Summer Camp

Summer Camp - It Wasn't All Work

Summer camp is the primary experience that provides alumni’s emotional ties to the department. The history provided here does not include the personal stories that tell what summer camp was really like. We very much want to include these stories, but need you to tell them. Please tell us yours, at least the parts you’re willing to make public. (The statute of limitations will have run out for most of the big events, depending on your age.) Your stories will be entered on a separate page and linked to this page. If you have photos that would be of general interest, send them to us, printed or scanned. Send to View our current FNR Summer Camp web page and our FNR Facebook for summer camp photos.

This page is based primarily on articles in the Purdue Log. Former Department Head, Dr. Mason Carter, provided background on the move from Lost Lake, WI to Branchville, IN. Professor Emeritus John Moser provided details on Lost Lake. Richard Haskett also provided many important details on Lost Lake. Professor William Hoover added material based on his memories of events.

How It Began

Students at forestry camp in Henryville, Clark State Forest.An extended field practicum, affectionately known over the years as “summer camp,” has been an essential component of the undergraduate forestry program since 1926 when the program was transferred from the School of Science to become the Department of Forestry in the School of Agriculture. The transfer was initiated with a letter from Dean of Agriculture Skinner, and George Christie, first superintendent of Agricultural Extension, to Purdue President Elliott. Laurenz Greene, head of the Department of Horticulture instigated the move. It was approved by the university trustees at their June 14, 1926 meeting. At this time Burr N. Prentice was named head of the new Department of Forestry.

In order to put the new forestry program into context, Dean Skinner asked Burr Prentice to survey other land-grant universities to determine enrollment in forestry and the number of faculty providing forestry instruction at the undergraduate level. While the survey was underway Burr Prentice corresponded with Ralph F. Wilcox, the acting state forester. Wilcox candidly told Prentice, “Your graduates are seriously handicapped both as applicants for positions and as foresters entering the practical field by their having very little actual forestry experience.” Prentice made Skinner aware of this issue who in turn informed President Elliott, noting that “[o]ne of the greatest weaknesses of the students in Forestry that have been turned out of this institution in the past has been their lack of practical knowledge of Forestry. It is deemed desirable and essential that they get this in a camp established for freshmen. All the more prominent institutions offering Forestry have summer camps for Forestry students.”

The president and trustees again supported Skinner’s request. All entering freshmen starting in 1926 were required to attend an eight-week summer forestry camp at Henryville, Indiana. The first camp was held in the summer of 1929, allowing all the students enrolled in the forestry program to participate.

Summer field practicums are not unique to forestry programs, but residential camps are becoming unique. Purdue is on a short list of institutions still requiring a residential camp. The expenses to the institution and students have grown over the years, leading to the cancellations of most residential camps. Purdue’s camp has been able to survive through the generosity of John S. Wright. Funds from his endowment make the program affordable for students. There are also camp scholarships available. The faculty has always supported the program with their time at camp, and advocated for its retention in the face of ever rising costs. The latest challenge is a 120 credit hour restriction on degree requirements. An exemption was granted by the Indiana Commission on Higher Education to the B.S. in Forestry degree because it is a professional program accredited by the Society of American Foresters.

Most alumni’s experiences at Purdue have convinced them that the forestry program was culturally different from other programs on campus. The difference is the personal relationships and camaraderie developed among students at summer camp. Wildlife Science majors joined the foresters at summer camp starting in 1998. They previously had no camp. Fish camp moved to Covenant Point with the forestry and wildlife students in the same year. Previously fisheries students did field work in Indiana. Although student relationships are strongest within each discipline because of shared experiences, they also exist across disciplines. Professor Charlie Miller might explain it in terms of camp being a very much reduced version of military basic training. When camp was held for first-year students the culture applied for almost the entire four-year program. It’s now held for students completing their second year, assuming required prerequisites are met. This delays the cultural change until the summer after the sophomore year. Faculty and staff continue to explore ways to engage new students beyond their classroom experiences.

Past Summer Camp Locations:

Rules, Regulations and Instructions:

  • Col. Miller's KP Instructions (1973 Iron River, Michigan) (coming soon)

Pictures shared by alumni, staff and friends:

Lost Lake Reunion:

Lost Lake Celebrates 75 years:

  • Lost Lake Celebration articles and letters (provided by W. Brad Smith, U.S. Forest Service, and the Florence County Historical Society​) Coming soon.