Being outdoors, making friends, learning new skills and eating s’mores are all a part of many people’s summer experiences. But these events become a whole new experience and set of memories when they take place at summer camp.
Across the state, many camps have been providing fun and positive summer experiences for children, adults and families for over a half-century. More recently, many of these camps have become year-round facilities, allowing individuals to continue the fun regardless of the season.
Here are highlights of many of the camps across North Dakota.
Many of the camps in the state began as a result of the foresight and hard work of churches across North Dakota. Today these camps and their supporting congregations remain focused on a faith-based approach to the camp experience for campers of all ages and denominations.
Badlands Ministries has been operating in southwestern North Dakota since 1928. The Christian outdoor ministry, located in the badlands near Medora, serves many different denominations and is owned by a corporation of 40 Lutheran congregations.
The Ministries’ year-round facilities are located on a 188-acre site set between buttes and the Little Missouri River. The site has overnight summer accommodations for 196 people, and a new retreat center sleeps 100 people year-round.
Badlands Ministries offers Christian-based programs for youth, families and adults. Thirty summer programs and day camps, including horsemanship and high adventure programs, and 12 year-round programs provide many options for participants, including high and low ropes courses.
“In 2001, Badlands Ministries had two year-round employees, ministered to 279 campers and served only a couple hundred people through our site rentals. In 2011, we had six year-round employees and ministered to 1,020 campers through our on-site and day camp ministries, and we served thousands of people through our year-round retreats and site rentals,” says Executive Director Brent Seaks. “We have been blessed to experience tremendous growth over the past 10 years.”
Camp of the Cross Ministries
Camp of the Cross Ministries is located on the shores of Lake Sakakawea near Garrison.
“We are a year-round retreat center and camp,” says Executive Director Janis Sloka, III. “We offer programs for all ages, from kindergarten to adults, all year-round.”
The camp began in 1954 and is owned by 72 Lutheran congregations and the UCC church of North Dakota. Camp of the Cross Ministries is focused on “Camping with Christ,” and offers a variety of activities and camp programs including residential camps, art camp, guitar camp, sports camp, fish camp, family camp, mission service projects and camper fun day.
Camp of the Cross Ministries serves approximately 800 campers each summer and 2,000 to 3,000 people through retreats and rentals from September through May.
“Since we sit on Lake Sakakawea, we are also able to offer a lot of activities including canoeing, swimming and kayaking,” notes Sloka, adding it is not too late to register online for this year’s camp sessions.
Crystal Springs Baptist Camp
Located 60 miles east of Bismarck, Crystal Springs Baptist Camp was founded in 1954 by the North American Baptists with the purchase of 211 acres on the shores of Crystal Springs Lake. In 2001, the camp began a major reconstruction and now all buildings are winterized and used year-round.
The camp serves approximately 4,000 people each year through summer camp programs and rental groups.
“The summer camps we program ourselves are the main focus of what we do here,” says Tim Brenner, executive director. “There are many activities we run for second through 12th graders. These include boating, canoeing, horseshoes, basketball and disc golf. We also have a climbing wall and a 300-foot waterslide.”
The camp is also rented to many groups, including church youth groups and other ministries, and fall and winter programs include a Women’s Retreat and Senior and Junior High retreats.
“We run programs that are both affordable and life changing,” says Brenner. “Camp is an incredible experience that will produce memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.”
FaHoCha Bible Camp
In 1947 there was a contest to name the new camp founded by the American Sunday School Union. From there the name FaHoCha Bible Camp was chosen for the camp, a shortened version of the words “Faith, Hope and Charity.”
“We are a small, seasonal camp 35 miles southeast of Devils Lake,” says Jay Deckert, executive director. “We provide faith-based instruction as well as many lake activities like tubing, blobbing, kayaking, paddleboarding and canoeing. We also have basketball and soccer, as well as a myriad of crazy camp games.”
FaHoCha Bible Camp serves between 600 and 700 children, teens and adults each summer.
“We are mostly a youth camp, but we are moving forward to provide space for adults and families as well,” says Deckert. “Our size makes us a very unique camp. We have a strong emphasis on faith in a close family atmosphere, and we are very affordable with a great scholarship program.”
Metigoshe Ministries, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, is a year-round Lutheran summer camp and retreat ministry located near the Turtle Mountains in north-central North Dakota.
“We are located on two sites,” says Jon Halvorson, executive director. “Camp Metigoshe is located on Pelican Lake and the Christian Center, a year-round retreat center, is located on Lake Metigoshe.”
