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Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge - Arkansas

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

In 1978, the Jackson Family acquired their first lion, Bum, while living in NE Texas. Tanya Jackson Smith, current president of TCWR, was only 8 years old. 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. Through Bum and Sheila's demanding backyard presence, the Jackson's met many people who either had, or wanted to have, a big cat as a pet living under their care, at their home.



Katherine Gordon Twiss, a breeder and black market dealer, showed up on the Jackson's doorstep with 38 big cats crammed into two 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 38 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 38 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, Tanya, and Robert, 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 Lodging
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge offers onsite lodging with something for everyone. Our lodging facilities vary from large spacious rooms with oversized garden tubs and great views of the cats, to our quaint secluded tree house with its "in the trees" ambiance. We also have the Safari Lodge with five cabins all decorated with fantastic art and adorned with incredible views of the mountains. Each cabin has its own theme corresponding with different regions of Africa Congo (adults only), Kilimanjaro (adults only), Kalahari (adults only), Serengeti (adults only), Okavango (adults only). The Safari Lodge also has an incredible outdoor gas fire pit along with an upscale hot tub. For those who travel with their second home (RV) or want to tent camp, we can accommodate you too.|

For overnight guests who would enjoy the unique experience of 'sleeping in the trees,' the Tree House Bungalow (family friendly - no one under the age of 6 permitted) at Turpentine Creek is the perfect escapade.

Situated near one of our smaller habitat areas, the Tree House Bungalow is built on stilts, is about 15' from the ground, and is reached via a stairway up to the wraparound deck. It is secluded in a grove of trees, but a view of cats is readily available from the back and one side of the deck; a view of the scenery is available from the front and other side.

Although very small, it offers a full-sized refrigerator and stove, plus a sink, microwave oven, and coffee maker on the main floor, which also contains a small table/booth and a clicker sofa. A cable TV is mounted near the ceiling in one corner, which can be viewed from all parts of the interior. The view outside is open to the windows on three sides.

Tucked under the eaves are two single-size sleeping pallets, which are accessible via the drop-down staircase. Guests need to be aware that the staircase will need to be returned to its position in order to open the clicker sofa on the 'main floor.' The small bathroom includes a shower stall, but no full tub.

This fun and quaint structure is the perfect escape for those who enjoy cozy comfort and the unique experience of sleeping near the treetops. It is just the right thing for young couples and those with older children having an adventuresome spirit (because of its structure and location, we cannot allow children under the age of 5).

As with all of the accommodations at Turpentine Creek, part of the appeal of an overnight stay is hearing the lions and tigers calling to each other throughout the night and waking to the quiet magic of big cats starting their new day. Rate: $150/night

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
239 Turpentine Creek Lane
Eureka Springs, AR 72632
Phone: 479.253.5841

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