In the late 1970s, groups of Arkansas teens began to camp with Young Life, and they began to overwhelm state parks with their numbers. Their leaders began to pray for a new low-cost camping option, a place to take large groups of students so that they could the story of Jesus and encounter God in the midst of His creation.
That prayer was answered in 1979 when 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 and the camp got electricity.
The construction of Castle Bluff was an journey shared by the students in Young Life. A Camp for Kids Built by Kids was the motto at Castle Bluff in the 80’s. Shiloh Hall, the first major building which served as meeting room and bunkhouse, was built. Next, sleeping platforms were built into a large overhang beneath the main camp area, and the Bat Cave was born.
In the 90’s, new buildings were added, including the large kitchen / mess hall / meeting room known as the Cliffhanger. It has replaced Shiloh Hall as the camp meeting spot and quickly became the traditional place for campers of all ages to inscribe their names on the walls.
The next big step for Castle Bluff was hiring onsite caretakers. They were able to maintain and develop the camp all year long and made it possible for many different churches to use the camp. A beautiful house was built as a permanent residence that welcomes campers near the entrance to the camp.
Most recently, the camp has been focused on the construction of the Summit Lodge, a multi-use facility which can be used by all ages, all year long. It is designed to be used by men or women, couples or even whole families, making so many different kinds of retreats possible.
Now Castle Bluff is looking toward the future with improvements to the Cliffhanger and new construction of a standalone bathhouse. Even more exciting is the fact that the property directly downhill from the Bluff has been purchased and renovated for recreation and camping: Jabali Ranch. The owners of Jabali will be working with the board of Castle Bluff as partnering properties, allowing both to expand their offerings for camping ministries.