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Caving in Arkansas at War Eagle Cavern

Don’t let the name fool you. At War Eagle Cavern on north­west Arkansas’s Beaver Lake you expe­ri­ence more than a cool cave. It’s a full day of fun where you can maneu­ver through a maze, pan for gems, dig for fos­sils, hike trails, take in the view from scenic out­looks, feed fish, have a birth­day party, shop for gifts, and eat in the cafe or pic­nic area.

We’re more than just a hole in the ground,” explains Dennis Boyer, who owns the attrac­tion with his wife Vicki.

Boyer says War Eagle Cavern is also unique because you can get there by car or boat. He has a dock on the lake for peo­ple who want to come via the water. In addi­tion to being on Beaver Lake, the attrac­tion is located in the mid­dle of sev­eral other pop­u­lar locales. “We’re right here with Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. You can visit the War Eagle Mill and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge,” he explains. “We’re a half hour either direc­tion to Rogers or Eureka.”

He stresses that it is impor­tant to him for vis­i­tors to have a good expe­ri­ence regard­ing every facet. “Our staff is well-trained and pro­vides qual­ity tours,” he explains. “We main­tain good clean restrooms and nice grounds. We’re pet friendly, and we try to make it as fam­ily friendly as possible.”

About 30,000 peo­ple visit the facil­ity each year, with about 20,000 tak­ing the cav­ern tour. The cav­ern also hosts more than 4,000 kids each year on school trips.

The Cavern

The attraction’s name­sake is a prime fea­ture, of course. You might meet a bat in the cav­ern, a great sum­mer retreat with its year round tem­per­a­ture of 58 degrees. “Early in the spring you can see them com­ing out of here like tor­na­dos,” says Guide Jerry Dill. It is home to more than 75,000 bats. The two main species are the Eastern Pipestrelle and the gray bat.

The well-lit, guided tours last about 60 min­utes. In addi­tion to the phys­i­cal fea­tures of the cave, the tour high­lights the his­tory of the cav­ern. Osage and Cherokee Indians once found shel­ter in this pro­tec­tive grotto. One cham­ber is called the Indian Council Room. “This is where the Native Americans would have lived,” explains Dill. A movie about out­laws Frank and Jessie James was filmed in the cave. It pro­vided an ideal place to make moon­shine not only because it served as a hide­out but also because of the clear run­ning water inside.

Cavern fea­tures include sta­lag­mites, sta­lac­tites, cave pearls, rim­stone dams, and fos­sils. Water droplets cling to the ceil­ing, a crys­tal clear stream runs along the tour path, and small water­falls flow. Several chim­ney fea­tures have water falling down them. It’s said to be lucky to be dripped on. There are also rocks that appear to have ani­mal shapes and a huge pile of bat guano.

The cav­ern is spa­cious and open, mak­ing it easy for adults to walk through and a good starter cave for chil­dren who might be a lit­tle appre­hen­sive. There are wide walk­ways and no stairs. “Wheelchairs and strollers can go through 90 per­cent of the cave,” Boyer adds. “We have lots of dogs go through the cave.”

A Wild Cave Tour is offered from July through October. “We do get you wet and muddy on those wild tours,” Boyer says.

War Eagle Mining Company

Kids and adults have fun pan­ning for gems such as rubies, peri­dot, amethyst, Arkansas crys­tal points, sap­phires, topaz, pyrite and more. You buy a large bag of a sub­stance that looks to be dirt, dump small por­tions of it at a time into a sluice box, and then dunk the box into the water sluice. Washing away the grime, you end up with col­or­ful trea­sures. In addi­tion to the gem mix, you can choose bags with only Arkansas crys­tal points or fos­sils. “For the kids it’s the high­light,” Boyer says. He adds that some adults pan for gems to use in mak­ing their own jewelry.

Lost in the Woods Maze

The maze is over a half mile of twists and turns inside a wooden stock­ade. Your chal­lenge is not just to find your way out but also to find four lost Indian tribes along the path. “There’s even a tree house in the mid­dle you can climb up and look around,” Boyer explains. It takes cun­ning, skill, logic and luck. Boyer says you sign your­self in at the begin­ning of the maze and there’s a record time you can try to beat. “The aver­age per­son takes 12 to 14 min­utes to get through,” he adds.

Nature Trails

The nature trails are open to any­one on the reg­u­lar tour. The Lake Walk is stroller friendly. Other trails lead to look­outs or sink­holes, and some have infor­ma­tion signs along the way. One leads to a rest area con­tain­ing a fos­sil dig. Buried in sand are the arti­fi­cial remains of a mastodon. Children dig in the sand to uncover the bones, then cover them back up for the next per­son to find.

Smoke Signal Cafe

The cafe is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You can order smoked pork or turkey sand­wiches, hot dogs, and ham­burg­ers served with baked potato salad or chips, and a root beer float. Also on the menu are chili dogs, deep dish pizza, and nachos (mild or spicy). You’ll find plenty of ice cream choices as well.

If You Go

War Eagle Cavern is located one-half mile off Ark. 12. The GPS coor­di­nates for the park­ing lot are 36° 17′ 43.48″ N, 93° 54’ 15.88″ W. It is an easy drive from Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, Eureka Springs, or Branson. Visit or call 479–789-2909 for more infor­ma­tion and dri­ving directions.

War Eagle Cavern’s boat dock is located in the last cove on the right in Devil’s Gap Inlet, south of Marker 6. Just stay to the right as you fol­low the inlet back, and look for the “CAVERN” sign on the boat dock at the end of the inlet. The GPS coor­di­nates are 36° 17′ 46.49″ N, 93° 54′ 16.05″ W.

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