Old Kia Kima
Old Kia Kima is a restored former Boy Scout camp owned and operated by the Old Kia Kima Preservation Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Old Kia Kima is located on a bluff overlooking a pristine riverfront on the South Fork of the Spring River in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains near Hardy (Sharp County). In 2000, it began offering camping facilities to qualified youth groups at no charge.
The camp traces its origins to 1916 when the Memphis, Tennessee, area Boy Scout Council opened Kia Kima as its summer camp. The name chosen for the camp was “Kia Kima,” which was said to mean “nest of eagles” in the Chickasaw language. The original camp operated as a Boy Scout summer camp through 1963, excluding 1941 to 1947 (during and just after World War II). By 1963, the Boy Scouts needed a larger facility, and John Cooper Sr.’s retirement community, Cherokee Village (Sharp and Fulton counties), was beginning to encroach on the camp. In 1964, through a land swap with John Cooper, the Boy Scouts relocated to a new, larger camp 8.5 miles upstream, and Kia Kima closed.
Much of the old camp was then redeveloped into residential lots. The core forty-three acres, however, remained intact albeit abandoned. By 1993, most of the structures were in a severe state of deterioration, with the property having become a dumping ground. That year, four former Kia Kima staff members visited the camp and were appalled at the state of the former camp. In August 1996, the Old Kia Kima Preservation Association (OKKPA) was incorporated in Arkansas with the mission and vision of restoring the camp so future generations of youth could camp there.
The camp consists of sixteen native stone cabins originally constructed between 1922 and 1928, the majestic two-story stone Thunderbird Lodge, a modern bathhouse, a cooking pavilion that accommodates nearly 100 people, a 4,400-square-foot activities building, and several other structures. There is a dedicated waterfront on the river for swimming.
Restoration was far enough along that the camp reopened for camping in 2000. OKKPA celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2021 and continues its mission of providing youth camping facilities. While the facilities at the camp are available to any qualified youth group that agrees to follow guidelines such as training and youth protection measures, OKKPA does not provide any program activities. The camp does not charge for the use of its facilities and operates almost entirely from donations.
Old Kia Kima is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. The site was added to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places on April 1, 2015.
For additional information:
Old Kia Kima. http://www.oldkiakima.org/ (accessed November 10, 2022).
Ron M. Naro
Old Kia Kima Preservation Association
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