Watershed Sanctuary and Learning Center

in 2012, Illinois River Watershed Partnership (IRWP) received a Walton Family Foundation challenge grant for the purpose of establishing a Watershed Sanctuary at Cave Springs. The Sanctuary is an extraordinary natural site for public outreach and education to build awareness of the importance of the Illinois River watershed, water quality concerns, and ways in which the natural environment and water quality may be protected and improved.

The 30-acre site in Cave Springs, Arkansas is situated in the urban headwaters of the Illinois River Watershed with natural amenities which will embrace sustainable, green development highlighting the features of the underground spring leading to a lake, limestone cave formation and abundant trees and wildlife.  

The IRWP and our partners (listed below) joined together to acquire this special property on September 26, 2012, and begin development and implementation of education and conservation projects at the Sanctuary. In January 2014, twelve Northwest Arkansas legislators partnered with the IRWP to purchase an adjoining 1-acre to revitalize a vacated former church building into a Watershed Learning Center to serve as watershed education and outreach for stakeholders in agriculture, business, conservation, construction, government, and technical/education fields.  


Watershed Learning Center at 221 S. Main Street, Cave Springs, Ark.

 Directions & Parking at the Watershed Sanctuary and Learning Center

Watershed Sanctuary Trail Map

Take a virtual tour of the Watershed Sanctuary along the Woodland Way nature trail!  Tour map prepared by Helen Tyson Middle School EAST students.

The Watershed Sanctuary is home to several rare and endangered species, including the largest population of Ozark Cavefish, an important population of gray bats, and the grotto salamander; as documented by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The IRWP believes it is an ideal location in the Illinois River Watershed to be preserved as a living model of environmental stewardship for practices that can be implemented throughout the watershed, while being enjoyed by all residents, students and visitors.

Cave Experience at the Watershed Learning Center



Thank you for your support!   


AR Game Fish Commission Phase I Development

Walton Family Foundation

The Windgate Foundation Phase I Education

WATERSHED STEWARDS  $50,000 - $100,000

Cargill Springdale

Flint Creek Power Plant (AECC-AEP SWEPCO)

Tom and Gloria Hopper 

Tyson Foods

LAKE GUARDIANS   $25,000 - $50,000

Southwestern Energy 

CAVE CHAMPIONS   $15,000 - $25,000

Simmons Foods

TRAILBLAZING ALLY $10,000 - $15,000

Del Monte Foods

Jimmy and Terry Mardis

Bill and Delia Haak 

SPRING PATRONS $5,000 - $10,000

Arkansas Farm Bureau

Arvest NWA Banks

Dan Douglas

HCH Consulting

Uvalde Lindsey for State Senate

Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District - Representative Tim Summers 

Mel Redman



John Elrod

Jay and Joyce Hale


Phil and Leslie Porter

David, Lisa, and Lauren Ray and Hugh Benson

Rob Samples and Mid-America Cabinets

Patrick Tenney

Scott and Kathy VanLaningham

Water Tech