Camp Manito-wish YMCA

Camp Manito-wish YMCA

Camp Manito-wish YMCA, is a wilderness tripping camp located in Boulder Junction, WI in the heart of the Northwoods, surrounded by hundreds of lakes, rivers, streams, and state forest land.


Camp Manito-wish YMCA was established in 1919 by the Wisconsin State YMCA Board as a small wilderness tripping camp for boys. The area was chosen for its wilderness setting and prime location in the center of Northern Wisconsin waterways, ideal for exploring by canoe. Walter “Daddy” Wones was one of three men sent to the Northwoods in search of an ideal spot to have a summer camp. Looking at a map of the area, Wones counted over 290 lakes within a ten-mile (16 km) radius around camp. Wones decided that this was the place, a perfect setting for a wilderness experience for young men.

The original twenty-five acres of land purchased by the Wisconsin YMCA had previously been known as the Rabbits Foot Resort, owned by Bill Paquette. A dining hall, six cabins and a few other facilities were all that stood here at the time of the purchase. Lakeview cabin is the only building from Rabbits Foot Resort that is still standing today.

Located on Boulder Lake, in the middle of the Manitowish chain of lakes, it was only obvious to name the camp after the waters of the area. The word Manitowish is Ojibwa and is believed to translate to “playful spirit.” Camp hyphenated the word using the Ojibwa beginning, with the English word “wish” as an ending, to convey a desire “for all to achieve what is best for themselves.”

Daddy Wones was appointed Camp Director and in July of that year the first session of camp began. Early camper life was disciplined, including mandatory pre-breakfast morning swims, bible studies and calisthenics.

Today, over 85 years later Manito-wish has grown from a small wilderness tripping camp to one of the most established and respected youth camps in the world. Our programs have expanded from a few weeks during the summer, to year round programs offered to people of all ages. Despite the changes however, the mission has remained the same, ensuring that the core of the Manito-wish Experience has touched the lives of thousands that have participated in our many programs. Today anyone who partakes in our Summer Camp, Outpost, and Leadership programs has the opportunity to experience challenge and growth just as campers did in our beginning years.

Timeline in Manito-wish History

1919 - First year of operation.

1924 - Nash Lodge opened for the first time. Money to build Nash Lodge was donated by the Nash Motor Company.

1930s - Many buildings were added as camp operations expanded.

1930 - The first Canadian canoeing trip known as the Canuck was created. The trip paddled along the Minnesota and Canadian border. They rented Canoes from an outfitter in Ely, MN- Sigurd F. Olson. In later years they packed out at YMCA Camp Widjiwagan in Minnesota. 1934 - Chapel was built in a natural clearing among the pines where it is currently located. It was dedicated to Daddy Wones in 1951.

1936 - Wones retired and Elmer Ott, a former staff member, took over as Camp Director.

1941 - Girls Camp’s first year was a big success. The turnout and popularity of the program exceeded the Boards expectations and brought many new traditions to camp such as celebrating birthdays, the canoe sing and the elephant walk.

1946 - The first Women’s Canuck set out for Quetico Providential Park.

1946 - General Eisenhower thrilled Manito-wish campers and staff by visiting the camp while on a Northern Wisconsin retreat.

1950s - Further expansion and building replacements took place. Ott and the camp committee brought about the purchasing of campsites on many surrounding lakes to assure future site for canoe trips. To Ott’s dismay, wooden canoes were replaced by aluminum canoes.

1960s - First International European trip to Germany. Other international trips have also gone to the Far East and to Scandinavia.

1968 - The Huffy Dens were renovated into the first winterized facilities at camp, which opened opportunities for winter camping programs and outdoor skill weekends.

1970 - Manito-wish ceased to be a camp owned and controlled by the North Central Area YMCA, and was chartered as an autonomous local YMCA with its own board of directors.

1972 - After 35 years, Elmer Ott retired and Bob Telleen took over as Camp Director.

1973 - First year of Family Camp.

1974 - Under Telleen’s direction, the Outpost Program was begun and the Leadership Lodge was built to house the new program.

1980 - After 61 years of canvas army tents, campers first experienced the wonder of nylon tents.

1986 - The first Adult trip went canoeing in the Quetico.

1988 - The first Sea Kayaking Trip set out to the Apostle Islands.

1990 - John Stanley appointed Executive Director, after Telleen retires.

