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Exploring Arkansas March 2008

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Lake Fort Smith State Park, Mystic Caverns, Rush Ghost Town
After being closed for quite a number of years, Lake Fort Smith State Park has reopened bigger and better than ever near Mountainburg in northwest Arkansas. We'll take you on a kayak tour of this 1490 acre reservoiRiver Mystic Caverns south of Harrison offers two caverns only 400 feet apart from one another-the other is Crystal Dome Cavern The only Federally protected ghost town in the country is Rush, in the lower portion of the Buffalo National River region.

TRANSCRIPT

IT'S THE NEW AND IMPROVED LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK NORTH OF MOUNTAINBURG. THERE IS PLENTY TO DO HERE INCLUDING LAKE KAYAKING AND IT'S WHERE WE BEGIN THIS WEEK'S EXPLORATION THEN WE WILL TAKE YOU TO MISTIC TAVERNS AND CRYSTAL DOME TAVERNS SOUTH OF HARRISON FOR A SUBTERRAINIAN WONDER EXPERIENCE AND THEN WE WILL WRAP IT ALL UP AT RUSH THE GHOSTTOWN NEAR THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER. SO FOR NOW, HOP ABOARD A KAYAK AND LET'S EXPLORE LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK. AFTER BEING CLOSED FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK NEAR MOUNTAINBURG IN NORTHWEST ARKANSAS IS NOW BIGGER, BETTER AND SITUATED AT A NEW LOCATION. THIS WAS DUE TO THE ENLARGING THE LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK AND SHEPHERD ASPIRINS INTO A RESERVOIR O TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL WATER STORAGE AND IT FITS IN WITH THE HISTORY OF THIS AREA. THIS IS SHEPHERD SPRING. THE SHEPHERD FAMILY CAME HERE IN APPROXIMATELY 1840 AND WAS LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO SET WILL. THEY WERE MOVING FROM THEM ALABAMA, IF YOU CAN IMAGINE, ALABAMA BEING CROWDED, AND IT WAS AND THE ARKANSAS TERRITORY WAS A PLACE THAT THEY BROUGHT THEIR FAMILY AND THIS IS THE REASON THEY CHOSE THIS VALLEY TO STAY. THE PERRENIAL SPRINGS THROUGHOUT THE O OZARK AND THIS ONE IN PARTICULAR THEY IMPROVED IN 1840 AND IT HOMES THEIR NAME SAKE STILL TODAY AS SHEPHERD SPRING WHICH EVENTUALLY CAME THE NAME FOR SHEPHERD SPRINGS LAKE AND IT STOOD THE TEST OF TIME AND AS YOU CAN HEAR NOW IT'S FLOWING. ITS IMPERVIOUS TO BLOODS AND FREEZING, A CONSTANT GOOD SOURCE OF WATER WHICH IS STILL THE REASON WE ARE HERE TODAY IN 2008. THE STATE PARK IS LOCATED ALONG THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE 180-MILE LONG OZARK HIGH LANDS TRAIL. SO HIKING OPPORTUNITIES ARE APLENTY INCLUDING WILD LIFE OBSERVATION. IF YOU ARE LOOKY, YOU CAN SEEN SPOT THE RESIDENT BALD EAGLE. ALSO WITH THE 1500 ACRE RESERVOIR, LAKE KAYAKING IS ANOTHER MAJOR ATTRACTION. WE TEAMED UP WITH PARK INTERPRETER JAY SCHNEIDER WHO TOOK US OUT ON A LITTLE KAYAKING TOUR AND TOLD US ABOUT YET STILL ANOTHER ATTRACTION HERE, THE VISITORS CENTER.

