Cave closings will not affect the popular tourist destination
Blanchard Springs Caverns, a popular destination in Stone County for tourists from Cleburne County and around the state, will remain open despite the closing of many public caves around the state due to white-nose syndrome spreading throughout the bat population.
White-nose syndrome is a fungus has killed approximately 7 million bats in the U.S. and can be spread to bats by humans that have visited other caves and may still have the fungus spores attached to clothing or equipment. White-nose syndrome was confirmed in Arkansas and the U.S. Forest Service closed almost all its caves in Arkansas until 2019 to help prevent the spread, which is decimating the bat population in caves where it has taken hold.
“The report on white-nose syndrome in bats included an extension of a closure order for all caves and mines on Forest Service lands until 2019. However, the closures don’t have any bearing on Arkansas’s show caves, which are not located in Forest Service areas,” said Kat Robinson of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
As one of these “show caves,” Blanchard Springs will remain open to the public with protocols in place to help prevent the spread of the syndrome to the bat population within their cave networks.
Blanchard Springs and other public caves ask visitors if they have been to other caves, so it is extremely important for visitors to honestly answer so the staff can take appropriate steps to help protect the bats from the deadly fungus.