NWF Campouts Connect Families to Nature

NWF Sponsors Campouts Around the Country

07-06-2011 // Mary Burnette
Great American Backyard Campout Atlants

From coast to coast, NWF-sponsored camping adventures provided over 1200 adults and kids with a fun outdoor experience as part of the Great American Backyard Campout, joining over 100,000 campers throughout the country relishing a night under the stars.

Cloudy with a Chance of Camping

Threats of rain did not intimidate approximately 700 Washington state families and children for their  NWF-sponsored Campouts at Redmond’s Farrel-McWhirter Park, a beach-side event at Silver Lake Park in Mill Creek, the Tacoma Metro Park, along with three park Campouts around the Spokane Valley.

In Redmond, 65 family campers came together to play, walk trails, BBQ and visit the farm animals on site. Kids colored animal masks, played animal imitation games and of course anxiously awaited s’more time at the campfire. Thanks to REI, families without camping equipment were able to borrow tents and other camping equipment to make their Campout enjoyable.

At Silver Lake, it was a sellout crowd with 142 campers. Activities included classes on Dutch oven cooking, Leave No Trace Behind, camping safety, as well as night sky viewing through telescopes, a pancake breakfast, along with canoe and kayaking opportunities.  The Campout was declared a success when one young girl who had a strong dislike for bugs exclaimed “Bugs aren’t so bad because nature is where they live, and they do a lot of good.”

Camping Like a Pioneer

Over 60 new campers joined NWF, REI and other partners at Travelers Rest, Montana, for a Campout event with a historical twist. Traveler’s Rest, now a state park, is the campsite used by Lewis and Clark before and after they crossed the Bitterroot Mountains in 1805.

Great American Backyard Campout Travelers Rest

Several Travelers Rest Preservation and Heritage Association volunteers re-enacted the roles of Lewis and Clark, dressed in deerskins and shooting flintlock rifles, throwing axes and putting up canvas lean-to-tents.  Participants were also treated to fly-fishing instructions from NWF resident fisherman, Land Tawney.

Thanks to REI, even those with no camping equipment could join the fun. Camper Tammy Bonner said her children have been so involved in sports that they haven’t been camping in more than four years. Not to worry, Bonner and other campers were allowed to use free tents donated by REI which also had their staff there to host a Leave-No-Trace activity.

Other activities from leaf painting to a rock climbing wall and insect identification encouraged Rowan Fortunanti to bring his 6 year-old grandson to the event, a camping orientation for his Cub Scout days starting in September.

Great Lakes Camping is Really Great

Moving East, the NWF Great Lakes office held their Campout in partnership with the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over 200 people participated to experience a birds of prey and raptor presentation, an REI orienteering lesson, a nature hike, invasive species pull, a native bat presentation, geocaching, nature crafts, campfire with hot dogs and s’mores, star gazing, and an early morning bird walk. Wow, I bet those folks went home tired!

Great American Backyard Campout Great Lakes

Each year this Ann Arbor event attracts families and kids who have never camped before. Many go away pledging to make the Campout a family tradition, inviting friends and more family next year.

Camping Southern Style

NWFs Southeast office offered 200 camping virgins the opportunity to experience a night under the stars at the Outdoor Activity Center in Southwest Atlanta.  Ten year-old Lakesha Parks and her two siblings, Michael, 6, and Amanda, 8, were excited to camp for their first time. “We have never camped before, so we were just excited to stay in a tent and make s’mores,” said Lakesha. “The s’mores were the best, but I burnt my marshmallow a little,” she continued.

Campers  were provided tents, sleeping bags and ground pads from event co-sponsor REI. Activities were on-going including: a nature-themed playground, guided night hikes, geocaching, an Aztec tribal dancing demonstration, a campfire storyteller , along with a delicious dinner and hearty breakfast. National Wildlife Federation mascot, Ranger Rick, made several appearances throughout the day and night.  Wonder if he met up with any of his raccoon buddies?

Great American Backyard Campout Great Lakes

To make the day even more festive, Radio Disney provided music, games and giveaways throughout the event.

Camping in the Big Apple

Camping came to the city when NWF teamed up with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and REI, to hold a Campout in Prospect Park, in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. Ten families, most of whom had never camped before, won a lottery to experience this night under the stars. One parent had to explain to her 3-year old who had only known an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, that they were going to sleep in a tent that night.

The kids loved jumping into their tents for the first time.  NWF staffer Eliza Russell, led a flag making craft with all the kids making flags to identify their tent. REI provided GPS units so kids and their families could participate in a geocache adventure with gifts and fun for all.

Great American Backyard Campout Brooklyn

Toasting marshmallows was a highlight of the event. Banana boats joined the traditional s’smores for good eats: utter gooeyness of banana, marshmallows and chocolate chips, wrapped in foil and placed in the fire.

Capping the festivities was a night-time hike into a natural area of the park known as the “ravine”. The kids were all decked out with flash lights to check out the creatures of night. Slugs were the big find of the night.

And the Winner Is…

A special Campout shout-out to Elizabeth O’Connor, her partner Sylvia, and other local moms of the “Cupcakes and Cocktails” group for sponsoring a Campout at O’Connor’s South Pasadena, California home and raising $1,350 for NWF, the highest single donation NWF received for the Great American Backyard Campout event.

Kids at this event enjoyed art projects, potato sack races and tug of war. All the food was catered from local high end food businesses, which helped attract campers. “We will do this again next year,” said O’Conner. “Hopefully by getting the word out we will inspire others to do the same.”

Find out more about other Great American Backyard Campout adventures at www.backyardcampout.com

Subscribe to Ranger Rick Magazines today!