Day Trip: A perfect getaway at Siloam Springs

Lake Sun Leader

Today, more than ever, outdoor green spaces are of the utmost importance when aching for a  summer road trip.  Siloam Springs is a perfect getaway just 3 hours and 45 minutes from the lake area.

Although it can be reached more conveniently by major highways, we advise backroading to the destination, as the many charming towns along the way make for day trips on their own.  Noel, Missouri and Sulphur Springs, Arkansas are two tiny towns that should not be missed.  Siloam Springs in Benton County, shares the Arkansas/Oklahoma border with West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma,reaching into Cherokee Indian territory.  Traveling I-44 most of the route, the interesting part starts when rambling down the scenic, winding State Highway 49 through Noel and Sulphur Springs.

As for Siloam Springs, a little history about the area tells that there are many natural attractions, and are heavily encouraged and promoted by their Chamber of Commerce.  Originally an Osage Indian hunting ground, Siloam Springs began in 1830, founded by German immigrant Simon Sager, whose town’s Sager Creek, consisting of 28 natural springs, is named after.  By the 1880s, the small town became a mecca for health seekers due to the springs.  The tradition of healthy living continues in the town.

Biking is huge in the historic downtown area, with paths clearly marked.  Ten biking trails alone are located in the  region.  Online, the biking paths at Sager Creek Mountain Bike Trail Park can be mapped here:

Most of the paths are around five miles long, but two are for experts, one reporting a 16 mile loop of the downtown area, and another clocking it at a 13 mile marathon course.  The paths are cool and shaded, through rolling hills and city parks, with natural springs along the way.  

The downtown district of Siloam Springs, mostly located on Broadway, boasts historical buildings refurbished into quaint cafes and art studios.  The true spring at Sager Creek, that the town grew around, is located adjacent to downtown, with a decorative fountain as the centerpiece, and, as in many “spring” towns, a gazebo bandstand.  The old footpaths down into original spring basin can still be seen.  The rock lined creek of the springs meanders through the heart of the city, with walkways, sitting pavilions and benches dotted along the waterway.  It’s located at the south end of Broadway, on the corner of University and Mt. Olive Streets.

Strolling through the park, one can find an amphitheater that hosts community events and features a colorful mural behind the grass landscaped amphitheater seating.  The town’s library sits high on the hill overlooking the entertainment venue.  

Hip, vibrant merchants serve food and beverage in renovated turn of the century buildings, lending an air to the artistic funk that Siloam Springs is becoming known for.  

Ziggywurst, located at 214 N. Wright Street, features old world German specialties such as spaetzle, beer brined eggs, pretzels, along with wurst from a local sausage factory.  There are five different kinds of schnitzels on the menu, and of course, sauerkraut.  They also serve a dizzying array of crepes.  Cold german brews are on tap, and gourmet coffee is available.  The nod to hip culture comes in with coffee served in hand turned, fired ceramic mugs, events such as dog friendly walk nights, and 25 cent coffee specials.

The charming district offers other small eateries, all having patio or sidewalk seating, continuing to promote the friendly, social atmosphere of Siloam Springs.  Check out Fratelli’s Wood-Fired Pizzeria, or Tintos and Tapas, an authentic Columbian cafe, both located on Broadway.  Tintos and Tapas has brightly colored tables and chairs outside the old gas station window front, and gives college students 10% discounts, and Friendship Fridays provides non alcoholic drinks half price.  The cafe is probably one of the few places in Arkansas that one can find authentic arepas, empanadas, and fried plantains.

Local Flair Art Gallery immediately draws visitors in with the window displays.  Geometric wooden shaped wall hangings adorn the displays on the town’s main street.  Regional artists works for sale at the art gallery include jewelry, clay art, and street rod prints.  Home crafted soap, and local honey can be found in the store, as well.  

Creative Corner on Broadway is a place that all of us that dream of being artists, but are mere novices, can have a day of fun.  The craft center hosts groups for all ages with scrapbook creation, guided paint classes, and a large selection of supplies for purchase.

With nearby John Brown University, the culture is diverse, rivaling a lot of bigger college towns.  Historical culture is not lost on Siloam Springs, with much of the downtown district listed on the National Historic Register since 1995.  History is tied to the medicinal value of the town’s springs.  The name itself  is a study of it’s past.  With 8 of the 28 springs flowing into Sager Creek considered medicinal, the town’s name, “Siloam,” refers to the healing waters of the Pool of Siloam in the New Testament (John 9:6).

One building in the area that sprung out of the sparkling water boom was The Lakeside Hotel, now The Crown Hotel.  Located on University Street,  it was built in 1881 and is Siloam Springs oldest building.  The all brick building is wrapped with two story porches, and arched openings on the interior.  The Crown Hotel is still in operation, now as apartment housing.

Connelly Harrington House was built about 1920 as a single-family residence for local businessman and banker Connelly Harrington. The house reflects elements of the Prairie and Craftsman styles with its symmetrical façade, widely overhanging eaves, and front porch with massive, square porch supports. In the 1930s and 40s, it was the John Brown University Hospital, and later it became the Ozark Hotel. Then it was divided into apartments and offices. Main Street Siloam Springs currently has an office inside the Connelly Harrington House.  

Bath houses didn’t seem to be popular in old Siloam Springs, as in other spring towns.  It was and remains to be historically promoted for the healing powers by drinking the mineral rich water only.  But you can’t drink it anymore.  The waters are now unfortunately marked as contaminated and not potable.  It is still a very pretty place to sit, relax, and reflect.