Blue Ridge Scout Reservation
Ed Henderson (biged@SCOUTER.COM)
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 03:06:50 -0500
I noted two Scouts-L members (Marie Lackore & Dan Moser) both writing about
the Blue Ridge Scout Reservation of the Blue Ridge Mountain Council. This
is one of the finest camps in Southern Region. While the council is only
of average size, they have set about making their Scout Reservation one of
the nation's top 10. I have been to their camp on several occasions, and
can only point to a small handful of other councils in the Southern Region
that have the pull and attraction of Blue Ridge (Thunder Scout Reservation
in Georgia, Daniel Boone in North Carolina and Roy C. Manchester in
Kentucky all come to mind).
Blue Ridge, on over 16,000 acres is the second largest camp in Southern
Region (behind only John Zink Scout Ranch of Tulsa OK at 30,000 acres). On
it rest Camp Powhatan & Camp Ottari as well as the unmatched Pine Knoll
Trail High Adventure trail. They make excellent use of their geographic
location with whitewater rafting trips on New River Gorge (their video
makes it appear that the New River runs through their camp however, it does
not). They also have a rugged Mountaineer type set up with themed sub
camps much like Philmont does in New Mexico. As far as I know, they are
the closest thing to the kind of "hike for a day and arrive at a new sub
camp with a theme" experience that Philmont offers anywhere on the East Coast.
Like most camps of this caliber, they fill up fast, always turning troops
away who wait to long to sign up. This is particularly so in this National
Jamboree year for any scout camp in Virginia.
The camp is not far from I-81 and yet so expansive you really can get away
from the trappings of our modern hectic world. Yet it is modern enough
and equipped with excellent facilities so your scouts get a first rate
quality program. Another point in the camp's favor, they don't mess around
with sending their staff to National Camp School. The average run of the
mill camps send just who they have to, (according the National Camp
Standards Guidelines) using every opt out and excuse available not to send
someone to Scoutcraft, Nature/Ecology and Chaplain sections. The great
camps, realizing that a scout will have a bad experience if they have
uninspired counselors reading out of Merit Badge books and who have no
interest in what they are teaching, go the extra step of insuring that
their staffs have extra training and resources to do the job right.
Consistently, I have been impressed with the caliber and quality of the
staff members this camp sends to National Camp School.
The Blue Ridge Scout Reservation is about forty miles west of Roanoke in
southwestern Virginia. The BRSC is located in the ridge and valley terrain
of the Appalachian mountains and includes several mountains and three large
watersheds. There are over 120 miles of hiking trails. Many of the trails
are also approved for mountain biking. This is one of the few remaining
camps to have a full horseback riding program.
Like High Knoll, the New River High Adventure Program is for older scouts,
explorers and adults that are camping with their troops at Camp Ottari or
Camp Powhatan. Each day a different feature is offered including White
Water Canoeing, White Water Rafting, Caving, COPE Climbing, and Rappelling,
and Mountain Biking. The COPE course features a 40 foot climbing/rappelling
White Water Canoeing is done off reservation on the New River or James
River depending on water level and other factors. Transportation for all
off reservation trips is provided by fifteen passenger vans. Lunch is
provided for all day programs. All boats and safety equipment is provided
and all trips are guided. White Water Rafting is done off reservation at
West Virginia's New River Gorge called the grand canyon of the east.
Transportation and meals are provided en route. Caving is done off
reservation at one of several caves in the area. The COPE course and
climbing/rappelling tower is located on the reservation. Mountain Biking is
done on the reservation on the extensive 100 mile trail system.
The High Knoll Trail Camp is a Philmont style backpacking program that
operates in the backcountry of the large reservation with more than 100
miles of hiking trails, six staffed outpost camps and a several of
unstaffed outposts. Crews on High Knoll will hike from outpost to outpost
participating in at least one of our unique outposts each day. During the
week, each crew will cover between 35 and 50 miles of rugged and primitive
trails. This is the only scout camp east of the Mississippi where a scout
troop can earn the 50 miller award and never have to leave the scout camp.
