History and nature combine for success of Blue Spring Heritage Center

History and nature combine for success of Blue Spring Heritage Center

The “blue spring” at the western edge of Eureka Springs has always been a haven for families, says John Cross Jr. Bluff shelters on the property date back thousands of years. Native Americans “put their differences aside when they entered the spring area, as it was considered sacred ground,” Cross says. Cherokee families forced through Northwest Arkansas on the Trail of Tears rested at Blue Spring.

Now it’s the Cross family’s turn, and they’ve made the 33 acres of the Blue Spring Heritage Center “the No. 2 most stunning botanical garden in America,” according to Tripadvisor. And the Bluff Shelter at Blue Spring is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“But the true award is hearing from our guests about their experience,” Cross says.

“The beautiful spring and gardens are enough to have anyone check the place out,” he enthuses. “On top of that, we have a rich history that the whole family is sure to enjoy. [And] no matter when you decide to visit, we have something to see. Our gardens change with the season.”

Cross has been managing the Heritage Center for 10 years, and now his children — Tiffany, 19; Fuller, 17; and Taff, 13 — work in the gardens and gift shops. He credits his father, John Cross Sr., lifelong cornerstone of the Bank of Eureka Springs, for the “support and love” that planted success in someone else’s failed project purchased by the family in a foreclosure. And “I cannot possibly put into words just how proud I am of my children,” he adds. “They play important roles.”

Visitors to Blue Spring Heritage Center will see the spring itself, which pours 38 million gallons of pristine water a day into a trout-filled lagoon, along with multiple gardens — among them the Medicine Wheel Garden, the Three Sisters Garden and the Woodland Garden. A film includes information about a dive conducted to explore the spring, which took divers down 230 feet. And “kids always have fun feeding the trout as well as looking at all the pretty flowers and cool rock formations,” Cross says.

“When one flower fades, another is set to bloom,” he says. “In the spring, the dogwoods and redbuds are always a favorite. We also have select spring and summer annuals and perennials for our guests to enjoy.

“In the fall, you can walk our trails while you enjoy the changing of the leaves,” he adds. “Year around, you are able to enjoy the crystal clear blue water of the spring and the fascinating rock formation of the Bluff Shelter. [And] there are educational signs along the trail that give you plenty of reading and information.

“We also get a lot of butterflies every year that everyone enjoys seeing.”

Cross and his kids have been working nonstop for this weekend’s opening, he says.

“In the garden, we are working in our greenhouse and just got pansies planted, as well as summer annuals,” he lists. “Our outdoor crew has also been working on getting our decks repaired and stained as well as painting and repairing all our buildings, doing soil amendments and trimming the trees. We are starting on the new perennials which we add to the park every year.

“Blue Spring is a natural, God-made beauty that has been a tourist attraction since 1946,” Cross concludes. “We have many locals come out here that have never visited before and leave baffled by the fact that they haven’t come sooner.”



Blue Spring Heritage Center

WHEN — 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily

WHERE — 1537 Carroll County 210 west of Eureka Springs

COST — $17.75 adults; $9.75 ages 6-15

INFO — bluespringheritage.com, 253-9244

Categories: Family Friendly