In 1978, then Pulaski Chapter chair Rose Hogan invited my family to attend our first Ozark Society general meeting, to be held in the Great Hall of the historic girl scout camp at Lake Sylvia. The serene 18-acre lake, built by the CCC in 1936, is located at the eastern end of the Ouachita National Forest, just 38 miles west of Little Rock.
The Great Hall features massive log beams, a kitchen, and austere rock walls. The camp, constructed by the Works Progress Administration (1936-1940), included rustic cabins, a recreation area and a campground. Unfortunately, the lack of a water supply caused the closing of the camp in 1979, and the facilities deteriorated.
Efforts to restore the area began in 1992 when the camp was put on the National Register of Historic Places, but it remained in decline. But help is finally on the way. In July, the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism and the Ouachita National Forest issued a joint agreement making Lake Sylvia Recreation Area a part of Pinnacle Mountain State Park. 1.3 million dollars were dedicated to refurbishing the Great Hall, making the cabins habitable, repairing the leaky dam, and expanding recreational opportunities, including a 27-mile bike trail around the lake, and a lease of 8,000 additional acres of National Forest directly south of the lake.
The Ouachita National Recreational Trail, which has become a regional “destination” trail, crosses through the expanded park, with two access trails to Lake Sylvia. With improved roads and expanded parking areas, Lake Sylvia is almost certain to become much busier.
Central Arkansas OS members maintain 14 nearby miles of the Ouachita Trail which is foot traffic only right now, so we have a vested interest in the development plans now under consideration.
The camping facilities are good and hiking opportunities on the Ouachita Trail are extensive. Try out Chinquapin Mountain in the new park and North Fork Pinnacle just several miles west along the OT, see below.
At one time there was a forest tower on North Fork Pinnacle with an access road, which is now pretty well closed off by a large berm. But as a sign of the times, there is an on-line jeep travelogue showing how to surmount this.
To emphasize the Ozark Society’s interest in being a stakeholder in any future development of the Lake Sylvia area, I have sent letters to Governor Asa Hutchinson, Secretary of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism Stacy Hurst, and Arkansas State Parks Director Grady Spann, outlining our conservation involvement together with just a hint of looking to the future for more wilderness additions. And, Tom McClure has put forward documentation of the philosophical underpinnings for expanding the wilderness and maintaining foot traffic-only trails in the state.