Metigoshe Ministries offers summer camp for elementary students through college freshmen, as well as families. It also hosts day camps in area congregations, summer bible camp for campers with developmental and physical disabilities, and year-round retreats for youth, adults and families, and provides facilities for family reunions and a high ropes course for team building activities.
The Ministries served more than 2,000 people in summer camp programs in 2011 and had more than 5,900 people participate in retreat ministry programming at the Christian Center.
“Our mission statement is lived out each and every day through the strong and faith-building ministry programming that we offer,” says Halvorson.
Park River Bible Camp
Park River Bible Camp was founded in 1936 and is a year-round Lutheran camping ministry located on 120 acres of woodlands and river basin in northeastern North Dakota.
“Each summer we see anywhere from 700 to 900 first through 12th grade campers onsite. We also send our staff offsite to provide vacation bible school to about 15 different churches,” says Sean Barnhart, director of ministries. “We also host two camps each summer, Camp Good Mourning for grieving children and Camp Sioux, a camp for diabetic education.”
Activities at the camp include a 35-foot high climbing tower and a 25-foot high ropes course with a zip line, as well as a heated swimming pool, Ga-Ga pit, batting cages, nine-hole disc golf course and nature trails.
Park River Bible Camp’s retreat season runs from September to May and in that time the camp hosts quilting and scrapbooking retreats, rental groups and retreats for children and youth.
“We work to keep costs as low as possible,” says Barnhart of providing the opportunity for individuals to experience camp. “Camper registrations barely cover half the cost of coming to camp, and a faithful base of donors makes this possible.”
Red Willow Bible Camp
Red Willow Bible Camp is one of the oldest, continuously running Lutheran Bible camps in the United States.
“In 1926 a pastor from Devils Lake brought a group of high school students to the banks of Red Willow Lake to camp and have a bible study,” says Becky Goetz, who along with her husband Denny, serves as executive director. “This grew into a permanent site where the present camp sits.”
The camp is located north of Binford and its year-round facilities provide youth from kindergarten through high school, adults and families with camp activities. The camp is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is partners with member churches in the Eastern North Dakota Synod. Summer camps begin in early June and continue until the second week of August, with weekends filled with family reunions, church groups and youth organizations.
In addition the camp’s staff hosts vacation Bible school at area churches and communities. Red Willow Bible Camp has a variety of activities including an outdoor swimming pool and waterfront with canoes, kayaks and paddleboats.
The camp can host approximately 70 campers per week and its programming reaches about 800 young people each summer.
“Red Willow opens its doors to many denominations and groups,” says Goetz. “We invite all people to come and experience this beautiful place.”
Upper Missouri Ministries
In 1943 the idea was formulated to create a summer camp for the children of the Williston area, and by 1946 Upper Missouri Ministries celebrated its first summer of operation.
The camp, located near Epping, serves youth in first through 12th grade as well as families. Upper Missouri Ministries is located on 203 acres on the shores of Springbrook Dam and is owned by 42 ELCA congregations in northwest North Dakota and eastern Montana.
The camp provides centralized camping with cabins, a bathhouse and dining center as well as overnight camping and hiking in the surrounding prairie. There are also many waterfront activities at Springbrook Dam.
Year-round facilities are also available and the camp can host 100 to 125 individuals weekly in the summer and 60 to 75 individuals weekly in the winter. Upper Missouri Ministries serves 600 youth each summer and an additional 600 to 700 youth through Vacation Bible School at area churches.
In the fall and winter months, the camp serves between 2,500 and 3,500 individuals. “We strive to keep our groups small so campers get to know each other very well,” says Nick Johnson, executive director. “They spend a lot of time in small groups so they can learn the most they can about themselves and God.”
Wesley Acres Camp
In 2012, Wesley Acres is celebrating 60 years of summer camping. Nestled in the Bald Hill Creek Valley west of Lake Ashtabula, the camp is owned and operated by the Dakota Conference of the United Methodist Church.
“People of all ages attend Wesley Acres Camp as campers, to attend family reunions, or to participate in retreats,” says Kate Bartel, who along with her husband, Andy, serves as director of the camp. “During the summer we have a full schedule of Christian camps for all ages.”
The camp offers a heated swimming pool, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats, a basketball court, and disc golf course, as well as plenty of room to hike and explore.
“Wesley Acres is also home to the Awakening Hill High Ropes Challenge Course complete with zip-line across Bald Hill Creek,” says Bartel. Wesley Acres’ facilities are open year-round and are available for rental by churches, community groups and families.
In 2011, the camp hosted 1,867 individuals and a variety of groups including Farmers Union Camps, Barnes County Soil Conservation’s Eco Ed Camp, local and regional youth groups, adult retreats, family reunions and students from area colleges.
Additional camps in North Dakota were started by organizations working to further their mission and focus in the state through providing children with positive summer camp experiences.
Elks Camp Grassick
“Camp Grassick has been owned and sponsored by the North Dakota Elks Association for over 65 years, always with the same mission, to serve the children and adults of our state who have various disabilities and special needs through summer therapy programs and special services,” says Dan Mimnaugh, camp director.
The camp is located on the shore of Lake Isabel, five miles south of Dawson and serves 120 children and nearly 80 adults through six different camping sessions running June through August each summer.
Camp facilities include an infirmary, therapy buildings, large kitchen and dining hall, craft shop, recreation hall, office and cabins, all connected by cement sidewalks.
Campers are provided with a variety of services including speech/language services, reading instruction, occupational therapy, swimming instruction, supervised recreation, adaptive technology services and craft activities.
International Music Camp
International Music Camp, located at the International Peace Gardens, was founded in 1956. A fine arts camp, in 2012, it is offering 52 programs for middle and high school students wanting to study different art genres including music, theater, dance, visual arts, photography, creative writing and speech.
“We require no auditions,” says Dr. Timothy Wollenzien, camp director. “We are open to any student who makes the decision to come to camp.”
The camp is open June and July each summer and serves a total of 2,000 campers through seven one-week camp sessions.
“Our programming is intense in that we are like an art school, but we also offer many recreational and social opportunities,” he says. Individuals from across the world attend the camp, notes Wollenzien.
“Kids from over 70 countries have attended camps and we have extremely qualified artists and teachers who also come to work with the youth.”
The International Music Camp hosts public performances and shows every Saturday during the camping season, as well as a public concert every Friday night during music camp sessions.
Triangle Y Camp
The Colin Brown Y’s Men founded Triangle Y Camp in the early 1960s on the shores of Lake Sakakawea near Garrison. Since that time the Minot Family YMCA and Y’s Men have continued to support Triangle Y Camp, helping to build strong kids, strong families and strong community while reinforcing the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility through the camp’s programming.
Triangle Y Camp serves over 900 youth ages six to 15 each summer through seven residential camp sessions. The camp is also rented to organizations, church groups, corporate groups and family reunions and serves a total of 2,500 people each year.
A variety of activities are available at Triangle Y Camp. The waterfront includes kayaks, canoes, windsurf boards and sailboats, and the pond provides swimming, a ropeswing, and fishing. Campers also take part in sports and field, arts and crafts, archery, and riflery. The corral offers horseback riding as well as specialized Horsemanship camps, and the 50-foot Alpine Climbing Tower provides opportunity for climbing, team building and Climbers Camp.
Other specialized camps also include Mini Camp, Windjammers, Explorer Camp and Survivor camp.
Western 4-H Camp
The Western 4-H Camp, near Washburn, is the only remaining 4-H camp in North Dakota.
Established in 1967, the camp sits on the banks of the Missouri River near Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1804. Katie Tyler, 4-H youth development specialist, says the camp was created with a primary focus of providing education, outdoor recreation and leadership opportunities for youth ages six to 15.
“Programs are designed to develop skills for safe and healthful living, to enhance personal development and to provide constructive uses of leisure time. We are committed to providing a safe environment where children can make new friends and develop new skills.”
The 2012 camping season is scheduled over a 10-week period from May through August with a variety of camps, from Livestock Camp and Shooting Sports Camp to Technology Camp. Camp facilities include a main lodge for dining and three sleeping cabins, each with its own bathroom and shower facilities.
In addition, Western 4-H Camp has walking trails along the Missouri River as well as a basketball court, sand volleyball court, outdoor chapel, and two horse arenas. The camp also provides recreational activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, outdoor skills, games, crafts, swimming, dances and campfires.
Open on a seasonal basis, the camp serves more than 1,000 youth and adults through its camp sessions and rentals.
“4-H Camp is open to all youth, 4-H membership is not required,” says Tyler. “It gives youth an opportunity to try out 4-H because the camps are built around our core programs areas including healthy lifestyle, science, citizenship and outdoor skills.”
Additional information is available by calling local County Extension Agents.