In 1882, wealthy investors poured in money to develop ES further as a health center and retirement community. They also funded Eureka Springs’ railroad, running between 6 and 10 trains daily. Fire-vulnerable wooden buildings were replaced with improved structures built of brick and locally quarried limestone, sandstone, granite, and marble.
Tough times for ES came after the turn of the century. People’s attitudes were changing, putting more faith into science and new medical discoveries and less into healing waters. Though the automobile brought a resurgence of tourism in the 1920s, the Great Depression of the 1930s dealt a heavy blow. Many buildings were abandoned or torn down. ES was little more than a seedy semi-ghost town until the 1960s, when hippies discovered it at about the same time as Christian fundamentalist Gerald L. K. Smith. The Great Passion Play opened in 1968 in the hills above ES. Hippies revitalized the downtown section and springs, bringing art, music, and alternative ideas.
Seeping springs: Fifteen springs are designated on the map, five on aptly named Spring Street. When geographically isolated Eureka Springs first boomed as a health retreat, as many as 63 springs had been identified in the area. As we stopped at one spring after the other, each with its own distinct character, we noticed they didn’t seem to be very active. Rustically landscaped with lichen-overgrown rocks and vegetation, water was barely seeping from some and "Do Not Drink" signs were at others. Apparently this is due to problems with the old sewer lines and septic systems. The reduced flow may be due to a shifting subsurface karst (fractured limestone), changing the flow patterns of underground streams. One notable exception is Blue Spring, 10 minutes west on Highway 62. Every day it pours 38 million gallons of water into its lagoon.
Healing waters: Bathing in and drinking copious quantities of ES water were believed to preserve and restore health, and many successful cures were reported in the springs’ heydays. Some felt its curative secret was the water’s purity, others, the healthy lifestyle – combined with exercise, relaxation, and mountain air. Who knows, maybe someday, with increased underground flow and improved sewer systems, the springs will again be used for health cures. For more detailed information about the springs and their sources, check National Water Center.
Rodeo, New Mexico
February 27, 2005
From journal Ozark Surprise: Eureka Springs, Arkansas