“sleep with the big cats!”
Turpentine Creek is open every day of the year except Christmas. The self-guided area is open from 9 AM - 6 PM in the summer months and 9 AM - 5 PM in the winter months. Guided tours run every hour on the hour from 11AM - 3PM with feeding time at 4PM in the winter months and 11AM - 4PM with feeding time at 5PM in the summer months. In 1978, the Jackson Family acquired their first lion, Bum, while living in NE Texas. Tanya Jackson Smith, current president of TCWR, was only 11 years old at the time. In 1982, they acquired another lion, named Sheila. Although it wasn't easy taking care of the two lions in their backyard, the Jackson family was successful. Bum and Shelia moved from their home in Hope, Arkansas, to Eureka Springs when the Refuge was first started in 1992. They remained at the Refuge for their entire life. In December of 1991, Katherine Gordon Twiss, a breeder and black market dealer, showed up on the Jackson's doorstep with 42 big cats crammed into three cattle trailers. She was on the run from the law in Texas and desperately needed to find a home for the cats. A friend of the Jackson family lived on a ranch in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and offered temporary refuge for the cats. Later the property was bought for a permanent home. The 42 big cats were moved to the nearly 500 acre ranch near Eureka Springs, which later became what today is Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. The labor intensive job of quickly building temporary cages for the 42 big cats was completed. Twiss was impossible to get along with and moved all her 70 cats and 30 horses that she had picked up from around the country and brought them to the refuge. It soon became evident, by incoming phone calls from all over the country from "big cat pet owners" looking for a home for their cat, that someone needed to start a refuge, or sanctuary. The Jackson family: Don, Hilda, and Tanya stepped up to this challenge and did what most would only dream of - sold everything; moved over 300 miles; and humbly went to work for the animals. Today there are over a dozen reputable sanctuaries for big cats around the country, and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge truly stands out as a frontrunner. The United States has thousands of its residents keeping dangerous big cats in their backyards, basements, garages, and warehouses. People acquire these animals as pets and soon find they have made a grave decision and turn to Turpentine Creek for refuge. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge features a safari lodge, suite, treehouse and an RV park. Starting September 1, we will be implementing a 2 night minimum stay on weekend bookings in all rooms! Stop and sleep with the big cats!
Easily recommend a stop at this place
This was our FAVORITE part of the trip!!! The entire refuge is cared for in such a prideful, and respectful way! The staff was stellar! Always professional, but laid back and willing/able to answer each and every question! Take the $5 trolley tour- it is beyond worth the money! This place is going to be a frequent family trip from now on!!!! SO AWESOME!!!
This is such a wonderful place that it would be a shame to miss it! We stay here at least 2x a year in the safari lodges. Love the cats. Staff is wonderful. Great place for a romantic weekend or to take the family for day
This was a great addition to our Spring Break road trip! The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. They do an Amazing work with these animals! Don’t miss an opportunity to visit!
This place is amazing! Found it while searching for cool things to do on the way from MN to FL and we are so happy we made the visit... it's a sanctuary for rescued big cats and a few bears ... can't even say enough good things about it
The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and they appreciate all of their guests
Our lodge "Siberian" is so comfortable and lovely and the lions "caroling" at all hours is always exciting!!
HIGHLY RECOMMEND visiting even if it's just for the tour :)
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Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, Safari Lodge & RV Park
- Sun - Sat: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
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Good for wildlife viewing.
Credit Cards Accepted