Off The Beaten Path: Underground Tour

Day two of our Off The Beaten Path series takes us East to Eureka Springs.
You may be familiar with the quirky city, but did you know it was once one of the largest cities in Arkansas?

Some folks say the Eureka Springs we know today is just a sliver of its former glory. It’s how the city’s preserving its history that gives you the chance to walk a mile, or several stairs, in the shoes of years gone by.

Eureka Springs’ Main Street Executive Director Jacqueline Wolven says, “Take all of the things that have happened in the past and make that accessible for the visitor.”

If you’ve been to Eureka Springs, chances are you’ve seen quite a few unique things. Even if you’ve experienced the city, you still may not understand the history behind it.
Wolven says,”I would do programming here downtown and I would see that people didn’t know what they were looking at. They would have a great time. They’d eat, they’d shop, they’d stay in amazing places, but they weren’t sure exactly why all of these buildings were here.”
According to Wolven, the buildings hold incredible stories. She says,“You have to imagine that in Arkansas a lot of things weren’t legal and here they were doing them anyways.” She thinks the exciting tales breathe new life into the old city. The Underground Tour takes guests through passages they wouldn’t find otherwise, but it’s not just stories about prohibition and bank robberies exciting visitors.
Grand Central Hotel Manager Dustin Duling says, “This is the entrance to the tunnel system that runs throughout Eureka Springs. It was initially installed in the 18-90’s or so.” Duling says there are three levels of Eureka Springs visitors tour. The top level is the street we see every day. A tunnel system makes up the second level, and a creek running through the city lives at its base.
Duling says, “They would be looking out at Mud Street which was the main entrance to town back in the day, but it was impassable by wagons, so you had to do it on foot, or they had rocks out in the middle of the road where ladies would walk across the boulders and men would be down in the mud helping them.”

The tour takes visitors through all three levels of the underground system. Just walking along, you can feel the history living all around. While you’re on the tour, a guide tells you stories that follow along.

Wolven says, “You’d get drink by the glass and there’d be gambling and all kinds of things happened in this hotel, and that rich history is told on this tour and multiple tours in town. It’s a pretty great thing actually.”

Duling adds, “What we have here is a story and it’s our history is the present that we provide everybody, so to add value to what you’re looking at, the stories behind it, gives it the real content that makes it a magical spot.”

The Underground Tour takes off daily from Basin Spring Park at four in the afternoon.
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