Mammoth Spring, Depot Make Border Park Unique
Article follows the photos:
Exhibits at Mammoth Spring State Park
Life-sized figures at Mammoth Spring State Park
Old Frisco Depot serves as Mammoth Spring's visitors center
The Spring River is popular among fishers and floaters
April 9, 2002Mammoth Spring, Depot
Make Border Park Unique
By Craig Ogilvie, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and TourismArkansas's 12th state park, Mammoth Spring, is well known among trout fishers and canoeists. Highlights include a spring so massive it literally marks the start of a river, a small lake with pedal boats, a restored train depot with distinctive interpretive exhibits, picnic sites and more. There is no camping at the park, located on U.S. 63 just south of the Missouri border. For more information, including upcoming events, call (870) 625-7364, or visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com.
The name reveals only part of the uniqueness of Mammoth Spring State Park. In addition to showcasing the largest natural spring in Arkansas, it preserves the oldest fully restored railroad depot in the state and provides the only official Tourist Information Center located in a state park.
The huge natural spring, gushing out over nine million gallons of water per hour, remains the star attraction of the park. However, the springhead itself is mysteriously hidden in an underwater stone crevasse no one ever sees. That's why the number one question of visitors remains, "Where's the big spring?"
Park personnel explain that Mammoth Spring emerges more than 80 feet below the surface of a small pool near U.S. 63 and the Arkansas-Missouri border. The best way to observe the mighty force of the spring is to walk down to the pour-offs and watch the water rush over the boulders and down the causeways.
Two barrier-free pedestrian bridges connect to a small island, which create the spillways from the spring. The bridges are part of a walking trail that circles a nine-acre lake (below the spring) and crosses a dam, built in the 1880s to power a large flour mill and later a hydroelectric plant that served until 1972. Today, park visitors may also tour the old power plant. The spectacular pour-off over the dam goes on to create the Spring River, a popular year-round fishing and canoeing stream.
Mammoth Spring became a state park in 1957, but its recorded history dates to the earliest pioneers who referred to the spring as the "Head of the River." The first industry in the region was a simple wooden-wheel gristmill below the spring. While settlement was slow, a town did emerge just west of the spring and the coming of the railroad in 1886 launched an era of progress.
The 225-ft. milldam provided power for a large flour production company, and the railroad brought tourists wanting to experience the wonders of the spring and the fast-flowing river. A 56-room resort (which has since vanished) and cabins of every description welcomed summer guests from St. Louis, Memphis and other regions.
One of those visitors was newspaper reporter George D. Hay, who was invited to a musical hoedown during his brief stay. He later developed a radio show called the "Grand Ole Opry," which was inspired by the musical he'd attended at Mammoth Spring.
When the park acquired the old Frisco Railroad depot, it was remodeled and opened for visitors. However, during the late 1990s, the depot received a thorough restoration, complete with authentic furnishings, murals, memorabilia and 13 life-sized custom figures that portray the train crew, station workers and passengers of the early 1900s. Dressed in original uniforms and period clothing, the figures appear "frozen in time" to give visitors a glimpse of rail travel a century ago. Two audio-visual programs and exhibit narrations tell the story of Mammoth Spring and the impact of the railroad, and a vintage Frisco caboose is parked nearby.* * * * *Aquariums provide a showcase of Arkansas native fish at an adjacent federal fish hatchery, and visitors are welcome. Downtown Mammoth Spring boasts historic buildings with antique and craft shops. To learn more about attractions and lodging and dining establishments in Mammoth Spring, visit www.arkansas.com/attractions/ and choose Mammoth Spring from the drop down city menu.####
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"