Tour America's Treasures

An invitation to tour America's historical sites...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Camp Ouachita

View Camp Ouachita in a larger map

Visit our Tour Destination: Arkansas page to see the entire tour of the state’s Save America’s Treasures sites.

The Great Hall, also known as Ogden Hall, at Camp Ouachita.
Photo courtesy Ouachita National Forest.

Camp Ouachita
Off Route 324, northern side of Lake Sylvia
Ouachita National Forest in Perry County, AR

The Treasure:  Camp Ouachita is the only surviving Girl Scout camp built by the Works Progress Administration and the first Girl Scout camp constructed in Arkansas.

Background:  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935 to ease the unemployment crisis by funding a broad range of public works projects. From its beginning in 1935 until the official close of the program in 1943, the WPA provided almost 8 million jobs and spent approximately $13.4 billion. WPA projects included the construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

One of the WPA projects was the construction of Arkansas’ first Girl Scout camp. Sue (Worthen) Ogden, the president of the Little Rock Girl Scout Council, spearheaded the effort to create the camp, using WPA grants, private donations, and U.S. Forest Service support. The camp was located deep in the forest on the northern shore of Lake Sylvia.

The centerpiece of the Girl Scout camp was the Great Hall, also known as Ogden Hall after Sue Ogden. Other buildings included the caretaker’s residence, the director’s cabin, the camp’s infirmary, staff cabins, sleeping cabins, a bathhouse, and tent platforms. Camp Ouachita served as a popular Girl Scout camp from its dedication in 1937 until its formal closing in 1979.

In the 1990s, efforts began to restore and reopen the camp as part of the full range of recreational activities around Lake Sylvia. Save America’s Treasures funding was instrumental in restoring the historic Great Hall.

Ouachita National Forest.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Notes from the Editor:  Encompassing nearly 2 million acres, Ouachita National Forest spreads across 13 counties in Arkansas and two counties in Oklahoma. The Ouachita River runs through it, giving the forest its name. The river's name dates back to pre-European times, with the word “Ouachita” or “Washita” describing a sparkling silver river running through good hunting grounds. The Caddo people lived in this area long before the arrival of the Europeans. Although largely relocated to the west, the Caddo Nation remains active today, with its tribal council and a Caddo Heritage Museum located in Binger, Oklahoma.

There are still old growth forests in Ouachita National Forest, along with lakes, rivers, valleys, and mountains. Naturally, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, and camping are popular activities. The Ouachita National Forest site has full information available for visitors interested in exploring the area, including detailed information on the many trails that run through the park.

Other Recommended Sites:  Hot Springs National Park is located just an hour’s drive southwest of Camp Ouachita. Within the park, Bathhouse Row is a uniquely preserved collection of turn-of-the-century bathhouses, splendidly outfitted to cater to a prosperous clientele. 

Sign to Camp Ouachita.

Tour America's History Itinerary
Monday’s destination:  Clover Bend Historic Site

© 2012 Lee Price

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