Christ of the Ozarks and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge:

Our Trip to Eureka Springs, Part 2

I‘m concluding my blog post duology on Eureka Springs with a write-up about two of the main attractions we visited while there: Christ of the Ozarks, scene of the Great Passion Play, and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. (Read Part 1 here.)

Christ of the Ozarks

Christ of the Ozarks, standing 65.5 feet tall, is the fourth most-visited statue in America, after the Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, according to our tour guides.

Given its status as one of the nation’s most popular statues, Christ of the Ozarks is worth a visit on its own, but there are several other attractions located on the extensive property, which is overseen by a nonprofit foundation. These include the Great Passion Play, three museums, a petting zoo, 19 miles of mountain bike trails and historical artifacts (an old church, a section of the Berlin Wall and an Israeli bomb shelter). All of these are free except for the Great Passion Play.

Petting Zoos–Always a hit with the kids!

Church in the Grove, built around 1900

Translation: “Though I walk through the dark valley, I will not fear.”

Additionally, on select days, you can pay to take a Holy Land Tour, which would be fascinating if you’re interested in Biblical history. We were not able to do this, as the tours last 45 minutes, and we had other activities scheduled for the afternoon. Tour landmarks include a life-sized replica of Moses’ Tabernacle, Jesus walking on water, a replica of a New Testament-style inn, etc.

My favorite of the three museums was probably the Bible History museum, which features Bibles from all over the world and through the centuries, including, for example, a Bible that would have been carried over on the Mayflower; one that was translated by the first woman to translate the Bible, etc. Even if you’re not a Bible history scholar, seeing all these gorgeous (and in some cases quite weighty!) old books is fascinating.

Look at the size of this!!

The other two museums focus on Sacred Art and the history of the world according to the Bible.

Again, we didn’t see the Great Passion Play itself, but it features a cast of 150, several of whom, according to our guide, represent three generations of Passion Play actors. The play runs an hour and 45 minutes long, if I remember correctly, with no intermission; however, it is in an open-air space with nearby bathrooms, so I think it would be easy to make a brief escape if necessary. Our guide said that kids love the play, but I wasn’t sure if Joss would appreciate it. Plus, apparently some of the violence is a bit real: When “Jesus” is beaten, he is actually hit so that the reactions are more realistic. I don’t know if I would enjoy watching that or if it would be too much for young kids, so just a warning. It did sound like the special effects would be really good–real fire, a thin wire that raises “Jesus” high into the sky for the Ascension, etc.–and the set pieces were impressive.

Prices for the Passion Play range from free (kids 4 and under) to $28 (ages 17+).

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

I think it’s safe to say that Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was the highlight of the trip for all of us. And after posting photos from the weekend, I’ve received a lot of feedback from people saying that they loved their visit here or even grew up volunteering here in the summers!

Thankfully, we arrived about 10 minutes prior to the start of one of their walking tours, and I’m so glad we took the tour. It’s about 45 minutes of walking (they also have trolley tours), but we learned so much from our tour guide, who was an intern at the facility. You could tell she was passionate about the work that they were doing and was an authority on the individual animals as well as the plight of wild cats in captivity. Plus, the guided tours are the only way to see the majority of the large cats.

Photo by Jim DeKalb

A few things we learned on the tour:

  1. White tigers fetch a higher price on the big cat market, but they don’t really occur naturally–you have to breed the cats to be white. This results in a LOT of inbreeding, which in turn results in cats with deformities, vision and dental problems, etc.

2. Holding baby lions/tigers for photo opps is probably hurting them. Baby big cats are frequently taken away from their mothers way before they should be (our guide explained that one of their cats was made to give birth to four babies over two years, and that those babies were taken away from the mother almost immediately; in the wild, a tiger would look after her cub for a year and only give birth about once every four years, if I remember correctly). This results in bone problems from not getting the calcium they need from their mother’s milk; these fragile bones mean that if you are passing around a baby tiger, you could be breaking its bones without realizing it.

3. I already knew vaguely knew that declawing is bad for cats of all sizes, but I didn’t realize exactly what this meant. Declawing can cause behavioral problems and pain both immediately and as the cat grows older, especially if the claw tries to grow back–because they don’t grow back normally, but misshapen.

Big cats are also often defanged–with the idea that declawing and defanging big cats makes them safer. However, this is not the case! Our tour guide informed us that their declawed/defanged cats are still just as capable at tearing through bones and plastic toys as the cats who have both their claws and fangs. Read more about these issues on Turpentine Creek’s website here.

Plastic barrels are a favorite Big Cat toy

4. Ligers are unnatural and shouldn’t be bred–sorry, Napoleon Dynamite! The natural range of lions and tigers does not overlap, so they are not potential mates in the wild. Ligers have a tendency to grow faster and larger than either lions or tigers, which can cause health problems for them.

A pair of ligers

Again, you need to take the guided tour to see most of the big cats. There is a Discovery Area  just behind the gift shop where you can see some tigers, a lovely brown bear, lynxes and a monkey. But behind this is a gate restricting access to the rest of the park. Click here to see visitor information such as tour times, keeper talks and other special activities.

Of course, Joss said the playground equipment was his favorite part

One final note: You can also spend the night at Turpentine Creek! Because the big cats are most active in the early morning, preferring to sleep through the day, this is a great option if you want to hear the lions “carolling” and see the tigers frolicking.

These guest rooms are located right next to a tiger enclosure–wake up to tigers in your backyard! 

Find more information about family friendly guest lodgings here.

Alright, that wraps up my Eureka Springs posts! (If you missed my first one, which gives more of an overview for visiting Eureka Springs, click here.)

Have you been to either of these attractions? Leave a comment letting us know about your experience!

Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall