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Withrow Springs State Park Is A Perfect Family Retreat

Article follows the photos:
  • War Eagle Creek, Withrow Springs State Park

  • Withrow Springs State Park

March 20, 2001

Withrow Springs State Park
Is a Perfect Family Retreat

Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

HUNTSVILLE -- Clear, cold water gushing from a small cave at the foot of a bluff spills into a pond, cascades over a ledge and wends its way through the forested land of Withrow Springs State Park near Huntsville.

The scene epitomizes the natural beauty the 786-acre park bestows. Situated in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas, the backdrop for the park is unspoiled wilderness beauty rolling over mountains and valleys. In addition to the spring, War Eagle Creek borders the west end of the park and part of the south.

The waters of Withrow Springs meanders about 1 mile through the park before joining the creek. The spring is named for Richard Withrow, an early settler who came west in 1832 from Tennessee and established the first grist mill in the area.

The spring spills into a pool of water that is much deeper than it appears. The pond is the site of an annual fishing derby for children. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks the pond with 250 to 350 trout a few days before the derby, which is the first Saturday in June. Children old enough to hold a pole to age 6 comprise one category, explains Earl Minton, park superintendent. The other category is age 6 through 15.

"Everybody always has an enjoyable time," says Minton.

Adults can have fun year round on War Eagle Creek, where anglers fish for catfish, bream, perch and bass.

War Eagle Creek is also a great float stream. Considered a Class 1 or easy level stream, Minton says it's a particularly agreeable float for families. The trip is 6 miles and takes about three to three and a half hours to paddle.

The creek is generally floatable from March to mid-June, depending on the amount of rain received in the region. Minton suggests visitors call a day or two ahead of a planned trip to check creek conditions. "Also, at different times we may have a church group that has all of our canoes rented," adds Minton.

Chris Marley, assistant park superintendent, says the creek is a nice lazy float for people to paddle on a day trip. Plus, he likes its variety of scenic bluffs.

"It's a minute version of the Buffalo National River," says Marley. The country's first national river, is known for its towering bluffs. Just 38 miles southeast of the park, it makes a nice day trip from the park, as does Huntsville, Eureka Springs and Fayetteville.

Canoes, life jackets and paddles may be rented for use on War Eagle Creek at the park visitor center. The rental fees include put-in and haul-back service. One unusual aspect of the creek is that "it flows north when other (area) creeks flow south," says Minton.

The War Eagle hiking trail follows the bluff line of the creek with cane growing between the trail and the creek. Sections of the trail take hikers on the edge of the rock escarpments of the precipice. The trail ascends 150 feet to a bluff overlooking the creek, rolling hills and grazing cattle.

About halfway down the trail is War Eagle Cave. Hikers can venture about 175 feet into the small cave. A stream starts within the cave and flows out and down to join the creek. A few different species of bats frequent the cave, including gray bats, the little brown bat and the eastern pipistrelle.

Shaped like a domed snow globe, the cave is wide and high enough for several people to stand inside comfortably.

"A lot of kids enjoy it," says Minton. "It's an easy cave to go in. There's no crawling. It may be a little muddy though in some seasons."

Marley's favorite spots in the park are "the War Eagle hiking trail because it has a nice bluff overlook" and War Eagle Cave because it gives people "a nice simple taste of a cave."

The War Eagle trail is one mile long. Of the two other trails in the park, one is ¾ of a mile long and the other is 2 ½ miles in length. The Dogwood Nature Trail is the shorter trail and is named for the many flowering dogwood trees that color it in the springtime. Minton says the middle of April is the best time to see the dogwoods. Redbud, chinquapin and other oak and mulberry trees add to the forest beauty.

"We have an abundant number of dogwoods in the park," says Marley. "The dogwoods are nice because they all bloom about the same time. Sometimes the redbuds bloom at the same time, so you get a nice white and pink."

The longer Forest Trail follows an old roadway on the western side of the park. The trail is an ideal setting to see deer and squirrels, which feed on the acorns and hickory nuts in the forest.

"We've got a lot of northwest Arkansas beauty," Minton says. He adds that a lot of deer and fox roam the park, along with wild turkey, groundhog, and bobcat. The park also has wood duck and river otter. Eagles can be seen along the creek in the winter. Also in abundance are pileated and other woodpeckers, kingfishers and indigo bunting.

"It's a good place for birding," says Minton.

Withrow Springs is also the perfect place to view Ozark flora. The park boasts White Trillium Orchids, which are an endangered flower in Arkansas.

Campers can sleep among the beauty at one of the peaceful retreat's 25 camping sites, the majority of which have water and electricity. Rates are $8 to $14 per night depending on the type of camping site.

Two pavilion sites set the scene for small or large gatherings. The Keith Ham Pavilion is located near the playground and swimming pool. The open air structure has picnic table seating for about 50 people. The Crossbow Pavilion is enclosed with restrooms and holds over twice as many people.

"We have weddings here, church groups, family reunions, just about every kind of group you can think of," says Minton.

The park swimming pool is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Other amenities include three baseball fields, tennis courts, and volleyball and horseshoe pits.

Also during the summer, park interpreters stage special programs educating visitors about the park's features, geology and nature. Some of the topics, which change from year to year, include: birds, amphibians, tree identification, bats and cave life.

Park staff host many special events throughout the year -- star gazing parties; an Easter eggs hunt; and a fall concert by the Huntsville Band. A crossbow tournament is held each year at the park's crossbow field. All visitors must check in at the visitor center to use the park's crossbow range.

Withrow Springs State Park has plenty of acreage for growth. Minton says more trails will be built in the future. Thirty campsites with full hookups, and a bathhouse are in the planning phase. The project will be funded by Amendment 75, also known as the Conservation Amendment. Arkansas voters in 1996 authorized a one-eighth of one-cent sales tax to go to four state conservation agencies to help protect and manage Arkansas's conservation lands and historic resources.

The conservation tax was used over the last three years to remodel the pool, including the addition of trendy water features found at many city pools today. The tax was also used to build a playground and remodel a pavilion, the visitor center and gift shop.

"We're getting to do a lot of good things for the public," explains Minton. Withrow Springs became a park in 1963. Minton has been superintendent of Withrow Springs for 12 years.

Withrow Springs State Park can be reached from AR 412 in Huntsville by traveling north 5 miles on AR 23 and 23S to the park. Or, take AR 23 and 23W south from Eureka Springs (20 miles); or, from Springdale, take AR 412, go 25 miles east to Huntsville, then north 5 miles on AR 23 and 23W.

The park has handicap accessibility. For more information on park hours, fees, or reservations, contact: Withrow Springs State Park, Rt. 3, Box 29, Huntsville, AR 72740, 501-559-2593, or visit the website The park can be reached by email at


Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"