Iron River, Mich. (WZMQ) – For seventy-eight years, Camp Batawagama has been a staple in the lives of children from ages nine to sixteen. Nestled between the waters of Indian and Chicagon Lake, the youth camp has remained virtually unchanged since its founding, gracing the lives of four generations of children. Lorna Cameron Addison, whose father founded the camp, has been a part of it since the beginning.
“We have tried to keep the camp so that when grandparents come in, they recognize it,” Cameron Addison explains. “So yes we have a new mess hall, it is much bigger, but it looks just like the old one. The stones in the fireplace are from the original fireplace.”
However, three years ago, the camp was closed, causing heartache for those who had grown up with it. “We were closed for two years, and there were no squeals, there were no running feet. There was no laughter, there was just silence on the camp. So when the first child came down the hill, I had to take his picture,” she stated. “That was just exciting to have the place open again to have it be what it was meant to be, which is a place for kids to be,” added Cameron Addison.
While the camp has remained true to its traditions, it has grown in other ways. Previously, it had only five very old wooden rowboats and six canoes. Now, it boasts five aluminum rowboats, twenty-eight canoes, and countless kayaks. They have even added a new pickleball court, which is a hit among the youth campers and senior citizens alike.
Despite the challenges, the heart of Camp Batawagama remains the same. It continues to be a place where children can come together to learn and enjoy the great outdoors. And the staff at Camp Batawagama understand that summer in the U.P. is all about the kids, the families, and creating memories.
For over a decade, the camp’s Youth Program Director has been a part of the Batawagama family. It’s no surprise that many of the camp counselors and staff stay on for decades – the magic of Batawagama is palpable in every corner of every building and every foot-padded trail. The camp is a vibrant blend of Upper Peninsula camp culture and cherished memories that have been passed down through generations.
“We’re singing the same songs that a lot of these kids’ parents and grandparents and even great grandparents sang when they were campers here,” says Matt Ruitta, the youth program director after finishing up with teaching some Ukulele lessons. “We spend a lot of time talking about conservation, cooking outdoors, and watercraft safety,” he added.
Although this week’s campers will say their goodbyes on Friday, the excitement at Batawagama is far from over. With five more weeks of summer camps still to come, there’s plenty of time for kids to join in on the magic of a U.P. summer. The camp is still accepting campers, eager to provide them with the same unforgettable experiences that have been enjoyed for generations.
Tonight, the kids are going on an overnight excursion into Batawagama’s outlying campsites, including Chicagon Lake, Minnie Lake, and the Brule. It’s a chance for them to experience the great outdoors and bond with their fellow campers.
The next group of campers will arrive on Sunday to meet their counselors, take their swim test, and start a whole week of non-stop summer fun. For these kids, Camp Batawagama is more than just a summer camp – it’s a time-honored tradition that they’ll cherish for years to come.
For more information about the summer camp, visit: