5 Outdoor Activities for the Adventurous at Heart
There are countless ways to chill in Eureka Springs. But are you the type of traveler who likes to get your adrenaline pumping? Do you like to get to know a place by tackling some of its more daring experiences?
Eureka Springs certainly has you covered. Here are five outdoor activities that run the adventure gamut.
Explore Kings River (And Go Whitewater Rafting When the Water is High)
The scenic, northward-flowing Kings River winds through the Ozarks a few miles east of downtown Eureka Springs. It’s a recreational wonderland, full of rock overhangs and formations, pristine swimming holes fed by waterfalls, and other delights. Most of the time, the waterway provides a smooth, easy paddle. To add to the adventure, bring along fishing gear in your kayak or canoe, because Kings River is filled with small-mouth bass that’ll give you a good fight. The river’s water is crystal clear, so any time the mood strikes, take a refreshing dip and marvel at the aquatic life below. You can even camp in a tent overnight on one of the gravel bars that border the river.
But it gets wilder. At certain times of the year, mostly in the spring and summer, when rains bring the river’s depth to six feet, you can go whitewater rafting. It’s a thrill ride, all right – but it’s also appropriate for beginners. Trigger Gap Outfitters, which borders the river 11 miles south of downtown Eureka Springs, rents the whitewater rafts, which hold six, as well as a variety of kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards.
Dive Beaver Lake
A beloved destination for aquatic activities, Beaver Lake is a craggy-shaped reservoir (with 487 miles of coastline) about 10 miles west of downtown. The Army Corps of Engineers flooded the valley in the 1960s to form the lake, so it features a number of intriguing sites for free diving, snorkeling or scuba. The most renowned spot is the ruins of a resort town called Monte Na that opened in 1901 and went belly up in the ‘30s. You’ll see the remains of the Oklahoma Row Hotel jutting out of the water. Snorkel your way through a submerged amphitheater that was part of this ill-fated “ghost town.”
Elsewhere beneath Beaver Lake you’ll encounter sunken boats, cars and even statues. Scuba divers will find a lot of excitement in a body of water that runs as deep as 300 feet. Spider Wall Cliff, as locals call it, gets its name from tree roots that jut out from a rock face, conjuring an image of a giant spider web. Oh, and don’t forget the wealth of wildlife you’ll encounter.
You can get the lowdown on the best places to dive and swim in Beaver Lake at C&J Sports, located on the eastern edge. The large store has all the gear you’ll need, and offers scuba lessons too.
Zipline Through Ozark Terrain
Let’s face it — not all ziplining facilities are created equal. When it comes to thrills, some are, well, a little lacking. Ozark Mountain Ziplines isn’t one of them. The facility’s slogan — “fly by the seat of your pants” — more than lives up to its promise. The zingiest cable runs 2,000 feet and soars more than 300 feet above-ground, whizzing up to 50 mph over a canopy of hardwood trees, limestone cliffs and other amazing sights.
But you’ve got to build up to that breathtaking moment. You’ll board a shuttle in downtown Eureka Springs and head out to the site. OMZ has 10 cables, including a couple of low-to-the-ground starter runs for newbies to get accustomed to the safety gear and processes. (The facility is noted for having the highest safety standards). Guides will walk you through it all and be there every step of the way, providing info and encouragement. The facility also has a long, swinging bridge for extra fun.
Eureka Springs sports three destinations, all close to downtown, that offer some of the best mountain biking in the Mid-South: Lake Leatherwood City Park, Black Bass Lake, and the grounds of the Great Passion Play. All of them cater to off-road bikers of all skill levels. It’s all here: jumps, drops, rollers, berms, and good old-fashioned downhill speed!
On the safe side, there’s the Genesis Trail at Great Passion Play. The 4.3-mile loop poses a climb and descent of a thousand feet, so while the trail may be for beginners, it’s no walk in the park.
For those looking for a ride on the wild side, the Double Black Diamond at Lake Leatherwood has everything a highly skilled, adrenaline junkie on two wheels craves. Over packed dirt, it presents all manner of tight curves, banks, and jumps, plus rock formations to traverse. Suffice to say, it’s crazy. Over at the Great Passion play course, you can fly the longest table-top jump in the area — which measures nearly 40 feet. Ride on, you Ozark Mountain Daredevils!
This neck of the Ozarks features an array of dazzling caves with colorful rock formations and overhangs, some with vivid bodies of water. It’s magical to walk through these subterranean wonderlands, and you shouldn’t pass up a chance to take a cave tour during your visit — especially in the summer, as temperatures stay in the mid-50s to the mid-60s (depending on the cave), year-round.
A good starter experience is Onyx Cave, just seven miles northeast of downtown. The quaint attraction offers self-guided audio tours (with headphones) that last about a half an hour. This outdoor adventure is appropriate for everyone, including families with young children. As awesome as it is, don’t expect an adrenalin jolt. Consider it the perfect wind-down from a day of action. (Unless, of course, you feel like testing your skills at the facility’s axe-throwing area.)