60 | CITISCAPES | JUNE 2019 COSMIC CAVERN BERRYVILLE Located between Eureka Springs and Branson, Cosmic Cavern was discovered in 1845 and developed in 1927. A guided tour takes about 75 minutes and the cavern temperature is around 64 degrees. Features include a nine-foot soda straw (hollow mineral tube), the longest known in the Ozarks, and bottomless lakes. The first, South Lake, was stocked with trout in the 1920s. The Silent Splendor section was discovered in 1993 and features transparent formations. “When I came here as manager in 1973, we had a 40-minute tour that took folks 400 feet to our underground lake, they fed the trout and came out,” said owner Randy Langhover. “In 1977, we added the Buddha Room (named for a formation) and created a studio for families to get personal pictures in a natural setting. In 1985, we built a bridge across the lake to the Ghost Room, making the tour an hour. In 1993, we found the Silent Splendor section. I found it by feeling airflow and listening to water in a small crack. We blasted and dug through 25 feet of rock, and found rooms 30 to 80 feet tall and another bottomless lake. Part of this is on the regular tour, but the Wild Tour is beyond where we take the standard visitor. Folks come back every year to see what more we’ve found.” Open daily, tickets are $16 per adult and $8 for children (5-12); ages 4 and younger are free. Cave Culture: Ninety percent or more of the cave is underwater. Gangsters Bonnie and Clyde were rumored to be in the area in the 1930s, evading Missouri lawmen on the way to Berryville. ONYX CAVE EUREKA SPRINGS Discovered in 1891 and toured since 1893, Onyx Cave is the oldest toured cave in the state. Self-guided tours are 30 minutes at a temperature of 57 degrees. Guests are guided with audio headsets that offer explanations of formations and chambers. Onyx is a natural stone originating from dripstone deposits of limestone caves, but the cave actually contains flowstone (see above) or cave onyx. In the 1970s, spelunkers were sent to see if more passages could be opened for tours. Just beyond where the tour now ends, a route was found leading deeper into the cave. Although too tight for public access, it leads to a large waterfall and other rooms. “The hidden waterfall represents what I truly love about caves in that you can walk all over the surface and never know what beauty is under your feet, biding its time in absolute darkness as it has for millennia,” said Hutchison. “We have an old Instamatic camera that was found in this back area just last year.” Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until December, tickets are $10 per adult and $6 for children (4-13); ages 3 and younger are free. “Visitors comment on how much they enjoy the self-guided aspect of the tour,” said Hutchison. “They enjoy touring at their own pace with their family.” Cave Culture: In 1969, scenes for the horror B-movie It’s Alive were filmed at Onyx Cave. It featured a prehistoric monster living in the cavern. WAR EAGLE CAVERN ROGERS War Eagle Cavern is three stories and more than four miles of explored caves at 58 degrees. Open since 1978, guides explain domes and formations, the lifestyle of inhabiting bats, and share stories of robbers, moonshiners and more. The natural entrance canyon, the only one in the state, sits in a boxed canyon at Devil’s Gap. “Patrons are impressed by our friendly, story-telling guides, who make each walk through our beautiful underground fun and educational,” said owner Dennis Boyer. “The cavern was used for making moonshine up until the 1960s.” Other attractions are gem panning, a “Lost in the Woods” maze, and the Moonshiners’ Mystery Shack where gravity goes wrong, balls roll uphill and people walk at strange angles. Daily guided tours are offered every 20 minutes, with the last group leaving at 4 p.m. Tickets are $16.89 for adults, $10 for children (4-12); ages 3 and younger are free. Spelunker tours, from mid-July through October, are also available. Cave Culture: The cavern is home to more than 100,000 tricolored and endangered gray bats. The cavern is also dog friendly, as long as pets are friendly and leashed. DEVIL’S DEN STATE PARK WEST FORK Caves at Devil’s Den State Park remain closed due to White Nose Syndrome, a fungus that kills bats. “They’ve been closed for eight to 10 years,” said Tim Scott, assistant superintendent. “We’re following the lead of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” The fungus forces bats to wake up during winter when they should be hibernating. Once awake, they look for food, but there isn’t enough to get through the winter and they starve. Caves are off-limits, but there’s still plenty to do. “We have premier hiking and camping, and we’re the home of Arkansas mountain biking,” said Scott. ■ FEATURE | NWA OUTDOORS Cosmic Cavern