Council HomeAdminMonday September 25, 2017

RUM RIVER SCOUT CAMP

“Twas a cold and snowy tramp through the woods on that mid-October day in 1957. Local lawyer R. W. Johnson, his son Robert M. A. Johnson, Federal Cartridge official Tom Haller, and Isanoka District Scout Executive Tom Manko had as their mission the selection of a property for a new Boy Scout camp in the growing Twin Cities Metro Area.

The Joseph Bowory farm in then Ramsey Township had all the attributes necessary to become an exciting Scout camp – 167 acres on the Rum River, easy access to the heart of the Metro population center, magnificent mixed hardwood forested areas, wetlands, and open prairie acreages.

Anoka businessman Harlan Thurston commissioned Manko to find such a property and then gave to the Viking Council a “penny stock” with sufficient market value to provide the $10,000 purchase price. The Rum River Scout Camp was deeded to the Viking Council on November 6, 1957.

The original development plan was prepared, acres of coniferous trees were planted, and the Rum River Scout Camp became a year-round beehive of Scouting Adventure.

As great visionaries do, they soon realized the potential for outdoor experiences for youth and a new expansive development plan was conceived. In 1972-74 massive changes started to take place. A new entrance and sign were installed. A mobile home was moved to the camp to house Larry and Cheryl Mercer as caretakers. And the need for a camp headquarters building became a targeted Council priority.

Once again Harlan Thurston sensed the urgency of this need and in 1972 made known his decision to donate securities to Viking Council to provide funding for a Rum River Campmaster Building. The $50,000 Thurston Lodge at Rum River Scout Camp was opened with a Scouter fund-raising breakfast on February 6, 1974.

(John) Weaver Activity Center, named for a Viking Council Board Member with longtime service as the Properties Committee Chair was built in _____.

(Pat) Colbert Activity Center, named in honor of a Viking Council President was built in ______.

In September of 1975 Bob and Mary Jo Litke arrived to replace Tom Manko as the Camp Ranger to start their family. the original ranger house was a mobile home. A permanent ranger house was built to replace the mobile home and they moved into their current dwelling 12 days before Christmas 1977. This was none too soon as it finally provided a warm environment for Wade who Mary Jo had been trying to keep wrapped warmly since his arrival 3 months earlier. As Bob will say, he’s still looking for his first “real job”. His service to camp has always been one of love and dedication to the program thus not a job. In Bob’s typical understated way he says, “Long story short, raised 2 boys on camp, Wade and Chad, built a couple things, ran some programs, do some maintenance, and still have some things on my original work list yet to complete.”

On September 2, 1992 the $140,000 Julian Schmidt Campmaster Building was officially dedicated. The capital funds had been raised from within Viking Council’s Pathfinder District and much of the construction was donated in cooperation with the Anoka Vocational/Technical College construction classes.

Today’s camp, still adapting to changing needs and program, consists of 8 numbered campsites with 10-16 patrol sites each. Throughout camp are numerous private sites, picnic area, campfire bowls, and a chapel. Facility buildings include Thurston Lodge, Colbert Activity Center, Weaver Activity Center, Julian Schmidt Campmaster Building, Ranger’s Home, workshop and program storage building.

Rum River also offers program and learning opportunities. There are 2 sports fields, archery and BB gun ranges, COPE course, confidence course, canoeing, a beautiful diverse ¾ mile long self-guiding nature trail through swamp, hardwoods and pines, and an orienteering course. Winter activities also include snowshoes, cross-country skiing, broomball, and a sliding hill.

The 3 winterized buildings are available year around for many and varied individual uses, district events, or any other group.

Each weekend you are greeted by a wonderful, diverse group of talented Campmasters willing to assist you in programs and in the use of many skill kits available.

Over the years many programs and activities have utilized the camp. Some are: Viking Council Cub Day Camp, Viking Council Fun with Son, Viking Council Lad “N” (Dad, Mom, Parent, Family), Viking Council Staff Conferences, Viking Council Training Events, District Camporees, District Webelos Events, District Cub Day Camps, District Training Events, Order of the Arrow Conclaves, events and service projects, plus the many Crew, Troop and Pack Outings. It has been a popular stop off for troops from out of council as they travel to the Northern Tier Canoe Base or Okpik.

Camp use has never been limited solely to Scouting. The YMCA operated a day camp on the facility for several years. School districts including Minneapolis, Anoka, Robbinsdale, and Osseo hold day activities and week long summer programs on camp. In the spring Outdoor Adventure classes for canoeing are held. Orienteering clubs visit the camp. It is the site of the City of Ramsey Safety Camp and many fire department trainings.

Ranger Bob sums it up best: “As I look through all the years and different times at camp, there still is a thrill watching a parent and son explore and get excited about the outdoors and camping. It’s hard to imagine the different world inside camp. You only have to travel 200 feet down the driveway to realize the city surrounding camp is gone and you’re in an amazing outdoor environment.”

Help us fill in the blanks

If you have any items you want to share, please contact

Bob Zeman at bobzeman@msn.com or

Bryan Northrup at bnorthrop@comcast.net

Caretaker and Ranger History
??? Larry and Cheryl Mercer
???  - 1975 Tom Manko
1975 - Present Bob Litke
Read about some of the important people in the history of Rum River Scout Camp:

Ranger Bob Litke

Harlan Thurston

Julian Schmidt

Duane Haugan