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For Christmas, my daughter and son in law gifted Greg and me an overnight stay at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, located near Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Adriel and Nate LOVE Turpentine Creek. They’ve visited many times, typically booking around their wedding anniversary. And since the birth of their daughter Finley, they’ve taken her along with them for their stays.
Their love and appreciation for Turpentine Creek led them to want to share the experience with us. We recently booked our stay and discovered the wonder that is this refuge for big cats and other animals.
How Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Came to Be
In 2022, Turpentine Creek celebrated 30 years in operation.
The refuge officially began in 1992. However the incredible story starts in 1978 when Don and Hilda Jackson rescued their first lion, Bum. He was discovered tied to a cinder block in a backyard. Five years later, the Jacksons acquired Sheila, another lion. Her owners had tried, unsuccessfully, raising their baby with the lioness.
In 1991 a big cat breeder named Katherine Twiss showed up at the Jackson home, towing 42 big cats and other animals in cattle trailers. She was running from law enforcement.
The Jacksons moved the animals to a friend’s 460 acre ranch near Eureka Springs, Arkansas. With the priority of providing enclosures, shelter, food, water and health care, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was formed in 1992, on its current site. An intern program was created in 1997 as Turpentine Creek continued to respond to the need to rescue wildlife.
During those 30+ years, TCWR has rescued more than 500 animals from abuse, abandonment and neglect, providing them with care and a lifetime home.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Mission and Vision
The sanctuary’s mission is to provide a lifetime refuge for abused and neglected big cats and bears, with an emphasis on tigers, lions, leopards and cougars.
“Through public education we work to end the Exotic Animal Trade, making sanctuaries like TCWR no longer necessary; together we can preserve and protect these magnificent predators in the wild for our children’s future.”
Education – working to end the Exotic Animal Trade while educating today’s youth with in-classroom visits and onsite programming through interpretive learning.
Preservation – rescuing survivors of the Exotic Animal Trade with an emphasis on big cats and bears, providing them with a safe, lifelong home, exceptional care and proper diets while working to preserve endangered species in the wild through pubic education and advocacy.
Compassion – big cats are predators, not pets or entertainment for the masses. They and other exotic and native wildlife deserve to live out their lives with dignity and allowed to be the wild animals they instinctively are.
Turpentine Creek Lodging
Not only can you learn about the animals that call Turpentine Creek home, you can spend a night…or two or three…in the refuge.
Lodging includes a treehouse, safari suites with tigers as neighbors, the five Zulu Lodge suites, glamping safari tents and six RV spaces.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is a non profit organization. All funds from lodging goes to the care of the animals and upkeep of the facilities.
A complimentary tram tour is included with lodging, as is the freedom to explore the Discovery Area with its wildlife inhabitants.
Click HERE to check out the available lodging.
You can also visit the refuge without spending the night. General admission includes walking through the Discovery Area and an hour long tram tour. Purchase tickets through this LINK.
Other tours are available as well, through the above link.
Meet Some of the Animals at Turpentine Creek
Turpentine Creek provides a home and care for the animals who live there. The refuge exists because of the need to rescue these beautiful creatures from horrendous situations.
There are currently 99 animals living at TCWR with enclosures currently being built to house more.
Meet a few of the residents of this sanctuary.
Joey is a female tiger, who shares her habitat with another tiger named Khaleesi. Their enclosure is next to the Siberian Suite.
Joey came to Turpentine Creek through rescue from a Colorado based cub petting and animal breeding facility. Altogether 115 animals were rescued, many of them suffering from neglect and medical conditions. Thirty four of those animals came to TCWR while the rest found forever homes in other sanctuaries.
Joey required the removal of a hematoma on her elbow when she arrived at her new home. Today she is a playful eight year old tiger who enjoys swimming and observing guests from her perch.
Lakota is a Ti Liger, a hybrid. His father is a tiger. And his mother is a liger, a cross between a lion and a tiger, created for the entertainment industry.
Lakota came from the same Colorado facility as Joey. He shares his habitat in the Discovery Area with Aurora. Lakota is laid back, preferring naps over playtime, although he can still summon the energy to chase after Aurora.
Mauri is a lioness, rescued from an Indiana facility along with seven other big cats. A federal judge ordered the animals removed due to inhumane practices including declawing and prematurely removing cubs from their mothers. The rescue required the use of US Marshals who had to sweep the facility and then stand guard as the animals were removed. All of the big cats had health issues.
Mauri limps and is on pain management due to declawing. She’s still very playful and enjoys her enrichment toys and caroling at night with the other cats.
My Experience at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
Greg and I arrived for our stay in the Siberian Suite, just after the check in time of 3:00 pm. The beautiful suite is located next to Joey and Khaleesi’s habitat and across from Mauri the lioness and the Discovery Area.
A corner table and chairs set provides a space to eat meals and holds complimentary tea and coffee. An apartment sized refrigerator contains water and juice, muffins, fruit and packets of oatmeal.
The rooms are spacious and attractive and the bathroom HUGE with both a sunken tub and shower. The couch in the living area converts into a full sized bed, making this suite perfect for two to four people. Children of all ages are welcome here along with pets.
I especially love the covered front porch, with its bistro table and two chairs.
As dusk approached we lit the citronella candle on the table, more for atmosphere than mosquitos, and settled in with drinks and snacks. As the sun set, the big cats began caroling…roaring and chuffing socially to each other, from all over the compound. It was an incredible chorus that sent shivers down my spine.
The Discovery Area and Tram Tour
We enjoyed exploring the Discovery Area the afternoon of our arrival and early the next morning. The enclosures house lions, tigers, hybrids, African servals, bobcats, cougars and bears. It’s a beautiful, peaceful area. The animals are well cared for and have large, safely enclosed areas to live and play in with night houses, heated during the colder months, for sleeping.
During our morning wanderings, we paused to sit on a bench down near the cougars. To our delight, several of the big cats nearby began caroling. The roars were SO loud and extremely beautiful.
Our scheduled tram tour took us on an hour long ride around the facility with an extremely knowledgeable guide. She shared stories about the animals we saw and information about the refuge.
We left after our tour with a deep appreciation for all that TCWR does to care for animals and their rescue of wildlife in need. And we departed with a greater awareness of the horrid practices out there that these gorgeous creatures suffer through.
What You Can Do to Help
You can help Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in the following ways.
If you are in the Eureka Springs, Arkansas area stop by for a tour, to visit the giftshop or to enjoy an overnight experience. All fees collected go toward the care of the animals and the upkeep of the facilities. The address is 239 Turpentine Creek Lane, Eureka Springs, AR.
Make a donation. Every donation goes 100% toward the care of the animals.
Adopt or Sponsor an animal. With adoption, you receive a high-resolution 11″x 8.5″ certificate with a photo and short bio of your chosen animal, as well as room for the name of the recipient. Sponsorship includes a glossy 8×10 photo, biography certificate and one year pride membership.
Memberships come in a variety of levels. Sign up for the one that best suits your desires and you and up to four guests can get in to the refuge free.
The Legacy Program allows you to continue helping TCWR beyond your lifetime to ensure animal rescue continues and animals are cared for.
I highly recommend a visit to this amazing sanctuary. I’ll certainly return, again and again. I’m so grateful to Adriel, Nate and Finley for the gift of an overnight stay at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. What an enriching experience. They’ve made me a fan and an advocate.
Have you ever visited a wildlife refuge?
Pack for your trip to Turpentine Creek:
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