Many weeks ago I was asked by some hiking buddies of mine (I call them the Lewis and Clark of Hot Springs Village) if I’d ever been to Sylamore Creek near Blanchard Springs Caverns. I hadn’t, so off we went last week to check it out.
On the day of our arrival the caves were closed and many of you have probably already seen them so the focus here will be on nearby Sylamore Creek and the many awesome sites near the caverns and creek.
As you approach the Blanchard Springs Caverns welcome sign on Highway 14, follow the signs for the actual springs that run out of the hillside. Park in the nice parking lot there and take a short walk to see the springs.
Even though we’ve had many dry days the last many weeks, there was still a lot of crystal clear water gushing out, which flows along a stream to form Mirror Lake. A spillway and dam form the lake where one person was trout fishing.
Below the spillway are the remnants of an old mill. It’s called Mitchell Mill and was built for corn and ginned cotton in the early 1900s.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) also worked there in 1942 to build walls, but did not complete the work due to the outbreak of World War II.
Alongside the lake is a boardwalk. Take that board-walk to its end and you’ll see a trail that leads down to the side of the creek and the mill. Along the way are a few cool rock formations. It’s a nice place for photographs. There is also a loop trail approximately 1.3 miles in length near that first parking lot, if you decide to go on a longer hike.
We continued to drive here and there to get other looks at the creek. In low-water areas I was amazed at all the different colored rocks in the creek bed that shined in the glistening Sylamore Creek water.
We then went to Fifty-Six, Arkansas, stopped at a small country store, ordered some sandwiches, and drove off to another Sylamore Creek favorite site called Gunner’s Pool Recreation Area. Forest Road 1102, a gravel road, gets you there.
Besides the calm, peaceful setting and more shining waters, we saw a few campers and a few other cars parked there, probably hikers out on the trail in that area.
It will take you a good three hours to get to the Blanchard Springs area. How long depends on how many stops you make. We took Highway 5 to Highway 9 north to Highway 65 north to Highway 16/9 then on to Mountain View.
In Mountain View we turned left onto Highway 66 west and then a right on Highway 87. Along this road are some pretty views off to the left. To see what we saw and at the rate we saw it, I’d suggest allowing 10 hours for the day trip, certainly longer if you take a cavern tour. I’m told they offer two-and four-hour tours that are popular.