Eagle Watching Tours In the Ozarks

Eagle Watching Tours In the Ozarks

Overcast skies and cold weather didn’t seem like the best idea to take a day trip out on Beaver Lake but the guides actually said this would be the best time to see the Bald Eagles in the Ozarks.

I had heard about these Eagle cruises on Beaver Lake for awhile but never took the time to check it out.  An easy, scenic, 45 minute drive south of Eureka Springs makes this a pleasant day trip.  Great stopping points along the route include Hobbs State Park, War Eagle Cavern, and War Eagle Mill.

The Eagle Watch tours are run through Hobbs State Park, November through February and take out of Rocky Branch Marina on Beaver Lake.  Make sure to call ahead to reserve your seats as the weekends do fill up.  Also, because the tours run through the winter months make sure to bundle up; it’s always colder on the lake with the open water and wind chill. 

Our guide that day was Ben, who worked for Hobbs State Park, and was very knowledgeable about the eagles.  He said they migrate south from the Great Lakes after the lakes have frozen over.  The eagles can then enjoy the open waters of Beaver lake and the plentiful food supply.

We set out with our binoculars in hand and eager to get our first glimpse of this magnificent bird.   He mentioned you can make them out with their white heads and tails flying above or perched up in the trees.  I saw many birds flying above us but nothing that resembled the bald eagle.  He said birds that fly with their wings in a “V” were not raptures (owls, hawks, or eagles) but that they were vultures.  If you see birds that soar through the sky with their wings spread out then they are from the rapture family.

Coming to our first cove our guide spotted our first eagle sitting high atop  a tree a distance away.  We instantly grabbed our binoculars to locate something white sticking out amongst the grayish surroundings.  We silenced the motor and gradually inched our way closer in the cove.  The eagle became instantly aware of us and allowed us to observe from a distance for a short while before flying away to his next secluded spot.  Ben quickly turned us around and we ventured further down the lake to additional coves for viewing.

With no other people around besides our touring boat and the overcast skies on a cold January day we were able to view a number of eagles hidden high atop the trees.  Once you have seen a couple your eyes become accustomed to making them out along the ridges.  We were lucky to spot a number of them sitting together with their mates.  Ben said the eagles mate for life.  We also observed a red tail hawk and a blue heron flying through the open waters.

This particular stretch of Beaver Lake that we cruised around nestled next door to Hobbs State Park.  If you enjoy kayaking or canoeing this would be a nice, quieter area to be on the lake and weave throughout the coves.  An easy put in area would be off of Hwy 12 after you pass the Hobbs State Park Visitor Center, turn right on the dirt road.  You can call Hobbs State Park for exact directions.

Making our way along the water we came upon a cave that a local high school science teacher used to bring his students to.  The cave could be explored one mile back through the hillside before some of the caves were closed down due to the bat epidemic in the state of Arkansas. For updates on cave conditions you can contact Arkansas State Parks by going to www.arkansasstateparks.com

Overall, we were able to view a total of 9 different bald eagles that day, the most this particular guide has seen in one day!  If you enjoy the outdoors and the quiet observation of what nature provides then taking this easy day trip in the Ozarks is a must.  As we quickly warmed up our cars and began to thaw out, we thought our day was complete until we saw a family of deer crossing the park entrance. A perfect way to the end the day!

Directions from Eureka Springs to Rocky Branch Marina:

  • Head South on Hwy 23 out of Eureka Springs
  • Turn Right on Hwy 12 W, continue on to Hwy 127 W
  • Turn Right on HWY 12
  • Turn Right on Route 303
  • Slight Right on County Road 99/Rocky Branch Rd.
  • Turn Left to Stay on CR 99
  • Turn Left on CR 106/Park Rd.
  • Turn Right on Rocky Branch Marina Rd.
  • Enter through Park Entrance and make the first right to park down by the marina.  Park in the second parking lot on your right.

Tickets must be purchased in advance at the park’s visitor center on Hwy 12 just east of the Hwy 12/War Eagle Road intersection. Adults $10.00 + tax. Children 6-12 $5.00 + tax. Tours depart Rocky Branch Marina at 3:00 p.m. For more information and to make reservations, call: 479-789-5000

Winter Spa Escape to Eureka Springs

In Winter, Couples Choose Eureka Springs’ “Spa-scape”

(EUREKA SPRINGS, AR) — Couples often slip off on a getaway to discover new things about a destination.  The primary nuance that couples seem to discover -or rediscover- in Eureka Springs, a 19th century village situated among the folds of the Arkansas Ozarks, during the winter is an indoor activity of extreme indulgence.  For when the cold winds blow, most couples escape to this extraordinary destination primarily for one three-letter word, spa.

Savvy winter travelers find that a “spa-scape” to Eureka Springs, one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations, during these months offer very attractively priced packages.  Packages that not only include lodging but the ultimate pampering services such as hot stone massages; duet massages; facials; and full body wraps that warm the body, mind and spirit.  Many add salon treatments to the regimen in order that their New Year’s “new look” resolution can become a reality.

There are more than a dozen professionally-operated Spa Facilities in Eureka Springs offering such unique services as aromatherapy, body scrubs, facials, manicures, pedicures, self-heating mud treatments, plus the most popular Swedish and deep-tissue massages.

Two new attractions that were added last winter for a Eureka Springs’ spa-scape” are the new Arkansas Art Trail and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art located 45 minutes west of Eureka Springs.  Crystal Bridges, founded by Alice Walton, is said to be the world’s finest collection of American art.

“With the advent of Crystal Bridges there grew an overwhelming interest in art in the northwest corner of our state,” said Bill Ott director of communications for two of Eureka Springs’ historic hotels, the 1886 Crescent and the 1905 Basin Park.  “The Arkansas Art Trail links created art, as displayed at Crystal Bridges; art being created, as in the dozens of living galleries in Eureka Springs; and breathtaking natural sights and vistas that provide the inspiration of great art throughout The Ozarks and along such area rivers as Buffalo National River Park.

The modern architectural design of Crystal Bridges is contrasted by those nineteenth century limestone structures that line the streets of Downtown Eureka Springs.  Downtown’s easy to moderate trails transport visitors from commercial to urban with its Victorian homes to pristine with all The Ozarks has to offer in just a very few steps.

Those interested in the natural and historic travel, to the west less than an hour for visits to Hobbs State Park Conservation Area with its Pigeon Roost Trail; War Eagle Mill, a working water-driven gristmill; and two “must see” sesquicentennial Civil War sites, Pea Ridge National Military Park and Prairie Grove State Park.

Just to the southwest is one of the most predictable places in Arkansas to see elk, Boxley Valley.  And during the cool time of the year, they can be seen grazing just about all day in fields adjacent to the state highway that has plenty of places to safely pull over and “set a spell”.  The adjacent Upper District of the Buffalo River National Park is a great place to look up and see majestic bald eagles this time of year.  Tours are also available on Beaver Lake to watch the Eagles.

Eclectic shopping, one of Eureka Springs’ hallmark activities, is still viable during the winter with many shops offering great post-holiday bargains.  Restaurants of note also open their doors to wintertime guests for a relaxing gourmet sojourn.  Nightspots offer live music, adult beverages and great opportunities for dancing like “the stars”.  Historical museums and unique attractions like Turpentine Creek, a refuge for lions, tigers and other big cats, welcome visitors for a more relaxed viewing.

For those opting for a fly-drive adventure, two airports serve Eureka Springs.  Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) is 50 miles to the west while the new Branson Airport (BKG) is that same distance to the northeast.  The major rental car companies serve both.

“Many already know that Eureka Springs is alive and well during the winter months and visit annually,” concluded Ott, “yet we still have a few spa appointments still open just in case anyone new would like to come and join us for a supremely relaxing ‘spa-scape’.  It’s a great way for the two of you to start the new year.”

For more information, one should go to eurekaspringsonline.com.

In the middle of winter also is a flurry of special activities and events to keep visitors entertained and enchanted:

EUREKA GRAS “A Mardi Gras Extravaganza” — Now in its seventh year, the 2013 version of this community-wide festival crescendos February 7th-12th with such activities as Hookers and Jokers Ball, Coronation Royalty BalljMardi Gras Daytime Parade, Krazo (Ozark spelled backwards) Costume Contest, Beaux Arts Masquerade Ball, and New Orleans-style Jazz Brunch.  And in those moments between scheduled events, fun ensues with impromptu celebrations breaking out all over town during this “laissez les bon temps rouler” celebration week.

VALENTINE’S WEEK — One day is not enough time for celebrating love in the “Wedding Capital of The South”.  From February 14-16, hotels, chapels, restaurants and the courthouse are abuzz with couples who want to get married, are married, or those who are just in love.  Eureka Springs has no waiting period for those who want to get married on the spur of the moment.  All that is needed is a marriage license obtained during the day at Carroll County Western District Courthouse; just add a minister.

CHOCOLATE LOVERS’ FESTIVAL — As part of Eureka Springs’ salute to those who love their sweetie comes an event for those who love sweets of the chocolate variety.  This festival, held this year in the Eureka Springs Convention Center on February 9, is in its ninth year and is designed to satisfy even the strongest sweet-tooth.