1994 - Stanley started the Manito-wish Leadership Program.

1994 - The Lang Challenge Course opened.

1996 - The Voyageur Program began its first year as a new trail based program for Far North aged campers.

1998 - The Manito-wish Leadership Center and The Smith Leadership Village were dedicated.

1999 - Rolf Thompson became our 5th Executive Director in 81 years. Under his guidance, Camp’s winter office moved from Waukesha, WI to Boulder Junction.

2000 - Anne Derber was appointed 6th Executive Director.

2001 - The Boyce Administration Center first used as Camp’s year-round office.

2008 - Nash Lodge completely renovated and updated and re-opened for Memorial Day Work Weekend.


Is to provide fun, life-enriching experiences for our campers. We will work to see that all those who are associated with us have a “Manito-wish Experience” where each participant grows in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God and in favor with one another. ()

The Manito-wish Square

Founder Daddy Wones adapted the Manito-wish Square symbol from the symbol of Camp Manitou, in New Auburn, WI, which is meant to represent mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional growth. Each side of the square represents one of the four qualities. The square stands on a point, signifying that each side is in balance with the next and not dependent on one side alone. Traditionally, the square is white and stands for purity; the “M” itself is blue, standing for true blue friendships; the border is gold, which stands for the high quality of experiences and friendships that are made. The square is the symbol of Manito-wish and stands for the philosophy of living a “four square life.”

Manito-wish Belief Statement

Every Manito-wisher possesses unique gifts that are of high value to its group and should be shared.

Every Manito-wisher is challenged physically, socially, and emotionally by the trail experience and is afforded the opportunity to lead, resulting in strong feelings of self-worth.

Every Manito-wisher is placed in a natural setting where a sense of wonder about creation is enhanced and their sense of responsibility for our environment increases.

The spirit of God is present in the Manito-wish experience. Therefore, every Manito-wisher has opportunities to recognize this presence in the setting, the leadership, the program, and in one another.

ummer Camp Program

The Summer Camp Program is a single gender program – boys in the first half of the summer, girls the second half of the summer – for campers entering 5th grade to 10th grade. Campers attend Program areas that include swimming, mountain biking, horseback riding, archery, rifles, sailing, music, canoeing, kayaking, crafts, and tennis. Every camper also participates in a wilderness trip.

Wilderness tripping is at the center of Manito-wish. Trips begin as short as two days in length for the youngest campers, and get longer in length – up to 10 days – for older campers. All campers begin on canoe trips and learn the basic trail skills from paddling, portaging, cooking, as well as Leave No Trace skills. As campers progress through the program, longer more challenging trips are offered including backpacking in the Porcupine Mountains, and sea kayaking in the Apostle Islands.


Camperships or scholarships are available to cover camp expenses. Funds are made possible by a network of generous alumni who believe in having the Manito-wish Experience available for everyone.

Outpost Program

One of the most distinctive aspects of Manito-wish is its Outpost program, which focuses on longer and more rugged wilderness experiences. This is an invitation only program for campers that have progressed through the Summer Camp Program. With an interview, other teens are welcome to apply. The Outpost program also has a progression, from the Voyageur level to Intermediate, Advanced and Expeditionary. All levels feature an option between a canoeing, kayaking or backpacking expedition. In the Voyageur program, campers live in tents while in camp and prepare for their nine day trips. The Intermediate level trips are 14 days in length, the Advanced are 28-33, and the Expeditionary are extremely rugged, lasting up to 55 days.

Voyageur Level Trips

Boundary Waters Canoeing - 8 days

Superior Hiking Trail Backpacking - 8 days

Apostle Islands Sea Kayaking - 8 days

Intermediate Level Trips

Pioneer (Quetico) Canoeing - 14 days

Isle Royale Backpacking - 14 days

Georgian Bay Sea Kayaking - 14 days

Advanced Level Trips

Saskatchewan (Canuck) Canoeing - 30 days

Western Backpacking - 24 days

Mariner Kayaking - 26 days

Expeditionary Trips

Expo Canoeing - 45 days

Expo (Alaskan) Backpacking - 45 days

Expo (Pacific) Sea Kayaking - 45 days

Leadership Program

The Leadership Program is a year-round leadership training center for schools, colleges/universities, and youth serving agencies. Highly trained staff combined with amazing facilities, challenge course, and trail experiences are combined to provide customized programming.The Leadership Program focuses on it’s Collaborative Leadership curriculum that teaches around the Seven Qualities of a Manito-wish leader.

even Qualities of a Collaborative Manito-wish Leader

A Manito-wish leader builds a shared vision.A Manito-wish leader builds models: tries it… changes it… tries it again.A Manito-wish leader shares a common space with others.A Manito-wish leader lets others amplify their abilities.A Manito-wish leader knows that followership and leadership go hand in hand.A Manito-wish leader doesn’t collaborate to turn out the lights.A Manito-wish leader celebrates successful collaborations.

