Recently, my husband and I traveled back to my hometown, Heber Springs Arkansas, for my 25th High School reunion.
WOW! I’m OLD!
I hadn’t been back to Heber Springs since my grandpa’s graveside funeral service 7 years prior. So much has happened in my life the last 7 years; so much has happened in the life of the place I used to call home 25 years ago! The reunion was so much fun and great to see friends from long ago plus spending quality time with my lifelong BFF.
Here are somethings I never like to miss when stopping through this summer vacation destination…
#1 Visit Greers Ferry Lake. The lake is the whole reason that Heber Springs exists. Years ago a dam was built by the Corps of Engineers just outside of Heber Springs. This beautiful lake was created because of the dam and it was even dedicated by JFK in his last public speech before traveling to Dallas for his untimely demise. You can stand where JFK stood, check out the Visitor’s Center, and even tour the dam.
Greer’s Ferry Lake is the cleanest and clearest lake I have ever encountered. Well, at least during any time except really busy weekends or holidays. You can literally look in the water with a mask in the middle of the lake and see the bottom. There are two big lake cleanups each year that have hundreds of volunteers that cleans up the lake from the shoreline and also scuba divers cleaning underwater.
There are many ways to visit the lake such as Sandy Beach where the annual Cardboard Boat Races occur. You can rent a boat or canoe. Damsite Park where there is camping, a marina, pavillions, bluffs, a little beach area, a mini island you can walk across to when the lake is down or float out to when the water’s high. There’s also Miller’s Mansion where you can park off the road and swim out from rock overhangs. (FYI…Always check the water for depth before jumping off bluffs and be safe and wear a life jacket at all times even if you are a strong swimmer!)
#2 Hike Up Sugarloaf Mountain. There are 2 Sugarloaf Mountains that you might here locals talk about. One that is just outside of town and another that is actually an island in Greers Ferry lake near Fairfield Bay. I’ve never been to that one, but in my not-so-smart youth I would free climb some of the scary parts of Sugarloaf just outside Heber Springs. There are hiking trails around the mountain and to reach the top you have to climb up through a crevice and over a large crack between the giant rocks that make up the big top part. If you are feeling adventurous and have a little experience climbing, this is a fun way to spend the day! Plus one side of the mountain is AWESOME for repelling!
#3 Fish in Greers Ferry Lake or at the Little Red River. Want to have a super relaxing vacation? Fishing on the Little Red River actually near Sugarloaf or at the lake is a great way to spend the day! There are places like Sulphur Creek Outfitters that will help with renting boats, guides, rock climbing and more. Lindsey’s Resort has been around for a looonnnggg time (50+ years!) and offers guided fishing, boat rentals, cabins and more. And maybe, just maybe, you could be the holder of next world record brown trout! The most recent record brown trout was caught in the Little Red River near where the Swinging Bridge used to be and the record holder before that was pulled from Arkansas waters.
#4 Eat at the Smoke House(701 West Main St) and See a Hat Lincoln Once Wore. This icon of a restaurant is still only accepting cash and is still going strong! We had an oooo so delicious down home cooked breakfast there as we were headed out of town at noon… Hey! It was breakfast for us! LOL Seriously, there is a reason why this restaurant is so popular and has been around for 28+ years!
#5 See the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery. Admission is free and open 7am-3pm (arrive 30 minutes before closing). This cool little education site is very informative regarding being a vital role in the management of fishery resources. It is also part of the JFK Park on the Little Red River where camping is available.
#6 Shopping. For some, being on vacation must include shopping! There are many different options such as boutiques, naturalistic markets (such as gardening, whole foods, etc), thrift stores, and the oh so cool Ellen Hobgood Gallery. Planning on a girls weekend or a unique family outing while in Heber Springs? Call Ellen Hobgood Gallery ahead of time and inquire about paint parties.
#7 Festivals. Something, that I remember most about my youth spent in Heber Springs, are all the festivals that happened in town. Spring Fest happens in Spring Park just East of downtown every May. The World Champion Cardboard Boat races happen each July (which my sisters and I participated in one year when it hadn’t gained so much popularity yet… we sank LOL). If you love county fairs, then check out the Cleburne County Fair. The Old Soldiers Reunion has been happening for over 130 years (contact the American Legion for information). The giant fireworks display held every year around 4th of July. Another Rock the Dock concert series at Dam Site Marina happens throughout the summer months. The courthouse Christmas Lighting and parade is also so pretty to see and who doesn’t love a good ole fashion parade?!
These are just a couple of the things going on in Heber Springs to see or participate in. Be sure to check with the chamber of commerce to find out what might be going on while you are there.