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The Ozarks - Arkansas
by Tommy Ford

A little further down the river you’ll find the historic "ghost town," of Rush. In the early 1900’s this zinc mining community boasted a population of approximately 5000 individuals. Today the population is zero. Only a handful of structures remain from those boom days, I believe there are seven intact buildings.

One of the few remaining houses in the ghost town of RushTwo recently fell victim to arsonists. There are also a number of abandoned mines but don’t plan on exploring these. All are unsafe and sealed shut.

The main park visitor center is located at Tyler Bend on highway 65. Here you can view a short film and check out the exhibits in the display area. Park maps are also available here.

The Tyler Bend area is also the location of the Collier Homestead where the Collier family lived from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. A huge tree shades the yard and it’s easy to imagine playful children swinging from it’s branches or lounging in the shade. The trail leading to the house abounds with wildflowers, some of which appear to be descended from domestic varieties gone wild. If you go in the summer be on the lookout for the ticks that love the tall grass.

Near Tyler Bend we stopped by the little town of Gilbert, population 46, the coldest spot in Arkansas. Gilbert is home to one of the oldest general stores still in operation in Arkansas. The selection in the store is limited but they do have the basics and can rent you a cabin for the night.

In our opinion the "don’t miss," trail in the Buffalo River area is the "Lost Valley Trail," in the Boxley Valley Historic District. Before reaching the trail however take a moment to check out the dilapidated old building by the Boxley Valley sign for this is what remains of the circa 1854 home of "Beaver Jim," Villines. The home was later used as a barn and that’s just what it looks like today. If you look closer however you’ll notice the hand hewn timbers and excellent woodwork which has enabled it to stand for 150 years.

The Lost Valley Trail is moderately stressful. You’ll have to climb a good number of crude stone steps and it is quite steep at times, but if you’re up to the challenge you’ll find it more than worth the trouble.

The trail parallels a small creek where you’ll see waterfalls and Cob Cave, a huge cliff shelter where ancient artifacts have been discovered giving evidence to occupation by native Americans.

The goal of the Lost Valley Trail however is Eden Falls Cave. Again, the cave is a physical challenge. Before our visit the best description I could find said that the cave was cramped and wet. This is a gross understatement. The ceiling of the cave narrows to only a couple of feet in higth and you’re reduced to crawling on hands and knees through a small, ice cold stream. There is a small passage on the right but it was easier for us to crawl. The passage ends in a large chamber where a 35 foot waterfall tumbles from above. Absolutely gorgeous and haunting in the darkness.

If you plan on exploring Eden Falls Cave be sure each member of your party has a flashlight, or even better two, because if the batteries fail you’ll be in total darkness. Also don’t attempt the cave if you’re nervous about bats because that do inhabit the cave, sometimes dangling inches above your head...

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