WE HAVE GOT 2,000 SQUARE FEET OF EXHIBITS TALKING ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT INHABITED THIS VALLEY UP TO 4,000 YEARS AGO, STILL THE SHEPHERDS, HENCE THE NAME SHEPHERD SPRINGS IN THE EARLY 1840s. WE HAD A LOG CABIN LIKE THEY WOULD HAVE HAD TO CREATE TO HAVE SOME WAY TO SURVIVE IN THE WILDERNESS. WE HAVE A MODEL OF THAT INSIDE AND YOU CAN BRING YOUR KIDS AND THEY CAN TRY ON THE CLOTHES AND FEEL LIKE WHAT LIFE WOULD HAVE BEEN LIKE FOR THEM ON A DAILY BASIS. WHAT THEY WOULD HAVE TO DO TO SURVIVE IN THIS WILDERNESS.

AND THE WAGON, ESPECIALLY, THAT'S IMPRESSIVE.

THEY CAME UP BY FLAT BOAT AND KEEL BOAT, TWO DIFFERENT SECTIONS FROM THE ALABAMA AREA TO WHAT IS NOW PRESENT DAY ALMA VAN BUREN AREA, BACK THEN IT WAS CALLED PHILIPS LANDING. THEY BOUGHT A WAGON AND PUT BELONGINGS ON THE WAGON AND CAME 20 MORE MILES NORTH FROM THE ARKANSAS RIVER TO THIS VALUE WHERE FROG BAYOU WAS. AND IT HAS SEEN CHANGES IN THE CURRENT HISTORY SINCE THEN. THE WHOLE REASON HAS BEEN THE SAME THROUGHOUT TIME. GOOD WATER IN THIS VALLEY HAS MADE IT A PLACE OF FAITH, HOPE AND SACRIFICE. UP TO 4,000 YEARS AGO, EVEN TODAY, WE ARE HOPING FOR THE STATE PARK TO OPEN THAT CENTERS AROUND THIS MUNICIPAL WATER SUPPLY, BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE REALLY DEPEND ON FOR THEIR LIVES LITERALLY.

THIS IS JUST BEAUTIFUL HERE. I MEAN, FOLKS ARE GOING TO REALLY ENJOY IT.

I THINK SO. WE HAVE GOT LOTS OF GREAT THINGS PLANNED, AND REALLY THE MAIN REASON WE ARE HERE IS TO HELP PEOPLE ENJOY THE BEAUTY OF THE MOUNTAINS AND THE OZARKS. IT'S ONE OF THOSE RARE LAKES ANYWHERE REALLY WHERE THERE IS NO URBANIZATION, EXCEPT MAYBE THAT.

YOU GOT A WARTHOG FLYING OVER HERE TOO.

ANOTHER ONE COMING.

YES, LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK IS FULL OF SURPRISES.

WITH THE EXCEPTION OF AIR TRAFFIC, THERE IS NO HOUSES BUILT ON THE LAKE. IT'S AS NATURAL AS YOU CAN GET IN THIS SETTING IN THE BOSTON MOUNTAINS.

THAT'S THE OTHER THING I WAS GOING TO COMMENT ABOUT, IT'S A NATURAL SHORE LINE, YOU DON'T SEE ANY MAN MADE OBJECTS. IT'S ALL THE WAY IT WAS YEARS AND YEARS AGO.

