A love for exploring prompted an Arkansas man to buy his own cave

Paul Linscott of Sulphur Springs, Ark., grew up exploring caves with family and friends starting at age 4.

He had his own equipment, including a hardhat and light. One of his earliest memories is having the job of carrying a rope while the rest went down into a small pit. Paul was supposed to remain on top to help them get out. Like most children, he wanted to get down into the pit to make sculptures out of the clay and to go where, according to young Paul’s imagination, “no man has been before.”

When Paul moved back to the Berryville area, he decided he wanted a career change: a touring cave of his own. He was considering another in the Northwest Arkansas area and already had a business plan when his brother Andy told him about the Old Spanish Treasure Cave in Sulphur Springs coming up for sale.

“I went to it one time and was blown away,” explained Paul.

The entrance whispered of hidden secrets echoing throughout the maze cave with three levels and numerous tunnels at all levels snaking and branching out in different directions. Visitors go up to the middle level where the easy walking tour takes place and with the lower tunnels mostly water passages for streams and rivers. At that time, Paul believed the story of hidden Spanish treasure was just that, a story.

Not long after purchasing the cave and exploring some of the passageways, Paul came to an area that didn’t seem natural. Part of one wall was clay with what appeared to be stacked rocks on top. He dug into the unusual section and found a small room with a stone pedestal and a very old blade on top. That changed everything, especially after the Discovery Channel came to the cave to use it as part of one of their Explained and Unexplained episodes. Two explorers from the channel looked at the blade and said they were as sure as was possible without further testing that the blade appeared to belong to the 1500s Spanish conquistador era when the Spanish came through the area.

The tale is as intriguing as an Indiana Jones movie, and Paul’s mission is now to separate fact from fiction through exploring for artifacts, continued surveying and mapping, and examining old records and archives. Archives include an old tape recording involving a family history as told by a daughter of one of the early treasure hunters. Legend claims the conquistadors were trapped by a winter storm with horses dying and carts breaking down. They sheltered in the cavern and hid the treasure, planning to come back to retrieve it when better prepared and with more reinforcements. In the largest room at the back was a natural chimney and a little fire to warm themselves. However, they had brutalized the Native Americans as they traveled and paid the price when their victims traced them by the smoke. At least one survived, and the rest is part of the intriguing story told during the tour.

An early owner, George Dunbar, opened a mining operation in 1908. To accommodate the mining, Dunbar built rail tracks and used donkey carts to remove debris and carry clay. However, the mining operation was really a cover for extensive treasure exploration. Using metal detectors, Paul and his wife Tracy uncovered some of Dunbar’s track. Later Paul purchased a better detector and was trying to calibrate it but couldn’t. Puzzled, he dug beneath where he was working and found more rails near what is reputed to be the fire pit of George Dunbar. Throughout his explorations, Paul has found concealed tunnels and entrances and is hopeful one recently discovered area will be a time capsule of the past. He has stopped other explorations and is focused on this tunnel.

The Old Spanish Treasure Cave is a living cave which means formations are still growing. Because it is limestone, it contains fossils from once being part of the ocean. Additionally, it contains various formation sites including the Bridal Veil containing drapery, the Enchanted Forest with a variety of formation types and Land of a Thousand Lakes which features rim stone dams.

The attraction offers a number of opportunities. One is a Camp in the Cave program for Scouts, while another is accommodating school field trips. In addition to the occasional wedding, the cavern is home to movie nights in the spring and the fall, which are held in the big chamber called the Council Room. The location features movies such as The Goonies and Indiana Jones in addition to some current movies. Imagine youngsters sitting in the cave while watching the Goonies or Indiana Jones traipsing through caves on their grand adventures with snakes and booby-traps just around the corner. Of course, popcorn and other concessions are available.

From March through the summer and into the fall, the cave is typically open during business hours and sometimes later. Winter schedules vary. In either case checking the website or telephoning the attraction is the best way to determine the hours when planning to visit. A pleasant conclusion to the visit is browsing a gift shop full of intriguing geodes, fossils, unusual jewelry and other geology related items.

This cave is exceptional because of Paul’s burning passion to find the truth. It is the site of real and ongoing treasure hunting combined with historical revelations. Discover for yourself why, according to Paul, “This unsolved mystery has kept the secrets alive.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here