Wilderness, with a Body of Water Nearby

Wilderness, with a Body of Water Nearby

Summer Camps in Maine Are Part of a Long Tradition

Kristen Munk | pexels.com

It feels as though Maine has always had a reputation for being one of the best places to spend the summer at camp. With more wilderness than many of our New England neighbors, we are uniquely suited for the traditional “rustic” camping experience.

The first Maine summer camps opened in the early 1900s, as part of a growing trend based largely in New England. A handful of these camps—including ones opened between 1902 and 1907—have celebrated their centennials and are still in operation today. Among them are Camp Wohelo, Camp Runoia, Pine Island Camp, and Wyonegonic Camps. The latter holds the title of the oldest continually-run girls’ camp in the country. Established in 1902, this Denmark, Maine, camp, situated on the shores of Moose Pond, attributes its longevity to a few key points: staying true to its mission, being active with its alumnae, and walking the line between tradition and the changes in our culture. Not surprisingly, these first camps were mostly located on large tracts of wilderness, with a body of water nearby.

Many will attest that finding the right camp can be life-changing. Children not only learn skills from their activities, they also learn independence, leadership, and responsibility. Their horizons are broadened as they meet people from different parts of the country and even the world. Thousands of children come to Maine each summer in search of fun and friendship. Camp adventures in the great outdoors can be among the most powerful memories of youth.

Parents look for a place that will build character, that will be safe, and that will offer a vigorous, worthwhile, and enriching experience for their children (with the added benefit, some feel, of providing summer childcare).

Even when the experience isn’t “perfect,” it can still be positive and memorable. My parents’ single attempt to send me to a week of summer camp resulted in my cabinmates and me eating something funny the first night of camp and being quarantined for the first few days while we fought down the nausea. Thankfully, we all made a full recovery, with several days left to enjoy all the camp had to offer. And the extra togetherness made for plenty of time making friendship bracelets and pen pal plans. I still fondly remember the confidence of my counselor, the swim lessons, and listening to Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” during the dance on our final night of camp.

With over a hundred camp experiences in Maine, from day camps to overnight sessions lasting several days or weeks at a time, camp operators like to say that there is a camp for everyone. As summer (finally) draws closer, there are a few websites that can aid in your search for the right camp for your family this year. The Maine Summer Camps (mainecamps.org) and Maine Camp Experience (www.mainecampexperience.com) sites both have information on session rates, camp activities, and even videos.

If you’re exploring day camp options, Maine Summer Camps also includes listings for some local day camps. I always recommend looking at the day camps offered by your local YMCA or Recreation Programs as well. If sports aren’t your children’s thing, don’t let that hold you back. There are dedicated camp programs for music, art, science, and farming, all available here in Maine! The benefits of day camp are similar to those of overnight camps: making new friends, learning responsibility, going on field trips, and doing activities with others their age all day. Often, although not always, day camps come with a slightly lower price and with a bit more flexibility in the session lengths than many of the overnight camps.

For many, camp is also about time away from screens and the pressures of society. Between cell phones, tablets, television, and computer time, it can be a struggle to disconnect from screens and fully engage in their community, both for children and adults! Camp is the perfect opportunity to connect with others who have similar interests and brush up on in-person social interactions, all while getting fresh air and sunshine.

Whatever your needs, camp might be just what you were looking for this summer!

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