MAMMOTH SPRING -- The computer-driven sport geocaching has come to Mammoth Spring, and because of it everyone is invited to look for hidden treasure at Mammoth Spring State Park.
Geocaching, also known as GPS stash hunt or geostash, involves hiding items, usually containers holding various treasures, and then providing specific Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) coordinates for each cache on a Web site.
"Visitors to these Web sites can choose which cache they would like to locate using their own personal GPS devise. Cache searchers typically bring their own treasures and make an exchange once the cache has been located," Mammoth Spring State Park Assistant Superintendent Glenda Pryor said. Pryor said GPS devises are like modern day compasses.
Pryor said geocaching is new to the park. "A family from Ash Flat, the Kietzmanns, first approached us with the idea of burying treasure at the park," she said.
The first treasure was placed in a container and buried somewhere on park grounds Jan. 1, 2006. Pryor said the container used at Mammoth Spring was an ammunition box that is weatherproof and blends in well with park surroundings.
"Our state park is not that big so it narrowed down where our treasure could be hidden. As a matter of fact, we decided there are only two or three places in the entire park where our treasure could be hidden.
Pryor said since geocaching is new at Mammoth Spring, the treasure is where it was originally hidden, but it could be moved.
What is the secrets one will discover if they successfully find the hidden treasure? A select variety of Arkansas stuff.
"We have a notebook and pen in our treasure and invite anyone that finds it to leave us a note and tell us when they discovered the treasure and a little bit about themselves," the assistant superintendent said.
There are also Arkansas maps and local and state park literature, Arkansas lapel pins, Easter eggs, coupons with up to 10 percent off purchases at the Tourist Information Center and other items."We invite anyone who can find our treasure to take something out and replace it with some treasure of their own" Pryor said.
"A plus to our park being small is treasure hunters do not have to hike five miles to find what they are looking for. We recently had a group of six senior citizens who searched hard and finally found the cache," Pryor said. She said the Mammoth Spring hunt is perfect for families with small children and senior citizens because the cache is easily accessed.
She said there are few stipulations to placing a cache at at state park. A permit is needed and the exact location of the cache must be pre-approved by the park superintendent. Mammoth Spring State Park Superintendent Dave Jackson approved the site of the park treasure.
The Kietzmann family will hold the rights to the cache permit for one year and then someone else may apply for a permit and fill the ammunition box with different important Arkansas treasurers.
Geocaching got its start in May 2000. Pryor said it was spawned from the government removal of the encryption code from GPS satellite signals. Since then the popularity of geocaching has grown.
There are more than 10,000 caches hidden in more than 130 countries. Pryor said more are added daily.
"People get involved in geocaching for many reasons. Some like the outdoors. Others enjoy the exercise. Most of them do it because they love the challenge and thrill of hunting for treasure," she said.
Pryor said when the geocaching first became popular, Arkansas State Parks Director Greg Butts was a little concerned about the treasure hunting taking place at state parks. "He learned geocachers are actually very sensitive to the environment," Pryor said.
Heres how it works: a cacher logs onto the Web site www.geocaching.com or arkansasstateparks.com. They pick a cache that sounds appealing, enter the latitude and longitude into a GPS unit and the search is on. Clues are available, although some must be decoded.
"Once a cache is found, the treasure seeker is permitted to take a souvenir, but to also leave something, register in the log book and, when they get home, log an entry on the Web site and tell about their treasure hunting experience at Mammoth Spring State Park," she said.
"This is really a unique and different project at our park. We invite treasure seekers from other states to Mammoth Spring State Park to search for buried treasure and always welcome our own Arkansans to enjoy any and all programs and projects the park has to offer. They just might find some secret hidden treasure right in their own back yard," she said.