The Seven Qualities are the core principles behind the Manito-wish Collaborative Leadership Model. These qualities were developed as tools in reflection of the leadership skills learned and practiced through our history of wilderness tripping and serve as the backbone of the Manito-wish Leadership Program. You can find more about these qualities in the Manito-wish Leaders’ Manual.

Leadership Adventure Program

At Manito-wish the Leadership Adventure Program combines The Seven Qualities of a Collaborative Leader with a wilderness experience that Manito-wish has become known for. This program is focused around building better leaders. By working closely with a Manito-wish facilitator participants learn to push their boundaries both at Camp Manito-wish and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Sessions are available for both male and female participants.

Manito-wish Staff

Outdoor Leaders School

The Outdoor Leaders School at Manito-wish is designed to provide outdoor leadership training that can only enhance leaders ability to lead in an outdoor setting. Each course is active and provides an opportunity for in-depth training that Manito-wish staff training periods cannot always cover. All Outdoor Leaders School courses are taught by field professionals. Leaders walk away with solid training, growth in their skills, and most importantly, confidence to provide positive experiences for the people in their care.

WMA Wilderness First Responder

The Wilderness Medical Associates WFR course is designed to help you deal with medical emergencies when help is miles away. Become prepared for emergencies that include prolonged patient care, severe environments, and improvised gear. This is the definitive medical training course for all outdoor leaders.Three-year certification. Note: course includes CPR.

WMA Challenge/Recertification Course

This 3-day (24 hour) course is a recertification course open to graduates of ALL wilderness medical training courses of 64 hours or longer with a current certification. Upon successful completion of this course you will receive Wilderness Medical Associates WFR, Anaphylaxis and BLS-level CPR certifications. WMA WEMT graduates with a current EMT-B or Paramedic certificate may also recertify the wilderness portion of their WEMT.

Wilderness Water Safety

This is a 20-hour course designed for individuals leading trips or lifeguarding on lakefronts. Part of the course will be taught in a pool and part in Boulder Lake. Three year certification recognized by the American Camp Association as a lifeguarding equivalent. Does not include first aid and/or CPR.

Wilderness First Aid (Camp Manito-wish YMCA Staff only)

A two-day, hands-on first aid training for trip leaders taught by Wilderness Medical Associates. Topics include patient assessment, equipment improvisation, and backcountry medicine. Note: course includes CPR.

taff Instructor Course

28-day Staff Instructor Course that combines leadership/skill development and goal setting for work done during the summer. Depending on the group, time of summer, availability of quality leader and budget, the trip will be offered in Canoeing, Backpacking and Sea Kayaking.

Participant will be paid for training and Summer Camp work and will be a participant actively engaged in becoming a better leader in the Outdoor Education/Trip Leading field.

Participants will be required to have a Winter/Spring meeting with leader and Camp at a convenient location to decide on location and focus of trip. Participants will be actively involved in the planning and logistics of trip.

Expectations:~You must complete lengthy application process and be accepted into program.~You will be a role model staff members.~Leaders will share experiences with staff and campers to improve upon the knowledge base of Manito-wish.~You will return to Camp the following summer and share your talents.

Manito-wish Groups

Manito-wish Groups is a branch off of the Leadership Program for groups that use the camp’s facilities, but do not partake in programming. Groups include family reunions, church groups, and school groups looking for a retreat during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. Over convert|30|mi|km of ski trails are kept groomed in the winter for these groups. Some groups choose to use the climbing wall, or dine with Camp, but most do their own thing while at camp.

External links

* [ Manito-wish Official Site]
* [ Manito-wish Staff Blog]
* [ ACAcamps]
* [ Wisconsin YMCA Camps]
* [ Wilderness Medical Associates]
* []
* [ Boulder Junction Chamber of Commerce]
* [ How to pick a summer camp]

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