WASHINGTON — Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) has introduced the “Ouachita National Forest Overnight Camping Act” to reopen overnight camping at Albert Pike Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest.
The Albert Pike Recreation Area was closed after a major flash flood killed 20 people on June 11, 2010. In November 2020, the Forest Service initiated a planning process to determine which facilities and infrastructure would support the uses of APRA in the future. Under the Forest Service’s final decision, no overnight camping would be permitted in APRA.
“After the Forest Service’s decision to permanently suspend all overnight camping at Albert Pike, I have heard from countless constituents who expressed their disappointment and frustration at the decision,” Westerman said in a press release Thursday.
If the bill succeeds, the Forest Service would be required to re-open any campsites outside of the 100-year flood plain within 30 days of the bill’s enactment. The bill would also identify areas in the park suitable for overnight camping within six months of its passage.
At least 54 campsites — including eight with water and electric hookups — would be developed outside that flood plain within two years of the bill’s enactment.
“Albert Pike has been enjoyed by families from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas for generations,” Westerman said. “We must ensure Albert Pike is safely refitted to ensure the 2010 tragedy never occurs again, but it would be a disservice to the community to permanently ban overnight camping and deprive folks who return to Albert Pike year after year to share the experiences they had as children with their families. I look forward to working with the U.S. Forest Service to allow for safe and responsible usage for years to come.”
Read the full bill text here.
About Albert Pike Campground
The 1.8 million-acre Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and Oklahoma is a recreation destination to hundreds of thousands of people annually. One of the most popular sites within the Ouachita National Forest is the Albert Pike Recreation Area, which features hiking, swimming, and other day uses.
I spent two summers of my college years working for the USFS as a lifeguard at Albert Pike. It was a community of campers who returned year after year to renew old acquaintances and form lifelong friendships, something of which we need more than ever today.
I’ve lived in SW Arkansas all my life & all my fond memories are of tent camping at Albert Pike. I grew up camping there, my kids grew up camping there & now I would love for my granddaughter to make memories there.
We would float the river, hike to winding stairs & the window cave. Camp with friends. Camp with family. Picnic very often.
When I was young my family was camping during a storm that developed into a tornado in which the tornado got in the valley & couldn’t get out. There were trees down everywhere! Also when my children were little we camped by the river many times when rain came & tent bottom was floating. We went back year after year camping, hiking, swimming & for family reunions.
Please please please bring our wonderful memories back.