not see and could barely protect ourselves from?
Arkansas opened up right before Memorial Day weekend. We had many discussions and we decided we could keep ourselves safe and address our mental health.
Eureka Springs usually offers something for everyone. Shopping in the historic downtown. Fishing in the White River, historical sites, architecture, theatre, ghost tours, and beautiful nature experiences. Well, pre-COVID it had something for everyone. While our campground was open, many businesses were still closed and those that were open were anxious to be open but were still very much apprehensive about being around humans.
We could not attend the Passion Play, we couldn’t visit Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, we couldn’t visit haunted hotels. Not only was the tiger rescue closed but so were the caves. We even found fishing difficult to the high amount of rain in the area. We were forced to find off the beaten path things entertain us and occupy our time.
We stayed at Kettle Campground in Eureka Springs. The campground was a little tight but we enjoyed being nestled among the pine trees once again. The campground has a pool (which is one of the reasons we initially booked here) but of course it was also closed due to COVID. The campground also had a large covered patio that ended up being close to our campsites. This patio ended up being important as it rained several days during our stay and we were able to get outside and enjoy the rain without getting wet.
Our original stay was booked from May 21 to 25, 2020 however, the campground just expanded their WiFi and we decided to add a few extra days because we could school and work from the campground. The weather for the first three days was sunny and beautiful! The rain moved in for the last three days but we quickly learned the weather in Arkansas is just about as unpredictable as it is in Missouri and it can change quickly.
I hope your trip to Eureka Springs is not during a worldwide pandemic but since ours was, I will share some of our nontraditional things to do.
Located on Arkansas 187 off of Arkansas 23, one of the first places we stumbled into was the small town of Beaver. We entered this small town, with a population of 100, by crossing an old one lane suspension bridge, The Beaver Bridge. The Beaver Bridge allows for crossing the White River which was swollen and flooded from all the spring rain. It is the bridge that draws most of the tourist to this small town. We found an RV park right (Beaver RV Park) in the town of Beaver with beautiful views. So, if you have a small camper, camping on the White River in the town of Beaver, might be for you. There was also a hiking path (the scenic Beaver Trail) along the river. We couldn’t hike the trail as it was under water but I would return just for the chance.
Christ of the Ozarks
One of the largest Christ statues stands 67 feet high in the Ozark Mountains. The Christ statue is on the property of the Passion Play and is free to visit. The statue is seven stories, built with nearly 350 tons of concrete and stands high overlooking Eureka Springs. It is at the base of the Christ statue that my daughter enjoyed her last day of sixth grade.
Black Bass Lake
The Husband advocated for Eureka Springs so he could fish and since he could not fish the White River we had to get creative. Black Bass Lake promised to be a great place for hiking and fishing. It rained all morning but then it cleared off and we enjoyed a sunny warm afternoon at Black Bass Lake. We spent a perfect, sunny late afternoon hiking while Wayne fished.
We took Oil Springs Road off of Arkansas 62 to drive several miles down a bumpy narrow dirt road to find the lake. There was a small amount of parking near the trailhead. Hiking trails are plentiful here so as the Husband fished, The Short Chic and I walked the trail around the lake. During our hike we found an old dam built of stone, we saw frogs, we heard all kinds of birds, and we saw a variety of wildflowers. We saw all kinds of fish swimming in the pond but not a single one could be enticed to jump on the line.
The Thorncrown Chapel was one of the indoor popular sites that was open for us to visit during COVID. The Thorncrown Chapel was built in 1980 by E. Fay Jones who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright. Despite previous trips to Eureka Springs, we had never visited this beautiful glass and wooden structure. It was very easy to see why this is a sought after wedding location, it felt like we were engulfed in the Ozark Mountains. Except we had climate control.
If you come to this area to seek out this type of architecture and are a fan of E. Fay Jones’s work there are two other chapels in Arkansas; one in Bella Vista, Arkansas and another in Hot Springs, Arkansas. One of our campground neighbors made sure she hit all three before she continued her journey.
During our planning, we had hoped to spend a great portion of our stay relaxing by the pool but COVID had other plans for us. One of our neighbors at the campground told us about a place called Hogs Hollow they heard had a swimming area. Hogscald Hollow was easy to find using google maps. High above an arm of Beaver Lake, we found beautiful green water, a waterfall, and rocky overlooks. What we never found was actual water access. We drove around forever, waited through a flash rain storm, and finally gave up. We could see a perfect swim area but we were on the wrong side of the lake.
If cliff jumping is a thing you have always wanted to do, this spot is a good one. To the best I can tell, this is even called Lover’s Leap. We were able to watch a young man jump and swim to a boat below. I prefer not to jump off cliffs. In case you were wondering.
If you would like to explore this area and want to cliff jump, take Arkansas 23 out of Eureka Springs until you get to County Road 108 (the turn will be before you reach Turpentine Creek Wildlife Rescue) then veer onto 148. Keep your eyes peeled as you cross over a low water crossing. That is where the waterfall is.
Now, if you would like to have water access to swim in this location you are going to need to drive a bit further. You still take Arkansas 23 out of Eureka seventeen miles to County Road 127. From there you will take county roads several miles: Madison Road 8455 to Madison Road 8465, then turning onto Fromme Road. From our best guess this should put you at a public area right across the river from Lover’s Leap.
One last thing, we did not stop but did notice on Arkansas 62 east of Eureka Springs on the way to Berryville we crossed The Kings River and saw many locals accessed the river below the bridge. They sure seemed to be enjoying the warm water. This may be another option for you water seekers.
Fishing is a huge draw for this area. Beaver Lake is great for Stripped Bass, Kentucky Bass, and Black Bass. Below the Beaver Lake Dam is the tailwaters that start the White River. The water is cold and the trout flourish here. For us, unfortunately, the rain caused Beaver Lake to be swollen, which meant more water being released into the White River, which meant poor fishing conditions for those who do not have a boat.
I am happy to report that our men successfully found fishing at River State Park. Roaring River State Park in Cassville MO is one of the best trout fishing parks and is a short half an hour drive from Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The drive to/from Eureka Springs proved to be worth the time. Everyone managed to catch a few fish; which made the trip to Arkansas a complete success. Well that and we found Yuengling beer for sale and purchased cases of it to bring home!
I am not sure a trip to Eureka is complete without visiting the historic downtown. Shopping had just opened back up when we were there so we did enjoy a day of walking around outside. Despite wearing masks and staying distant, we were heckled for a huge portion of the day as people drove by yelling at us to stop spreading the virus.
We enjoyed local breweries, restaurants, and ice cream shops during our stay.
We did enjoy an afternoon of hiking at Pivot Rock and Natural Bridge. We paid a minimal fee to hike the property and see the namesake rock. We were also warned of wild hogs but we never even caught a glimpse of one. The drive out to Pivot Rock is scenic and we caught a second glimpse of The Christ of the Ozark statue from afar.
Arkansas has a lot of great places to visit. I hope you consider adding Eureka Springs to your destination stops.