IDAHO FALLS — The staff and volunteers of YMCA Big Elk Creek Resident Camp are preparing to welcome back campers this month.
The campground has been closed for the past two years due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. But this year, the campground will reopen and offer youth ages 7 to 16 several camping options to choose from.
“There’s such a deep love for this camp,” Big Elk camp director Sarah Olivieri told EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s really changed the lives of a lot of people. It’s a really unique place and a very special place to a lot of people.”
The campground offers six cabins, a large lodge with electricity and a full kitchen, running water and a bathhouse with showers. The electricity to the camp is supplied by a hydroelectric generator that runs off a small spring in the hills above the camp.
Along with the lodging, Big Elk Creek also provides a wide range of activities to its campers.
“We have paddleboards and kayaks and canoes and mountain bikes,” Olivieri said. “There are so many possibilities and opportunities to give the children in our community.”
This summer’s camps have been organized around specific themes and will feature activities that will give campers the opportunity to learn new skills they can use throughout their lives.
“Our June camp (June 13 to 17) is a nature camp,” said Olivieri. “All of our camps have the traditional activities such as hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, fishing, swimming and campfires. The nature camp includes all those activities along with a focus on outdoor education. That includes additional hiking, learning to identify animal tracks and learning about trees, plants, berries and flowers.”
July’s camp (July 25 to 29) will be a survival camp and will focus on skills needed to survive in the wild.
“The kids will get to learn how to build shelters and if they want to sleep in them overnight, they can do so,” Olivieri said. “They learn to start fires without a lighter or matches and land navigation and they’ll get to do some huckleberry picking.”
Both the June and July camps feature full five-day, four-night options and three-day, two-night options. August’s camp (August 19 to 21) is a three-day Back-to-School bash.
“The Back-to-School Bash is a three-day party for the kids,” said Olivieri. “There are contests and competitions and there are movies under the stars. There will be games and a glow stick dance party and super-fun food.”
Opening Big Elk Creek in the wake of COVID presents a number of challenges. The absence of camp for two years means that the continuity of returning campers and counselor was broken and needs to be rebuilt. But Olivieri said the effort is worth it to give kids an experience they’ll never forget.
“This camp is really the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “The kids get to learn independence and who they are. It’s a really awesome opportunity. The possibilities are absolutely endless.”
For more information about programs at YMCA Big Elk Creek Resident Camp, to register your child for camp or if you’re interested in donating to support programs at the campground, contact Sarah Olivieri at (208) 523-0600 (ext. 408) or email her at email@example.com.