Camp Sumatanga is a 1,500 acre campground retreat operated by the North Alabama United Methodist Conference and located in northern St Clair County, north of Ashville and south of Gallant. Construction of the camp began in 1948.
The site features the 50-acre Lake Sumatanga on Little Canoe Creek at the foot of cross-topped Red Mountain with its hilltop open-air chapel. Recreational facilities include hiking trails, tennis courts, ballfields, a swimming pool, canoes, kid's playground, rope course, and basketball and volleyball courts.
The camp's main lodge has 66 dormitory-style rooms and is connected to a 7-bedroom handicap accessible guest house. The lodge's dining room and auditorium each seat 300 people. Another 1,200 seat auditorium is used for larger programs. The smaller Eva Walker lodge has 12 private rooms arrayed around a central meeting area for groups of up to 100. The Pool Camp has several smaller cabins and an assembly hall with eight classrooms and a meeting room for 250 people overlooking a football field-sized common ground. Primitive camping sites and RV hookups are also available, equipped with small bathhouses.
In the mid-1990s the camp added a 62-room motel-style retreat center, forcing it to take on debt. That financial obligation has made it harder to keep up with needed maintenance on other facilities. A proposal to sell off part of the camp property to a residential developer to cover the debt met fierce objections from the camp's users.
In June 2009 incoming director Bob Murray reported that a lack of off-season participation led to a growing financial shortfall that could have forced the camp to close that fall. A last-minute fund-raising campaign brought in $1,352,000 that allowed the camp to remain open and to undertake several long-delayed maintenance and improvement projects.
- Heath, Will (March 19, 2009) "Sumatanga offers respite for God's people." St Clair Times
- Garrison, Greg (June 20, 2009) "United Methodist spiritual retreat Camp Sumatanga losing visitors, seeking lifeline." Birmingham News
- Reeves, Jay (July 8, 2009) "Church camps closing amid declining use, economy." Associated Press
- Garrison, Greg (November 25, 2009) "Camp Sumatanga avoids financial crisis in spite of financial downturn." Birmingham News
- Camp Sumatanga website