N.D. 4-H Camp offers new experiences and facilities

Farm Forum

New adventures await campers at the North Dakota 4-H Camp near Washburn this year.

Campers also can enjoy the just-renovated camp facilities and new multipurpose Johnsrud 4-H Education Center.

The Cast-away Fishing Outdoor Skills Camp, for youth 10 and older, is one of the new offerings.

“I’ve had a lot of requests for this camp,” says Adrian Biewer, youth development specialist in the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Center for 4-H Youth Development.

“Fishing is a way to get kids back to nature,” he notes. “They have to learn about the fish and their habits to understand how to catch them. The kids will test the lakes for pH and nutrients. A watershed model will be used to discover how clean water is important to fish populations.”

Campers also will learn to paint jigs, mold rubber worms and make spinner bait lures, and spend three days fishing.

“No other camp has that concentration,” Biewer says.

The Create It: Science, Photography, Woodworking and the Junkin’ It: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle camps are new, too.

Create It is for youth 8 and older who like to tinker or try new things. Campers will participate in a variety of science, photography and woodworking workshops and make their own creations. Junkin’ It lets youth 8 and older explore their creative side as they learn the principles of design and make home decor and other items from recyclable material.

The You’re the Chef and Clover camps were so popular that camp planners have added a second camp for each of them. In You’re the Chef I, youth 8 to 12 will make treats using certified kitchen equipment. They’ll also learn about outdoor cooking and food preservation, and eat what they make. You’re the Chef II is for youth 12 and older and takes cooking up a notch.

Clover Camp teaches 5- to 9-year-olds the basics of camping. This is a great experience for youth who are camping overnight for the first time, Biewer says.

In all, the North Dakota 4-H Camp will host 20 camps this year. The first one starts June 5 and the last one starts Aug. 7. Many of the regular camps are returning, including the Livestock, Wish I Had a Horse, Survivor Outdoor Recreation and 4-H Adventure camps.

“When youth attend North Dakota 4-H Camp, they will have the ultimate camp experience,” says Callie Johnson, state 4-H Camping Committee co-chair and the Extension family and consumer sciences agent in McHenry County. “Not only do they get to do traditional camp activities – the camp fires, arts and crafts, water games, making new friends and such – but we fill our days with fun, educational, life skill-building activities. We have developed educational standards for each camp to ensure that youth have the best educational experiences happen.”

Youth do not have to be enrolled in 4-H to attend the camps.

As part of the renovations, the camp gained a pollinator garden that will give campers an opportunity to identify native plant species and observe butterflies. Last summer’s outdoor skills campers helped install butterfly houses and 4-H groups helped plant the garden.

The camp also has a new, approximately two-mile walking trail with markers to indicate where hikers can stop along the way to learn about the Lewis and Clark expedition and do a physical activity, such as jump on one foot, do push-ups and pretend they are paddling a canoe.

The 84-acre camp is along the banks of the Missouri River near Fort Mandan, where explorers Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1804. The camp began as the Western North Dakota 4-H Camp, one of two regional 4-H camps. Now it is the sole statewide 4-H camp facility.

The camp added a second gaga ball court as well. Gaga ball, which is played in an octagonal pit, is similar to dodge ball, but the ball is made of soft foam. The game combines skills such as dodging, striking, running and jumping.

“All the kids want to do that, so we needed more room,” Biewer says.

The Johnsrud 4-H Education Center, named in honor of Myron Johnsrud, NDSU Extension director from 1974 to 1986, will be used for camp registration and large-group activities, and as a place to hold activities indoors in bad weather. Two attached shower houses have reinforced walls to protect campers in storms.

The renovations at the 49-year-old camp received a thumbs-up from campers last summer.

“The new shower house was way bigger,” says Cassidy Strommen of Fort Rice. “Last year, there were only two showers, and this year, with five showers, everyone had time to shower.”

Her brother, Cooper, was impressed with the renovated sleeping cabins.

“I thought the new bunks were a big improvement,” he says. “They were really solid. The boards were a lot more stable and you didn’t bounce around as much.”

Cassidy Srommen added: “The canteen also improved this year with a lot of new 4-H stuff.”

Foster County 4-H’er Adam Gorseth liked the improvements, too.

“The new showers were great, with plenty of space,” he says. “The remodeled dining center was nice.”

These improvements were part of a $2.35 million project that included the construction of the Johnsrud 4-H Education Center. Donors provided $1.4 million for the project. The state Legislature provided the other $950,000.

The foundation launched another campaign to raise $400,000 for furnishings in the cabins, dining hall and new center; small-group seating; and amenities such as a crafts shack, multidiscipline shooting range and a fishing pond. Longer-term plans may include a high-ropes course, and more walking and riding trails. A state grant paid for the pollinator garden, walking trail and chapel renovations.

The Center for 4-H Youth Development will provide camp scholarships to youth based on financial need or special circumstances. The North Dakota 4-H Foundation provides the funding for those scholarships. Some counties also provide scholarships, so youth should contact their local Extension office to learn about the availability of funding.

Visit https://www.ndsu.edu/4h/camp/ for a camp schedule, information on how to register and what to bring to camp, and a scholarship application.