Alabama’s First Gay Camping Resort Closes After 15 Years of Operation

The first clothing-optional wilderness for gay men in Alabama is closing after roughly 15 years of operation. Owner John Bales, 71, says that he and his partner are both ready to retire and do some traveling.

The camp, called Black Bear Camp, was nestled in the Alabama wilderness near Little Loblockee Creek. Bales purchased the property in 1982 for personal use, but opened the camp to members only in 1996. The camp opened to non-members two years later in 1998. According to, Bales cites financial pressures and personal stress as reasons for closing the resort.

When Bales opened the resort in 1996, the nearest one like it was four hours away by car. The camp was open to men 21 years of age and over who had made reservations.

The dreary economic climate of the late 2000s had an impact on the camp, as well as the fact that other camps had opened in the area. Fewer and fewer men traveled to Black Bear Camp as a result.

Bales says that he is glad to have been able to offer this resource for gay men and that he hopes the new owner of the camp will keep it open.

“Of all the things I have done in my life, providing this resource for other gay men is one of the proudest,” Bales writes on the Black Bear Camp website.

Americans spent about 535 million days camping in 2011, which translates to about 12.5 days per person. Finding a clothing-optional campsite will be tougher to do for those in the Alabama area, but camping is still, of course, an option.

In fact, some campsites in Alabama are so far tucked away in the wilderness that many people don’t know that they’re there. For example, according to the Times Daily, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is one of these — what they call a “hidden gem” among the Alabama wilderness.