SULPHUR SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA) — The Old Spanish Treasure Cave in Sulphur Springs is more than a Northwest Arkansas legend, it’s a piece of history with a story as rich as the treasure believed buried somewhere within it.
The treasure cave’s story dates back about 400 years to a time when explorers were setting sail and discovering wild, uncharted lands.
It’s a story that goes back to a more dangerous time when bloody battle could suddenly erupt between native people and marauders from afar.
It’s a story that Paul Linscott, the Old Spanish Treasure Cave’s owner, knows by heart.
“What happened was the Spanish conquistadors were traveling and they came across a brutal winter storm, and they needed to take shelter in a place that was suitable and big enough,” Linscott said. “That’s how they came across the Old Spanish Treasure Cave.”
But the conquistadors would not be safe for long.
The conquistadors raided Native American villages, and the tribe members wanted revenge, Linscott said.
The conquistadors huddled inside the cavern around a campfire set in a natural chimney located near a large space that is now referred to as the Council Room, Linscott said.
“And that’s what gave them away. The Native Americans saw the smoke coming out of the top of the mountain. [They] were hunting the conquistadors down fro revenge,” Linscott said.
At least one Spaniard survived the attack, Linscott said.
The surviving conquistador sealed all the cavern entrances, drew a map on parchment paper and carved another map into some limestone rock within the cave, according to Linscott.
“The map in the rock is the map of the cavern, and we still have that. We have the actual rock with the map on it,” he said.
After the doomed conquistador’s brief stay, the cave went undiscovered until 1885 when another Spaniard arrived.
“An old man from Madrid, Spain, came over to this general area. He hired some young men who hunted and fished in the area to look for some carvings in the bluff line,” Linscott said.
The young men found carvings that resembled little horseshoes.
“They brought the old man there. They dug straight down, removed a huge boulder and it revealed a massive cavern, and that’s when the first treasure hunt took place,” Linscott said.
Treasure left by the conquistadors is hidden somewhere among the Old Spanish Treasure Cave’s myriad caverns and tunnels, Linscott said.
“The treasure has never been recovered, but artifacts have been recovered. We are still looking for the treasure today,” Linscott said.
Artifacts that have been found in the cave include helmets, pieces of armor, some gold coins and a bracelet, according to Linscott.
A man by the name of George Dunbar reported finding some gold coins and bracelets in the cave back in 1908, Linscott said.
Dunbar started a mining operation called Sulfur Springs Cave Company.
“But the operation was a cover-up to find the buried treasure,” Linscott said.
The cave has had several owners since Dunbar. Linscott bought the cave a little over 23 years ago.
While Linscott and his wife Tracy have not yet found the treasure, they continue to find interesting pieces of cave history.
“In the Council Room, we recently uncovered [mining] tracks that date back to 1908,” Linscott said. “Back in the early to mid 30s, they ran out of money for the treasure hunt. They pulled up the rails and sold them for scrap iron so they could continue the treasure hunt.”
The Linscotts discovered that the tracks split off and lead to a sealed up tunnel that they plan to open.
“I believe that this passage is going to be like a time capsule to the past. Our objective is not just to find the treasure, but to find out what other people did here,” Linscott said. “We are still exploring the cavern. We are finding new areas and passages.”
The Linscotts opened the treasure cave to the public and share its many mysteries with student groups, scout groups, researchers and all folks who possess a sense of adventure and curiosity for the unknown. They also show classic adventure movies, such as ‘The Goonies,’ in the Council Room.
Linscott said he believes someday he and Tracy will find the treasure, but in meantime, they will continue discovering the Old Spanish Treasure Cave‘s countless secrets.
“We want to find out everything about this place and what happened,” Linscott said.