The campground where 20 people were killed in flash flooding will remain closed until further notice, officials said Friday.
The Albert Pike Recreational Area in the Ouachita National Forest is now in a cleanup and rebuilding stage after floods tore through the campgrounds last week.
“We have a lot of work left to do in the area,” said Forest Supervisor Norman Wagoner. “Crews are beginning the cleanup process, and personal effects will be processed with the assistance of our law enforcement personnel. We’re not sure how long this may take, but it’s important to the families and it’s important to us.”
For security and public safety reasons, the following trails and roads also are closed:
Viles Branch trail: The southern portion of Viles Branch loop trail will be closed east of the junction with the Athens Big Fork Trail all the way to the trailhead on Road 2106 near Highway 369. The northern portion of the loop trail will be closed on the 106 road at the road closure barrier east of the private land.
Little Missouri Trail: This trail will be closed from the second staircase at the Little Missouri trailhead south to the Viles Branch trail and to the Musgrove Hole.
Bluff Mountain Trail (also known as Albert Pike trail): This short trail at Albert Pike campground will be closed.
106 Road: Closed near the county line to its junction with AR 369.
512 Road: Closed east of the junction of 512 Road and 912 Road
99 Road: Closed at the junction of 99 Road and County Road 73
County Road 73: Closed at junction of County Road 73 and County Road 43 west to the Albert Pike Campground.
Winding Stairs Trailhead: Closed.
Elsewhere Friday, three members of Arkansas' congressional delegation called for innovative solutions fix to the weather warnings system at the campground.
Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, along with Rep. Mike Ross sent a U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell asking that the agencies continue working to help clean up and rebuild the recreational area in the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas.
Dear Secretary Vilsack and Chief Tidwell:
We are writing in reference to the recent flash flooding at the Albert Pike campground in southwest Arkansas that claimed the lives of 20 people. First, we would like to thank you for your agency’s efforts in recent days to assist the many families in Arkansas that were impacted by the tragic flash flood. Your presence at the campground Saturday meant a great deal to Arkansas. We commend you and your staff for your response efforts and your ability to coordinate with state and local officials in their attempts to rescue and recover victims.
Arkansas Flood Survival StoryWatch Video
Congressional TourWatch Video
We hope that going forward we can continue such a coordinated effort to cleanup, rebuild, and reopen this majestic campground. In doing so, we would like for you to work with the United States Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and state and local officials to determine how to improve emergency warning systems for campground visitors at Albert Pike. We know the rugged terrain and remote location of Albert Pike, conditions that exist at a number of campgrounds located in our country’s National Forests, pose cumbersome barriers to effective communication with the outside world. Innovative solutions will be needed to meet the challenges the terrain presents so we can help ensure the safety of the visitors in the area. We also ask that you work with us to find a way to properly memorialize those lives that were lost in this tragic flood.
We are deeply saddened by the loss of life, and we believe we must consider additional measures going forward in an effort to prevent a similar event in the future. We look forward to working with you to enhance campground safety and emergency warning systems so that we may make this very popular campground better than ever.
Thank you for your attention to this letter.