Perfect time to visit Blue Spring, whether you’ve been there or not

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Blue Spring Heritage Center, eight miles west of Eureka Springs off US 62, is hosting Fall Gardens and History Education Day from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30.

“It will be a nice fall day to enjoy the Blue Spring Heritage Center, learn history and enjoy Earth’s blessings,” said John Cross, Jr., who operates the facility owned by the Cross family.

Presentations will include “How to become a Master Gardener” and “Master Gardener’s Working Their Magic at the Garden.” Cross is a Master Gardener who has been working to introduce more perennial and native plants to the Blue Spring property. He has also directed work to clear brush open up better views of the spring and pools below adding even more scenic enjoyment to one of the area’s top attractions.

There will also be a flint knapping demonstration by Aaron Wogoman at the Historic Bluff Shelter. Jim McCoy will be discussing “Civil War in the Ozarks” at the Historic Mill Site.

Residents of Carroll County get in free with a valid ID.

Presentations will be conducted as people gather, with plenty of time for questions.

Blue Spring has long been a popular destination, back to prehistory through the times of the early settlers to the present day. The Osage tribe had a trading post at Blue Spring and used the White River to float furs, bear oil, and beeswax down to New Orleans. In 1839, Blue Spring was an important renewal stop on the Trail of Tears for Cherokee forced to leave their homes in Georgia when they were relocated to Oklahoma.

In recent years, the Blue Spring Heritage Center has been one of the more popular tourist destinations in Carroll County. Many visitors have enjoyed the deep blue waters of the largest spring in Northwest Arkansas, which produces an average of 38 million gallons of clear, pure water per day. There is also extensive landscaping around the spring itself and surrounding acres of green space and gardens. Also popular are the dramatic overhanging cliffs known as the Historic Bluff Shelter that contain both ancient petroglyphs and graffiti left by early settlers, and the ruins of a water mill that once produced lumber at the site.

While the flow of Blue Spring has remained steady for generations, it has also had its challenges from nature. In recent years flooding from the White River has inundated flowerbeds surrounding the spring head.

“The flooding has been our biggest challenge,” Cross said. “The past two years it has flooded in the spring. By the time the water went down in June and July, it was too late and difficult to put in the kind of landscaping we like to have for weddings and other events. Another challenge is just maintaining such a large property with extensive landscaping. We have three miles of shoreline on the White River and 250 acres.”

Another challenge is an invasive water plant called parrot feather that can grow so prolifically that it clogs the waterway. Manual clearing hasn’t proved to be helpful, so the pool is usually drained once a year to avoid having to use poison.

“We do our very best to avoid using any kind of herbicides,” Cross said.

There are also hundreds of feet of boardwalks from the Visitor’s Center and Museum down to the spring. The boardwalks make a loop trail around the heart of the facility including going across the dam at the west end of the lower spring pool. One recent improvement is that the boardwalks have been pressure washed and stained.  

“That really improves the appearance of the property,” Cross said.

A gazebo overlooks the spring pool and, for a quarter, visitors can get feed for the trout that can be seen below in the clear spring waters. While flooding released some of the very large trout that used to swim in those waters, Cross restocks with rainbow trout every year.

Another favorite activity at Blue Springs is to sit on the bridge where the pool surrounding the spring flows into the lower pool. People like to dangle their feet in the water while enjoying being surrounded by beautiful scenery.

Blue Spring is particularly picturesque during the fall color season.

Many folks who have lived here for many years have not had the good fortune to experience Blue Spring, Cross said. To encourage them to visit this property that he feels has strong spiritual and cultural significance, admittance to the property is free to local residents when the attraction is open.

“My goal is to be a draw more visitors to Eureka Springs instead of living off Eureka Springs,” Cross said. “My family has deep roots in this area and cares immensely about the future of Eureka Springs.” 

Normally it closes for the winter the second weekend of November, but Cross said with the warmer weather being experienced, they stay open longer if there is interest.