“It was my daughter’s first camping trip and she had an absolute blast!” one thank-you note read. Similar sentiment came from participants in three CAMP (Camping Adventure with My Parents) overnight programs held this summer at the Niobrara National Scenic River.
Novice family campers were recruited from the surrounding rural Nebraska and South Dakota areas to spend a weekend learning camping, outdoor cooking and recreation skills in safe, facilitated and no-cost events held at Smith Falls State Park campground near Valentine, Nebraska in July and August.
“You made the weekend very educational, comfortable and enjoyable,” another participant wrote. Campers learned skills such as selecting campsites and setting up equipment, camp cooking and even making apple crisp and S’mores over a safely built campfire.
Families enjoyed going on a nature scavenger hunt, swimming in the river to beat the summer heat, making a memory book of their experiences and going on their first-ever canoe trip.
Emily Cook, a Student Conservation Association Intern, effectively organized and led the CAMP programming effort. “Everyone had fun including the staff. Seeing the smiles of the families made the hard work of planning and organizing worth it,” she said. Additional help came from park staff and volunteers providing mentoring and skill instruction for families.
Involving under-represented families and children in nature and outdoor recreation is a shared goal of the National Park Service, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and The Niobrara Council who worked in partnership to conduct the CAMP programs.
Park partner Smith Falls State Park generously provided the use of their campground facilities, campsites, picnic shelter, firewood and parking. The Niobrara Council provided partner assistance in obtaining groceries for each camp weekend.