About Camp Northwoods

Camp Northwoods is located in Mason, Wisconsin, an hour east of Duluth. Set on 420 acres and surrounded by the Chequamegon National Forest, Camp Northwoods has the feel of the pristine wilderness yet offers modern amenities for girls. Campers can go horseback riding at the beautiful Jane Olive Equestrian Center, complete with two riding rings and miles of trails. Camp Northwoods specializes in adventures, and girls can move through horse, kayak, canoe, backpack, and bike programs.

Camp Northwoods’ History

The first people to live on the Camp Northwoods site were Native Americans, and “Chequamegon” is a French adaption of a Ojibwe word for “peninsula”. There was once a logging camp on our site as well, and remnants of the logging camp as well as Ojibwe axe blades, tools, and pottery were found when the Tall Timbers unit was being constructed.

The oldest buildings at Camp Northwoods is Voyageur Lodge and the Abbey, and both date from when the camp served as a corporate hunting and fishing retreat. This retreat included other small cottages and buildings, but only these two buildings remain today.

Girl Scouts Arrival at Northwoods

Early Girl Scout campers at Northwoods
Early Girl Scout campers at Northwoods

The St. Paul Area Girl Scouts originally owned just Camp Lakamaga, but they were beginning to outgrow it by the mid-1950’s. Disappointed in not finding a suitable location near the Twin Cities, they started exploring further away from home. Girl Scouts pitched their first tents in the area where the Wastahi building now stands in 1956.

When the camp was officially dedicated in 1959, there were just three units now known by the names Chippewayan, Solheim (“sunny meadow”), and Coin du Bois (“corner of the woods”).

The first building the Girl Scouts constructed at camp was Wastahi, a combination of the words “water”, “stars”, and “hills”, which served as the camp’s infirmary.
The Wastahi building is still in use today.

The first building the Girl Scouts constructed at camp was Wastahi, a combination of the words “water”, “stars”, and “hills”, which served as the camp’s infirmary.

Northwoods’ Leadership Program Begins

Girl Scouts in 1968 tend to a fire
Girl Scouts in 1968 tend to a fire
In 1963, a group of 13 Senior Girl Scouts ran a day camp on the Lac Court Oreilles Chippewa reservation, making a favorable impression John Anderson (Banajance), a tribal elder, who recognized them as Honorary Thunderbirds of the Chippewa.

When the Council expanded the camp to allow for Counselor-in-Training programs, they named the new section of camp Thunderbird after those 13 Seniors. Northwoods is now the main camp where our future leaders begin their service as Counselors-in-Training, and they can progress through more advanced leadership trainings as they grow.

Girl Scouts’ Expand their Camp Offerings

Horses draw many campers
Horses draw many campers

Camp Northwoods was intended as a rustic retreat for older Girl Scouts and a launching point for wilderness trips, especially for canoeing. In 1961, some girls who liked trips but not canoeing hiked up to Bayfield to have a campfire on Lake Superior, starting Northwoods’ tradition of backpacking trips.

Camp Northwoods’ horseback riding program began in 1976, and the first extended horse trip left camp in 1980. Advanced riding groups often staged horse shows, first at a ring near the Voyageur area, and later on a local ranch. Horses have continued to be a popular draw to Camp Northwoods as girls can begin their love of horses with us, and experienced riders can go on longer rides in the Chequamegon National Forest.

Recent Improvements

Northwoods' Equestrian Center
Northwoods’ Equestrian Center

In 2001, Girl Scouts held a fundraising campaign that allowed the construction of three new troop houses, a shower house, and a new equestrian center. There are regular improvements and developments to make sure our camps continue to have amenities desired by modern girls and their families.