THAT'S RIGHT. THE CITY OWNS ALL OF THE LAND OWNING THE CITY OF FORT SMITH AND THEY WILL NOT ALLOW PEOPLE TO BUILD HOUSES ON IT TO PROTECT THE RESOURCE, THE WATERSHED THAT SUPPLIES THEIR DRINKING WATER AND THAT GIVES US A REAL OPPORTUNITY TO GET OUT HERE BY BOAT TODAY, SOMETIMES BY FOOT ON THE HIKING TRAILS AND REALLY GET IN TOUCH WITH NATURE IN ABOUT AS PRISTINE A CONDITION AS YOU CAN FIND TODAY IS REALLY THE WHOLE REASON WE ARE HERE AT THE STATE PARK, TO PRESERVE THAT. SO WHETHER BY KAYAK OR BY FOOT, GO AND EXPLORE ALL THAT THE NEW ANDIVAND IMPROVED LAKE FORT SMIH STATE PARK HAS TO OFFER. THE SUBTERRAINIAN WONDER OF THE NATURAL STATE NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE US. THE ABSOLUTE QUIET AND THE SHEAR BEAUTY OF IT ALL. SOUTH OF HARRISON, THERE IS MISTIC CALF VERNE AND CRYSTAL DOME CALF VERNE. LET'S GO AND EXPLORE. LOCATED EIGHT MILES SOUTH OF HARRISON ALONG SCENIC 7 BY WAY CAVERNS ARE WELL WORTH THE DRIVING TIME TO GET THERE. MISTIC CAVERNS THEY USED TO DO BALL ROOM DANCING AND THEY ACTUALLY RAN A MOON SHINE STILL DOWN IN THIS CAVE AND WE ACTUALLY SHOW YOU AND TELL YOU ABOUT THAT WHENEVER YOU COME ON TOUR, AND WE KIND OF GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF HOW THEY DID IT AND WHY THEY DID IT, AND WHERE THEY ACTUALLY DID IT AT.

I GUESS BACK IN THOSE DAYS, THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN THE PERFECT HIDING PLACE TO HAVE A STILL. I DON'T KNOW.

YES. YOU COULDN'T SEE THE SMOKE COMING OUT OF THE CAVE SO THAT'S WHY THEY DECIDED TO PUT THEM DOWN INSIDE CAVES.

I GUESS THAT EXPLAINS KIND OF THE BLACK AND THE SOOT AROUND ON THE CEILING.

AND ALL OF THE BLACK THAT WE HAVE IN HERE IS SOOT FROM THE MOON SHINE STILLS WE USED TO RUN IN HERE AND THEY DID A CAVE CLEANUP AND CLEANED A LOT OF SOOT OFF OF THE CAVE BUT YOU CAN COME IN AND SEE A LITTLE BIT OF THE CAVE AND GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF HOW MUCH THEY ACTUALLY RAN THE STILL.

NOW, SADLY AS THE CASE WAS BACK IN THE EARLY 1900s, WE NOTICED A LOT OF FORMATIONS HERE HAD BEEN BROKEN OFF, BUT TELL US WHAT THE DEAL WAS.

THEY CAME IN AND BROKE THE FORMATIONS OFF AND TOOK THEM AS SOUVENIRS. SO THEY WERE MAKING JUST A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY OFF THE FORMATIONS.

AWHILE AGO, 1920 SOMETHING WHEN THE FIRST VISITORS, WHERE IT WAS QUOTE, UNQUOTE, OPEN FOR THE AS A COMMERCIAL CAVE?

RIGHT, THERE WAS A GENTLEMAN THAT WOULD BRING YOU DOWN WITH KEROSENE LANTERNS AND IN ORDER FOR HIS GUESTS NOT TO GET DIRTY, HE GAVE YOU A PAIR OF COVERALLS AND TOOK YOU THROUGH THE CAVE.

IT'S A LITTLE BIT BETTER THESE DAYS.

YES. EVERY CAVE IS, YOU KNOW, THE FEATURES ARE KIND OF THE SAME, BUT IT'S STILL DIFFERENT. I KNOW CAVES WE HAVE GONE THROUGH, THEY ARE SIMILAR, BUT YET THEY ARE DIFFERENT. IT'S ASSUMED THAT EARLY SETTLERS WERE AWARE OF A NATURAL SINK HOLE ENTRANCE TO MISTIC CAVERNS AND THAT THE CAVE WAS ACTUALLY VISITED SOMETIME BEFORE 1850. PINE TORCHES WERE LIKELY USED FOR EXPLORATION DURING THAT TIME. THE EARLIEST PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF VISITORS DATES BACK TO 1919 WHEN AN EARLY EXPLORER BY THE NAME OF ADAM KOLBE ENTERED THE CAVE AND CARVED HIS NAME AND DATE ON A FORMATION. SOMETHING THAT THESE DAYS IS A DEFINITE NO-NO. THE CAVE WAS KNOWN AS MANSION CAVE AT THAT TIME BECAUSE OF ITS LARGE OPEN CHAMBERS. CRYSTAL DOME CAVERN WHICH IS ONLY 400 FEET FROM MISTIC WASN'T DISCOVERED UNTIL MORE THAN 100 YEARS LATER.

