Oswegatchie is translated into its native language to mean “Land of the Dark Waters”.
A Home Away From Home
Think about the people that come to Oswegatchie. How many people have spent a summer at Oswegatchie while on staff? Think about the teachers that have been attending Oswegatchie since they were students. How many of these people visit Oswegatchie more than twice a year? Oswegatchie has become a comfortable place just like home to hundreds of people.
While I write this, there are 6 adults, 4 children, 2 horses, and 3 dogs that live at Oswegatchie on a year round basis. They sleep almost every night within 100 yards of a pond, they inhale the fresh mountain air everyday, and they walk the land for one purpose or another.
A Summer Camp
To many that attend Oswegatchie, it only every will be a summer camp. The heritage of Oswegatchie is based on the summer camp origins. The founding fathers of Oswegatchie Camp wanted a place that could be used to bring agricultural youth into the Adirondacks. These men had the vision to make Oswegatchie available for youth of the future. They created the way to offer what we have become today.
Open Year Round
The Oswegatchie Camp became the Oswegatchie Educational Center in 1997. Why? Because in order for Camp “O” to survive into the future, it needed to generate more income to support itself. For many years in the 1980s and 1990s, summer camps all over the country were dying off. With the support from Todd and Shari Lighthall, they were able to turn the tide away from closing and bankruptcy, to using the assets like the ropes course and Sutliff Lodge in order to make a place that a student could utilize on a year round basis.
A Winter Paradise
Winter in the Adirondacks can be a cold and snowy place. Temperatures in winter time can easily become -30F and stay like that for days and weeks. The snow can pile up to 4 or 5 feet. The deer and other wildlife fight for their survival just to find food. Despite this bleakness, it can be a glorious time for cross country skiing, skating, snow shoes, sledding, and for just socializing inside Sutliff. Oswegatchie will fill every weekend from after Christmas until Easter.
A Day Trip
Many elementary students visit Oswegatchie just for the day. During maple season, we will have roughly 500 students visit to learn about maple sugaring. Autumn in the Adirondacks attracts a few schools who wish to see the leaves change. Winter time brings young students to Oswegatchie for winter ecology and snowshoes. The spring gets buggy when the elementary students come to experience our pond ecology program.
A Ropes Course
Much of our leadership training is accomplished at our ropes course. It is utilized often and makes up a large part of our program. Even during the winter time, low ropes elements find their way into our programs. The high ropes course is a major component in the confidence building that happens to most students.
A Volunteer Opportunity
Oswegatchie relies heavily on volunteers to get the big projects done. Our Adiron-Duck Race couldn’t happen without the 80 volunteers that attend. The fall and spring work weekends are crucial for opening and closing the buildings. Many crews will volunteer for different projects like lean-to or horse corral building. During the summer time we have agricultural educators doing everything from sawmill and firewood work to rebuilding porches or finishing landscape. Oswegatchie couldn’t survive without this support.
Do the math, if you figure since 1946 how many people attended Oswegatchie, just for the summer camp. Certain years, we have had no more than 300 students attend camp. Some years we have had 800 campers. On average you can figure 500 campers x 68 years = 34,000 campers! Then add in all the teachers, staff, guests, and other participants that have visited Oswegatchie. The number could grow dramatically.
Consider the lifetime of memories that Oswegatchie has created for so many people. It is not uncommon to have people stop in to visit and reminisce about when they were campers. Many of these people were campers 30 to 50 years ago.
Above all else, Oswegatchie is an experience. As a staffer, you make the crucial difference between a great experience and one that is easily forgotten. From now on, whether you attend Oswegatchie as a summer staffer, a volunteer, a ropes facilitator, a teacher, a parent, or a participant, you have a duty to all others that attend Oswegatchie to make it an unforgettable experience. Why bother to have a place like Oswegatchie if everything we do here doesn’t leave the participant changed in a positive and healthy way.
"Taken from our Summer Staff Handbook"
- Bill Waite
Summer Camp Director, 2000 - Now