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 hear 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 a 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.
During the 90's, several new buildings were added, including the multipurpose building known as the Cliffhanger. The Cliffhanger, containing a commercial kitchen, mess hall/dining area and upper room-style meeting area, 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 year round, making it possible for many different churches to use the camp. A beautiful house was built as a permanent residence, the sight of which warmly welcomes campers to Castle Bluff at the entrance to the camp.
For the last several years, camp development efforts have been focused on the construction of Summit Lodge, a new multi-use facility that can be used by all ages, all year long. Summit Lodge is designed to be used by men or women, couples or whole families, and church or corporate groups, making it possible for Castle Bluff to host a wide variety of retreats.