WELL, CRYSTAL DOME IS A FAIRLY NEW DAVE DISCOVERED IN 1967. IT DOESN'T HAVE ITS OWN NATURAL OPENING AND IT WAS FOUND WITH A BULLDOZER, AND THIS CAVES IS STILL A FORMING CAVE. IT'S STILL VERY PURE AND HUMANS HAVE NOT BEEN INTO IT BEFORE 1967. THAT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE FEATURES OF THIS CAVE.

AND IT'S A LIVING, BREATHING CAVE.

RIGHT. WHENEVER YOU COME DOWN, YOU ARE STILL GOING TO SEE A LOT OF WATER DRIPPING ON THE FORMATIONS. IT IS A VERY WET FORMATION AND CAVE.

SOME OF THESE FEATURES IN HERE ARE AWESOME, ESPECIALLY THAT CAVE OVER THERE.

THAT CAVE VACANT IS WHAT WE CALL A DRIEPRY AND A FUN NAME FOR IT IS CAVE VACANT.

ONE OF THE BEST EXAMPLES I HAVE SEEN ANYWHERE.

YES, IT IS.

AND THIS DOME, OF COURSE, THE SAME SAKE OF THE CAVERN -- NAME SAKE OF THE CAVERN, IT'S ALMOST HARD TO IMAGINE HOW THIS BEGAN TO BE FORMED, I GUESS, MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO.