The manned outposts may include King Ranch (horseback riding, western lore,
chili, and cornbread), Hanks Haven (Mountain biking), Puncheon Camp
(wilderness and rough living), Bark Camp (rock climbing and rappelling),
White Oak Camp (tree spiking and logging lore), Point Camp (rock climbing
and rappelling), Indian Village (Native American lore and crafts),
Appalachian living (Mountain lore, and crafts) and Rendezvous (Black
powder) . All outposts are not offered in all years. The participants on
High Knoll can also arrange a white water canoeing or white water rafting
trip as part of their trek or on the Saturday before or after their trek.
There is an additional fee for whitewater trips. The program is open to
scouts 12-1/2 by June 1 and a first class scout. We recommend that a scout
have two years experience at summer camp before going on High Knoll. Coed
explorer posts are welcome at High Knoll and there are opportunities for
Byrd Lodge is the newest camp that opened in the 1996 season. Byrd Lodge is
located a few miles off of the reservation on Claytor Lake. The camp offers
basic and advanced sailing, motorboating and water skiing. The camp program
now includes all of the aquatics merit badges
except swimming which is a prerequisite for all participants.
Camp Ottari is the smaller camp of the two camps and is located on the
eastern end of the reservation. It accommodates around 200 scouts and
leaders in ten sites. It is the most rugged and most beautiful of the two
camp and sits in hilly terrain with a mix of forest types. Ottari has the
largest of our two lakes which allows us to offer small boat sailing. The
lake features a good population of bass and bluegill.
Camp Powhatan, on the western end of the reservation, is larger and can
handle up to 350+ scouts and leaders in 14 sites. It is located in the
valley of Max Creek and is not quite as hilly as Ottari. The camp has been
in continuos operation since the 1950s. Its facilities include a new 400
seat dining hall, a 900 seat amphitheater, and several new showers. The
lake is stocked with trout.
Programs for both camps include a traditional merit badge program, first
class adventure program, and demonstrations. One popular feature is a
weekly cooking demonstration at each camp by nationally known camp cook and
author Torchy Walrath (he is a former Mayor of Blacksburg and author of
BSA's "Camp Cookery for Small Groups" - that's the one that BSA Supply
Division has sold thousands of over the years. Horseback riding, mountain
biking, any hiking are
available for the more adventurous.
Another program that separates this camp from the crowd is a program that
only a very few other camps (Thunder in Georgia being one of them) have
attempted. They have joined up with the Girl Scouts to have a co-ed high
adventure camp which has been going on for several years. This is very
popular with older scouts and offers Senior Girl Scouts a chance to
experience some real high adventure type programs that very few GSUSA camps
have the ability to offer.
The camp has produced a first rate video which is available from the Scout
Service Center in Roanoak Virginia. The office address is:
Blue Ridge Mountains Council
2131 Valley View Blvd.
P.O. Box 7606
Roanoke, VA 24019-0606
The camps themselves are reached at:
Rt. 1 Box 98A (Powhatan)
Rt. 1 Box 199 (Ottari)
Hiwassee, VA 24347
Phone 703-980-3787 (Powhatan)
Phone 703-980-4762 (Ottari)
They can still improve some. Their Trading Post was, the last time I
checked, a cookie cutter rendition of the Supply Division catalog, having
little else in it. For the most part this camp & council remain Internet
Silent with no official Web Page active by the council (you can get an
excellent regional listing of all Boy Scout Camps in North Carolina and
The challenge is for this camp to remain what it is, it forces other
councils to make continuous improvements to their own camps, or risk
loosing campers and shutting down their operations.
I urge others on Scouts-L to explain their own positive camp experiences
and for everyone in 1998 to vote with their feet and money and carry their
scouts to councils that place a priority on excellence in summer camps.
<>: My thanks & acknowledgement to Dan Brown of Troop 56 in
Blacksburg VA, New River District, Blue Ridge Mountains Council for some of
the information in this post. Now you too can find out anything in Scouting
by going to the post powerful scouting search engine in existence for
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