Eureka Springs is known as a quirky, mountain village and a new attraction that is now open to the public is no exception. History buffs and people who enjoy underground exploration will enjoy the new Underground Eureka tours.
Yes, underground tunnels run below the street adjacent to several buildings in town. These tunnels were known to locals but were never open to the public before. A little history about the tunnels – although rumors say they were used for secretive entrance and exit by gangsters and others to gambling dens and houses of ill repute, their real reasons for existence were very practical.
Main street actually runs parallel to Leatherwood Creek and in the early years of Eureka Springs Main Street was known as Mud Street because rains would make the creek overflow into the street, flooding buildings and generally making a muddy mess. Because of this, the street was elevated, leaving the first floor of existing buildings below street level. Victorian-era fire codes required that basements and floors below ground level had an emergency exit since fires from wood and coal heating were common. Another reason for the tunnels was that it was impractical to pile dirt directly against the buildings to raise the street since windows and doors were facing the street on many buildings. The tunnels then performed dual functions of holding back the fill dirt from the buildings and offering a below-ground fire escape! As heating appliances became more modern and safe, the tunnels were unused for many years and sealed off in places for various reasons.
Portions of the remaining tunnels are available for public tour. Tours begin at Basin Spring Park on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $12 per adult and are available 1 hour prior to the tour at the kiosk in the park or at the Chamber of Commerce.