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Veteran Campground Host “Found His Serenity” on the South Fork Clearwater River

KAMIAH, Idaho, April 10, 2024— Mark Williams was a big-city private investigator with his own agency in the Southeast before he found his special place in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. After getting into a really big motor vehicle accident and couldn’t work, he came to live with his family in Idaho.

“I was driving them crazy not doing anything,” he says, “And, they told me I needed to do something.”

At just this time, he saw an ad in a small local paper for a campground host, interviewed with forest personnel, and got a volunteer position at Castle Creek on the South Fork Clearwater River—what he (and many forest visitors) regard as the best location in the forest. Williams was in the right place at the right time. “At a tough time in my life, it was very relaxing, and it was the place where I found my serenity.”

This year marks Mark’s eleventh year as a campground host in the forests, but he is far from the only regular returnee. “I get a lot of people who come back who got married at the campground and they’ll celebrate their anniversaries here,” Williams said. “The South Fork and Castle Creek are a paradise; they allow me to recharge every day, naturally, without the commotion I experienced in the city.”

Though his campground is isolated and far from 5g service, celebrates that he gets to meet a lot of different types of people from all over the country and other countries with different and unique personalities. Williams regards the visitors he helps on their vacation as family. “I have three kids all grown up and seven grandkids down in the southeast and being here is like having grandkids by proxy,” he says. “I get to teach them all about the things you can do in the forest like tracking, hunting, and hiking in the forests. I can see the relief in people’s faces as they relax.”

Williams can tell that his visitors share his appreciation of the South Fork, “I’ve got visitors who have been coming back since they were children but are now not just grown up but retired. I’ve watched kids who first came here as children graduate from high school. We’ve got hunters and fishermen from all over the country who’ve been coming back for over 30 years. I had this one family with 4 kids who were told they could go anywhere they wanted for vacation: Hawaii, wherever. They all said they wanted to go back to the South Fork Campground.”

Williams takes his duties seriously, beginning his season at the start of March and ending in early December. He explains, “When I’m here, I consider myself on duty 24/7. We have campers coming and going night and day and sometimes there are issues and situations that require attention.” He spends his free time exploring, but claims, “I could be here 100 years and not see it all. I go out and do hikes before I suggest them. Every trail has its own aspects that bring you joy.”

He does admit, “Trail 420, right across from Castle Creek is special. It’s an aerobic hike, three miles to the top of the butte that overlooks the campgrounds, and for me it’s beautiful to see the campgrounds from up there.”

While the South Fork campgrounds have already recruited campground hosts, other volunteer campground host opportunities are still available on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests for 2024. Learn more about them here: It might just change your life!


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