Camp Decorah

Camp Decorah History

When the Gateway Area Council was created by the Boy Scouts of America, it had use of the area that is today’s Camp Decorah. The camp was owned by the area Rotary clubs and was called Camp Young Bear after the camp director, Dan Young Bear. Camping was very primitive during the first years. The first major improvement was a hand pump, so scouts wouldn’t have to carry water up from the river. Surplus army tents were obtained for the scouts to sleep in. The Gateway Area Council was given ownership of the camp on January 1, 1928 and renamed Camp Decorah, after a Ho Chunk (Winnebago) chief, One Eye Decorah. Legandary Chief Decorah had lived in the area of the camp during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During the spring of 1928, eleven cabins and a dining hall were built by a group of carpenters and other service organizations from the La Crosse area. This made the camp usable for most of the year, although it was mainly used as a summer camp. The dining hall was destroyed by fire in 1935. The new dining hall was completed in 1937, and is currently being renovated into a supplemental year-round building and museum. Around 1950, the cabins were no longer used for scouts and were removed and Camp Decorah moved to tent camping for scouts. Additional land on the South side of Council Bay Road was added to the original North-side acreage around 1960. Today, Camp Decorah extends over 330 Red Pine-wooded waterfront acres.

Camp Decorah Present Day

Camp Decorah is nestled in the heart of beautiful Western Wisconsin. This area of the country is known for its rocky bluff lands known as coulees. Western Wisconsin is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise. Hiking and biking the bluffs, navigating the many local rivers and waterways including the mighty Mississippi River, a temperate climate, and unbelievable outdoor recreational opportunities are just a few of the reasons tourists come to visit the Coulee Region. Camp Decorah is roughly 15 miles north of La Crosse, WI, sitting on the Black River. The Gateway Area Council and other youth-serving organizations utilize the camp throughout the year for council and community events including the operation of a Nationally Accredited Scout Summer Camping experience. Facilities include a full service dining hall, shooting ranges, a swimming pool, large waterfront area including a stocked fishing pond, a four-sided climbing tower, COPE elements, handicraft facilities, a nature center and trail network, and much more.