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RUSH, Ark. (KTHV) - Many people may not realize that the only federally protected ghost town in the country is in The Natural Sate. That would be Rush, located in the lower portion of the Buffalo National River region.

The rush to Rush began in the 1880s when farmers on Rush Creek discovered zinc ore. By the 1890s, the mining boom was in full force, and miners and investors arrived from all over the country.

But now, water running through Rush Creek is about the only sound you can hear in this small north Arkansas town. That was certainly not the case more than 100 years ago.

"In its heyday, there was anywhere from 3,000-5,000 people," explained Vicki Roberts, Rush's historian. "And it wasn't all men, there were women and children down there camped on those hillsides in tents and tar paper shacks."

All of them were looking to strike it rich.

"They had high hopes, you know, that this was going to be an upcoming place to raise a family, get rich, expand, live in the mountains," Roberts said.

Initially, the prospectors hoped the area contained silver or even gold. But, when they placed the ore into the smelter, no silver emerged.

"It didn't belch pretty blue smoke like they thought it was to," Roberts said. "It was black."

Despite their disappointment, mining continued for zinc. At one time, 17 zinc mines covered these bluffs, making Rush the largest city in Northern Arkansas with shops, a hotel, a doctor's office, and even a moving picture show.

During World War I, the price for zinc skyrocketed and Rush became a boomtown. Numerous mines employed hundreds of miners and the population of the valley numbered several thousand.

"It brought money to our town and it brought money to our county and of course there was other mines throughout Marion County," Roberts explained.

After the war ended, zinc prices fell and people began to leave Rush as quickly as they had arrived. The town went from 5,000 to 500 practically overnight.

"What they needed here was the railroad and the railroad didn't get here prior to World War I and not being able to haul the ore was a big drawback," said Roberts.

Nowadays, the abandoned ghost town is a symbol of the boom-to-bust cities across America.

"You have to have one heck of an imagination to imagine all those people that were down there and all those buildings and tents and mining equipment and mules and oxen and horses and things that were there that people had to have for their livelihood."

Now, the legend lives on -- only with what little still remains.

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