Camp Ozark

Camp Ozark, located six miles west of Mount Ida (Montgomery County), is a summer sports and adventure camp in the Ouachita Mountains, fifteen miles from Lake Ouachita. The camp-owned property encompasses seventy-one acres, with additional land leased to the camp, along with access to land bordering Lake Ouachita. Each summer, more than 7,000 children (ages seven to seventeen) attend sessions at Camp Ozark, traveling from forty-one states and thirteen countries. Its location allows water and outdoor sporting activities such as wakesurfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking, laser tag, paintball, skeet shooting, mountain biking, horse riding, archery, and fishing. The property also includes a ropes course, various ball fields, and archery and shooting ranges. Campers aged twelve and older can complete their scuba diving certification with a licensed instructor.

Camp Ozark (then known as Ozark Boys Camp) was founded in 1949 by Carey Selph and John Froelich of Houston, Texas, with the intent to teach young boys to play baseball. Selph and Froelich were responsible for the construction of the original camp buildings, which included cabins, a dining hall, a bathhouse, a gymnasium, an infirmary, and a small office. When it opened on June 10, 1949, the camp welcomed twenty-seven boys, mostly from the Houston area.

By 1956, Paul Ankenman had purchased both Selph’s and Froelich’s shares of the camp. Ankenman expanded the number of campers, cabins, and programs and opened the camp to girls in 1977. This is when the name changed to Camp Ozark. Ankenman and his family helped shape Camp Ozark into a non-denominational Christian camp.

Sam and Susan Torn purchased the camp from Ankenman in January 1985. Sam had spent six summers at Ozark Boys Camp as a camper and six more as a counselor before marrying Susan in 1970. The Torns began living on the premises each summer and overseeing every aspect of camp. Three generations of Torns are actively involved in camp operations in the twenty-first century. The camp states that it operates on Christian principles, and its website and promotional materials list the six core values taught to each camper: positive self-esteem, greater self-confidence, greater independence, character with integrity, the importance of friendship, and the value of teamwork.

Camp Ozark employs over 750 college-aged staff members each summer, as well as 125 recent high school graduates and rising upperclassmen as part of its Junior Staffing Program. Seasonal employees travel from more than twenty states and a dozen countries. These jobs are in addition to the camp physician, up to ten registered nurses, and year-round positions.

By 2023, Camp Ozark had more than ninety cabins, two stores, a post office, two health centers, two dining halls, and a main office. Campers choose between one- and two-week sessions but can also enroll in three or more consecutive weeks of camping. Camp offerings include over 150 elective activities at various skill levels.

For additional information:
Camp Ozark. (accessed December 8, 2023).

“Camp Ozark.” Alchetron, 2023. (accessed December 8, 2023).

“Camp Ozark.” American Camp Association, 2023. (accessed December 8, 2023).

Camp Ozark 2023. DVD. Directed by Camp Ozark. Mount Ida, AR: n.p.

Holloway, Dewayne. “Camp Ozark, a True Ouachita Treasure.” Nashville News Leader, August 17, 2017. (accessed December 8, 2023).

Mysti L. Gates
University of Arkansas Rich Mountain


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