Castle Bluff is a recreational camp situated in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Spanning 80 acres in Newton County, Castle Bluff is equipped with cabins, a large meeting room, an industrial kitchen and mess hall for dining.
Hiking, rappelling, rock wall climbing, Frisbee golf and riding a zip line are some of the activities available on site at the camp. Also, the nearby Buffalo National River offers canoeing, swimming and lots of hiking trails and wildlife viewing.
History of The Bluff
In the late 1970s, groups of teenagers with the parachurch ministry Young Life began to overwhelm Arkansas State Parks with their camping numbers. Their leaders began to pray for a new low-cost camping option, a place to take large groups of students out of their usual setting so that they might hear the gospel – the story of Jesus – and encounter God in the midst of His creation.
An answer to that prayer came in 1979 when some land in Newton County, Arkansas, was donated to Young Life. At first, the property served as a campground for groups of students, but in 1981 construction began on bathrooms. Electricity also came to The Bluff that year.
The journey of the construction of the camp was an experience shared by the students in Young Life. A Camp for Kids Built by Kids was the motto at Castle Bluff in the 80’s. During these years, Shiloh Hall was built. This building served as meeting room and bunkhouse, so that the female campers got to upgrade from tents. Next the Bat Cave was roughly finished out to provide a rustic shelter from the elements for the boys.
In the 90’s, Castle Bluff saw more changes. New buildings were added, including the Cliffhanger, which has replaced Shiloh Hall as the camp meeting spot, and also houses the camp kitchen and dining facility. Castle Bluff became its own nonprofit entity during this season, which enables funds to be raised directly for its development.
The new millennium brought to Castle Bluff the huge blessing of its first onsite caretakers. Mickey and Jolie Hickelheim greatly improved Castle Bluff, bringing it into a new era of growth. Many different churches began to use the camp as a result of having full time hosts. Also, Mickey and Jolie made changes to the camp all year long, (before their arrival, maintenance and development was limited to scheduled work weekends). They built a beautiful house that now welcomes campers near the entrance to the camp with its sprawling porch and rocking chairs. This home and all of their hard work has been a wonderful gift to the each of the caretakers who have filled their shoes since.
Currently, Greg and Dana Ingram are serving as Castle Bluff’s caretakers. They help Castle Bluff to host 15-20 camps a year. These camps are filled primarily with Young Life groups and youth groups from all over Arkansas, but more and more the camp is hosting adult groups as well. We’re excited to see what the future holds for Castle Bluff as people come from all generations to enjoy the camp.