IT IS VERY OLD. WE ARE NOT FOR SURE HOW OLD THIS CAVE IS. THE DOME HERE IN CRYSTAL DOME CAVERN, THE MAGNITUDE OF IS IT HARD TO PORTRAY ON VIDEO FOR IT. IT'S EIGHT STORIES HIGH, WE ARE TALKING LIKE 110 FEET, AND IT JUST KEEPS GOING UP AND UP AND UP AND UP. MISTIC CAVERNS AND CRYSTAL DOME CAVERNS ARE CLOSED DURING JANUARY, BUT THE REST OF THE YEAR GUIDED TOURS LEAVE EVERY 35 TO 45 MINUTES AND TAKE ABOUT 1.5 HOURS TO SEE BOTH CAVES. THERE ISN'T ANY NEED TO DRESS REAL WARM SINCE THE TEMPERATURE STAYS A CONSTANT 58 DEGREES YEAR AROUND. SO MAKE THE DRIVE SO HARRISON AND ENJOY THESE TWO MAGNIFICENT SUBTERRAINIAN WONDERS. YOU WOULDN'T KNOW IT BY LOOKING AT IT NOW, BUT THE TOWN OF RUSH WAS ONCE A BOOMTOWN HERE AT THE LOWER PORTION NEAR THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER. ZINC ORE WAS DISCOVERED HERE DURING THE 1880s AND FOLKS FROM ALL OVER CAME TO STRIKE IT RICH AND WHEN THE BOTTOM FELL OUT OF THE ZINC MARKET AFTER WORLD WAR 1 PEOPLE LITTLE BY LITTLE STARTED LEAVING, LEAVING THE TOWN OF RUSH A GHOSTTOWN. LET US TAKE YOU ON A LITTLE TOUR, IF YOU DARE. RESEMBLING A WESTERN HOLLYWOOD MOVIE SET, THE TOWN OF RUSH OR WHAT'S LEFT OF IT IS FAIRLY EASY TO GET TO. LOCATED OFF SCENIC HIGHWAY 14 JUST NORTH OF THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER TAKE COUNTY ROAD 6035 FOR FILE MILES AND YOU ARE THERE. DRIVING THROUGH THIS TOWN IS RATHER EERIE TO SAY THE LEAST, SINCE RUSH IS LOCATED ON U.S. GOVERNMENT PROPERTY WITHIN THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER REGION, IT IS ONE OF THE FEW GHOST TOWNS, IF NOT THE ONLY ONE THAT'S PROTECTED BY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE. THE ZINC THAT WAS MINED HERE WAS USED DURING WORLD WAR I IN THE PRODUCTION AND BRONZE AND BRASS SHELL CASINGS. IT WAS DURING THAT TIME THAT THE POPULATION OF RUSH REACHED AND ALL TIME HIGH OF 5,000 FROM 1914 TO 1917, HARD TO IMAGINE. THE BUILDINGS ALONG MAIN STREET THAT ARE LEFT STANDING WERE BUILT DURING THIS PEAK PERIOD OF THE EARLY 1900s WHEN THE HUB OF THE COMMUNITY, THE GENERAL STORE AND POST OFFICE, THE TAYLOR MEDLEY STORE FINALLY CLOSED IN 1956, THE TOWN'S DEMISE QUICKLY FOLLOWED. THE LAST OF THE RESIDENTIAL STRUCTURES WERE INHABITED UNTIL THE 1960s WHEN THE REMAINING FAMILIES BEGAN TO DRIFT AWAY AND SOON RUSH BECAME A BO BONIFIED GHOST TOWN. THERE IS STILL MUCH TO SEE HERE THOUGH BESIDES ALL OF THE EMPTY BUILDINGS. THE MORNING STAR LOOP TRAIL PAST THE MAIN PART OF TOWN EXTENDS FOR THREE-TENTHS OF A MILE WITH INFORMATIVE PLAQUES ALONG THE WAY. IT WILL TAKE YOU ALONGSIDE THE RUINS OF THE MORNING STAR MINE WHICH USED TO PRODUCE 200 TONS OF ZINC ORE PER DAY. THIS MINE ACTUALLY RECEIVED INTERNATIONAL FAME IN 1893 WHEN JUMBO, THE LARGEST KNOWN PIECE OF ZINC ORE WAS EXHIBITED DURING THE WORLD'S FAIR IN CHICAGO. THE TRAIL ALSO TAKES YOU PAST THE OLD BLACK SMITH SHOP AND A SMELTER WHICH WAS BUILT IN 1886 IN HOPES OF EXTRACTING SILVER. IF A LONGER HIKE IS MORE TO YOUR LIKING, THERE IS ALSO THE RUSH HIKING TRAIL CAN WHICH IS A LITTLE MORE THAN TWO MILES LONG AND BEGINS AT THE MORNING STAR TRAIL HEAD.

SO EXPLORE FOR YOURSELF, THIS UNIQUE TOWN AND WHAT'S LEFT OF IT AND EXPERIENCE HOW RUSH'S LISTING ON THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES MAKES IT A SIGNATURE SIGHT IN THE HISTORY OF MINING OF NORTH ARKANSAS SO EXPLORE FOR YOURSELF IS, THE ONE TIME ZINC MINING TOWN OF RUSH, NOW A GHOSTTOWN AT THE LOWER PORTION OF THE ABOVE LOR NATIONAL RIVER AND THEN CHECK OUT THE SUBTERRAINIAN WORLD SOUTH OF HARRISON AT MISTIC CAVERNS AND CRYSTAL DOME CAVERNS, AND THEN IF YOU HAVE TIME, BY ALL MEANS, EXPLORE THE NEW AND IMPROVED LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK NEAR MOUNTAINBURG. FOR MORE ON THIGHS AND OTHER NECESSARY NATIONS AND TO VIEW YOUR MAPS OR ORDER A COPY OF OUR EPISODE, VISIT OUR WEB SITE AT AND WE WILL SEE YOU AGAIN FOR ANOTHER EXCITING ADVENTURE ON EXPLORING ARKANSAS.

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