A few miles North of Mountain View, Arkansas you will find Blanchard Springs Caverns Recreation Area. Named after the very large spring gushing out the side of a high limestone cliff.
Thousands of gallons of water each minute.
The spring was named after an early settler of the area that built a mill just downstream.
The early settlers knew there was a connection between the spring and a sinkhole, just a half mile away, on the top or the bluff. They would drop corncobs down the hole and they would later appear at the spring. Only problem was it took over a day for the cobs to appear. Why so long to travel a half mile in the rushing water?
Little did they know that at the bottom of the sinkhole was one of two huge cave systems that would later be called Blanchard Springs Caverns.
The first major exploration took place in the early sixties, with teams entering the caverns from the sinkhole with rope ladders. One of their first findings were the remains of an earlier explorer that entered the sinkhole around a thousand years ago. Studies concluded that the Indian males curiosity cost him his life. He entered the sinkhole with a reed torch for light, and apparently died of starvation from not being able to regain the surface.
Opened in 1973, Blanchard Springs Caverns in one of two living caves developed within the last forty years. The other being Kartchner Caverns in Arizona. It is equipped with air locks, and all tours are ranger led. Two regular tours of different sections of the caverns, along with a wild cave tour. That one gets you down and dirty in parts of the cave system few people ever see. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.
Just downstream from the spring, itself, is Mirror Lake. Built by the CCC in the thirties, it is a fishing and swimming lake. Very cold water, but probably feels good in July or August.
There’s also a really nice Forest Service campground farther back in the area.
Situated along a small creek with a swimming hole and gravel bar beach.
Access is across this low water bridge.
Which, as you can see from the debris line, experiences high water at times.
Another find in the area is Shelter Rock.
The smoke stains on the roof speak to centuries of use by many different cultures. It’s even possible that our early cave explorer took shelter there. I love to think of such possibilities……jc