Members of the Lions and Soroptomist clubs were invited to Camp Cottonwood for an appreciation barbecue and tour on Saturday, July 10. The two organizations gave funds to the Camp for renovation projects. Two camper cabins, and the cabin known as the Nurse’s or Administration Cabin, were under stress from years of water damage and sagging foundations.
The clubs’ monies paid for Philibert Construction to jack up the structures, replace foundation beams as needed, and settle the cabins level and firm on large cement blocks. Steps to all the cabins were replaced, and solid railings built where needed. This will give years of new life to the buildings.
After a tour, Carl Tracy cooked delicious barbecue. Why does food taste so good when you are out of doors?
Many of the guests had been campers and counselors over the years, and there were lots of stories about the history of the camp. Tracy brought the minutes of the meeting on November 23, 1949 that incorporated Cottonwood Camp, plus a camp resume written in 1956. It is usually called Cottonwood Camp, but legally is Cottonwood Camp, Inc., and is sometimes called Cottonwood Organization Camp.
In January 1950, the Forest Service permitted a 99-year lease, which was all of two pages long. When the 99-year lease expired, the Forest Service wanted to go to a yearly lease. At that time, Tracy was President of the Board and convinced the Forest Service to give the Camp at least a 20-year lease. Anything less would make it difficult for the Board to apply for grants and implement improvements, since the process can take several years for each grant. Today’s Special Use Permit runs to about 60 pages and expires in 2028.
Normally available for rent to groups, Camp Cottonwood has been providing outdoor fun for close to 75 years. It is nestled next to a lake under Cougar Peak, north and west of Lakeview.
There are five sleeping cabins plus a large cabin that has been used for administration and for a camp nurse in years past. The kitchen/dining room, sometimes called the lodge, has several refrigerators, two commercial stoves and plenty of space for preparing meals and gathering to eat. There is also a big native-stone fireplace in the dining area.
Electricity for the lodge is provided by a generator, and there are several canoes and rowboats available, with life vests in all sizes. There is plenty of room for tent camping and for RVs, but no hook-ups.
The current kitchen was a cabin that the Elks had and donated to the camp. In the old minutes is a record of a thank you note sent to the County Road Commissioner for use of a lowboy to move the cabin.
The Lions have supported Cottonwood Camp many times over the years, including putting in a cement pad for Cabin 4 in 1973. In 2003 Cabin 4 collapsed under a huge snowload. Collins-McDonald gave $18,000 to replace it. BJ Albertson had his shop students build the new structure, in four pieces, in town. There was still so much snow on June 1 that year, that the Board had to bring up tractors to plow the way into camp.
Loggers had kept the road clear up the hill from Hwy 140. Once in place, the structure was bolted together, then sheathed and roofed in place.
Barb Simpson, Soroptomist secretary, was counselor several years and director one year. Many groups used the camp, including Campfire Girls and 4-H. In recent years, the facility has hosted church groups, family and class reunions, a Fine Arts Camp sponsored by Lake County ESD, and the high school track team.
When Simpson was counselor for a camp, the dining room was packed full with kids. Camp lasted 10 days, including a one-day hike up Cougar Peak and an overnight backpack trip to Patton Meadows, where the campers had to carry all their own gear.
Glen Plato was flying recon for the Forest Service then, and he would fly over every evening and drop a message from Smokey Bear, to the great excitement of campers and staff.
Many people, and now generations, have helped keep Camp Cottonwood going. The Lake County Historical Society’s book “100 Years of Lake County” includes a story Jim Ogle wrote about Barb Simpson’s dad: During a work crew at camp, he spent all day hammering roofing on one of the buildings. When he finally got down the ladder, he had to have his fingers pried off the hammer.
Sally Fitzgerald, another Soroptomist, recalled Shirin Sabin and Ricarda Clause cooking for a reunion of the Lakeview High School Class of ‘66, where one attendee observed “the food was so good that the garbage smelled like butter.” Barbie Harlan did music and organized games, including singing all the old camp songs. Others remembered counselors sneaking off at night to meet their boyfriends, who drove up from town to the gate.
At some LHS Class Reunions, “Coffee Nudge” was the drink of choice. Recipe: Coffee, brandy, Kahlua, cream de cocoa, and whipped cream — heavy on the brandy and Kahlua.
Cottonwood Camp is a non-profit run by a volunteer Board of Directors, available to groups from Lake County and beyond. Sadly, because of the Bootleg Fire, this year’s camps had to be cancelled on Wednesday, July 14 since the National Forest is closed until further notice.
For more photos and information about Camp Cottonwood, visit the website www.campcottonwood.org.
If you want to plan a family reunion, or are part of another group that would like to reserve space to use these facilities in summer 2022, contact Joanne McCreath at 541-326-1147.