Winnebago Scout Reservation

Winnebago History

The first people to live in this area were the Delaware Indians - the Lenni Lenape people. Most Lenape villages were located along the Delaware River, but trails passed through this area which the Native Americans used to travel to the east for trade and for gathering shellfish near the mouth of the great Passaic River. The current Route 46 was such a major trail.

100 Years Ago

If you visited what is now Winnebago 100 years ago, the land would appear very different. On the way up into our mountains from Denville and Rockaway Boro, one would have passed extensive iron mining operations. The Hibernia Mines, the Beach Glen Mines and others date back to Revolutionary War times, and were active mines well into the first half the 1900's. The iron ore was known as magnetite. It is dark and heavy and can be recognized by the way it moves a compass needle. Pieces of this rock can still be found as you hike the lower parts of the Four Birds Trail which starts in Hibernia. A railroad once carried the ore down out of the mountains.  Mine slag, the rock left after the iron was removed from the ore, can be found along the road near the dam at the south end of Durham Pond. Mine slag was apparently used to create the earthen part of the dam. The purpose and origin of the dam is unsure.

The hills and mountains of this area were rugged, with poor soil and few areas flat enough for farming. Tough Norwegian farmers had migrated to the USA in the 1800's and established some dairy farms where they could farm throughout the hills. The Green Pond Golf Course was such a dairy farm. There were few homesteads in these rugged hills.

First Scout Camping

The first Scout camping occurred at Durham Pond in 1916. A troop from Montclair came in to camp for several weeks and set up camp at the south end of the pond near the dam. Because of a mix up with the arrangements to use the property, they were forced to leave after about a week. They moved camp nearby Lake Ames. As was the practice in the earliest days of Scout camping, the Montclair troop brought all their own equipment, supplies. and food. Scouts now call this "outpost camping." By 1923, the Boy Scouts of eastern Union County had use of a large log cabin and fields located in Watchung reservation, which was a part of the Union County park system. The log cabin was used as a dining hall. Later, when their own camps in north Jersey were established, the "Boy Scout Camping Area" continued to be used for short-term weekend camping.

1930's and 40's

In the 1930's the Union Council Boy Scouts used a part of another council's camp, Kenetewaupec, in Blairstown for much of their camping. In 1940 the council started negotiations on a large tract of land in Marcella. The land was purchased in 1941 and by that summer the first troop camping occurred. Each campsite had a stove, an icebox, a latrine, and running water from a driven well. The first week of camp saw only one troop, Troop 23 from Elizabeth. The five campsites could handle up to 150 Scouts, and by the third week camp was full. Campers slept in tents on platforms with cots and mattresses filled with straw. Scouts paid $7.50 for the week, and cooked their own food which was supplied by the camp. The huge property was nearly three square miles, and much of it was sold to create Camp Marcella, Camp Lewis, part of Farney State Park, and the north end of Split Rock Reservoir. Hiking and canoeing rights were retained for the north end of Split rock.

1950's

The first section of camp to be developed was at the south end. A dining hall, now called Baden Powell Lodge, was constructed as was a waterfront at the point of land now known as the Searing Site. By 1953 the road into the north end of camp was well established, and most of the camp was operating at this end. It was this year that the name Camp Winnebago was selected. The Winnebago's are a tribe of Native Americans. Up to this point, the camp was simply know as the Union Council camp in Marcella. The present dining hall was in use by this time and the Health Lodge was in what is now the Kiwanis Cabin. The trading post was in the Winter Lodge. The rifle and archery ranges were located below the dam on the trail to Split Rock Reservoir. In 1963, a small bank building from Kenilworth was moved to camp and became the present trading post and administration building for summer camp.

1960's

In 1967 the Hayden Foundation donated $150,000 to dredge and deepen the lake which was becoming choked with weeds and less useful for swimming and boating. A dike was constructed across the marshy area at the north end of the lake and the dredge spoils placed behind it. The waterfront was now moved to its present location beneath the dining hall. In the 1980's the present parking lot was created and the old one converted to the parade field. This was a safety improvement which separated campers from moving vehicles. In the 1980's and 90's many camp improvements were made. many of which were done by the Flintlock's, a group of retired Scouters who still work hard on many a weekend. Many other improvements were carried out by a group of volunteers known as the Evergreen K. It was during these years that the B.P. Lodge was restored for adult training purposes as well as troop cabin camping.

When did Camp become Winnebago Scout Reservation? In 1969 a Frontier Camp for wilderness camping was opened on the east side of Durham Pond. The purpose of this site was to promote week long summer troop camping in the old Scouting tradition of troop cooking. Because of the multi-camp nature the term scout reservation was now used.

50th Anniversary

On August 3, 1991, Winnebago celebrated its 50th anniversary with a re-union of staff campers, and scouters. A patch, pin, and anniversary booklet were issued. In July 2001 a similar event celebrated the 60th anniversary with camp tours, a dinner, and a campfire. Staff tenure was recognized at the campfire and Richard Mager was found to have been on staff for 41 years. The next closest was George Reinhard with 17 years. Both were still on staff for the 201 camping season.

The New Millennium

Greeting the new millennium …. It is bigger and better than any time in its history…  it is WSR in terms of the refurbishment of all of the camp's rustic cabins highlighted by the all new Craig field and cabin, the construction of  a dining hall addition with year-round restrooms and showers featuring handicapped accessibility, the construction of campsite pavilions and the total renovation of the aquatics area including a new swimming area/dock and boating dock, an aqua trampoline, Mager Mountain and a new storage building and tower attached to the renovated boat house. The innovative programming at WSR offered multitudinous themes of Survival, Super heroes, Pirates, Wild West, a Mysterious Summer and Moby Pickle as well as the celebration of Boy Scouting's  one hundredth   Anniversary. During this time Carl Moritz was the camp ranger retiring in 2010 followed by Curt Haak as our present ranger and Camp Director. In 2009 Rich Mager celebrated his 50th Anniversary as a Winnebago staff-man and his legend will continue as Aquatics Director/ Program Consultant in 2013. So indeed, Winnebago's future looks bright as it approaches its 75th year of adventure and excitement filled with fun, fitness, learning and earning.


Night Watch

Thousands of Scouts and Scouters have hiked and loved these Winnebago trails. Thousands have heard the Legend of Winnebago enacted by Winnebago staffers at hundreds of closing campfires. The original legend is included in this Night Watch. Its message to Scouts echoes from the hands of its unknown author sometime prior to 1959. All of you will now be part of the thousands who have hiked the trails and heard the legend. Do your part to make this camp a better place then when you found it. Start tonight with your Night Watch. If you have a campfire keep it safe by tending and watching it all night or by extinguishing it in the proper way. If you have cabin fire do the same. It is a common practice. especially when younger Scouts are present to have a watch all night for safety and to promote a feeling of security. This practice, along with the reading of the story of Camp Winnebago and the message of its legend is what we call the Night Watch.

This Night Watch was prepared by Jeffrey Huppert, Scouter and former Winnebago camper and staffer.

Winnebago Reminiscences - click here

As told by Rich Mager, Jeff Huppert, and George Reinhard - Edited by Pat & Ron Jaremcak

Page last updated: 03-07-2013 08:15 am