Ouachita National Forest Announces Recreation Changes

Release Date: May 29, 2012  

Contact(s): Tracy Farley, 479-964-7232

 HOT SPRINGS, ARK—“Most Ouachita developed campgrounds are now open and ready for visitors, however, we wanted to make the public aware of some changes effective May 30, 2012,” announced Forest Supervisor Norman Wagoner.

While recreation opportunities at most developed recreation areas on the forest remain the same as in previous years, some Ouachita National Forest developed recreation areas will be closed to overnight use on an interim basis. Concerns for public safety have prompted the Ouachita National Forest to close campsites or entire campgrounds that are known to flood or have the potential to flood, pending further study.  Day use will still be allowed in these areas.

“Visitor safety is a very high priority,” said Forest Supervisor, Norman Wagoner, “These changes are necessary to allow us time to analyze and mitigate risks in flood prone areas. It is also important for visitors to be aware of these changes when planning their recreation and trips to the Ouachita National Forest.”

Visitors need to be aware of potential changes at several recreational areas. Forest Service Recreation Program Manager, Chris Ham states, “In those areas changed to day use only, swimming, picnicking, fishing, hiking and other day use activities are still allowed, typically from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m., unless posted otherwise. The Ouachita National Forest has 13 campgrounds, with 356 campsites available for the public.”

Following are the areas where changes will occur until further analysis can be completed:

Arkansas, Ouachita National Forest

  • Bard Springs – Polk County: Four campsites in low-lying areas closed for overnight use, open to day use only. There are other sites at this campground that are available for overnight use.
  • Bear Creek Horse Camp – Garland County: open for day use only, closed for overnight use.
  • Big Brushy – Polk County: closed for overnight use, day use only.
  • Charlton– Garland County: Loop B and Loop C: closed to overnight use. Loop A – remains open for overnight use. Day use area will be open. 
  • Knopper’s Ford – Scott County: 6 sites in low lying areas closed for overnight use, day use only. Sites on higher ground, within existing picnic area, near the toilets, are open for overnight use for tent camping.
  • Lake Sylvia – Perry County: Loop A, sites 12-17 would be closed to overnight use, open for day use only.  The remainder of the area remains open.
  • Ouachita River Float Camps in Montgomery County: Dragover, River Bluff, Rocky Shoals, Fulton and Shirley Creek are day use only.
  • Shady Lake – Polk County: 13 sites in low-lying areas closed for overnight use, day use only. 66 sites remain open for overnight use.

Oklahoma, Ouachita National Forest

  • Cedar Lake– LeFlore County: Shady Lane Loop Area: closed for all use except foot traffic.  North Shore Area sites near the boat ramp: day use only.  Most of the remaining Cedar Lake Recreation Area will remain open for overnight use.
  • Presbyterian Falls – McCurtain County: closed for overnight use, day use only.

Concern over visitor safety is the driver for campsite/campground changes. Three flash floods have occurred in campgrounds on the Ouachita National Forest within the past two years that resulted in loss of life, damage to facilities and/or personal property. The three campgrounds recently impacted by flash flooding were:

  • Albert Pike Recreation Area – (Ouachita) Montgomery County, Arkansas – 2010
  • Cedar Lake Recreation Area – (Ouachita) Shady Lane Loop – LeFlore County, Oklahoma – 2011
  • Charlton Campground – (Ouachita) Garland County, Arkansas – 2011

While some risk is inherent in any outdoor activity, the rapid and unpredictable nature of flash flooding makes it particularly difficult for campers to safely escape the danger – especially since many flash floods occur at night.  By the time visitors realize a flash flood is occurring, it is often too late to get out of harm’s way. 

More information is available at www.fs.usda.gov/ouachita.  The website also has information on tips for having a safe and enjoyable visit to your National Forest. For more information contact the Ouachita National Forest at 501-321-5202.