Camp Winnebago 50th Anniversary

Camp Winnebago YMCA was established in 1967. We are celebrating 50 years in 2017. Over these past five decades, thousands of area youth have experiences the magic of Camp. Many have gone on to become strong leaders in various professional industries. We are proud of the Camp Winnebago heritage and look forward to another 50 years.

Growing with Camp Winnebago

Thousands of years ago, the glaciers of Northern Illinois receded and Camp Winnebago, as we know it today, began to take form. Plants returned and game became very plentiful. Today, this habitat of woodlands, streams, prairies, fields and natural springs is a great place to get in touch with the environment. It provides a perfect setting for canoeing, hiking, and many other outdoor activities.

The area of Camp Winnebago has an interesting history. The first settlers were the Winnebago Indians. The Winnebago Indians settled in the Rock River Valley where they could hunt in the winter and raise crops in the summer. They were the first farmers in the area. In 1837, at the end of the Black Hawk War, the Winnebagos were forced to give up their land. 

Almost 100 years later, in 1966, the YMCA purchased a track of land to be used as an outdoor recreation facility. It cost $30,000 and was located six miles north of Rockford on Illinois Route 2. The site was opened a year later as a training ground for the members of staff and youth leaders, and day and resident camps. The land included a spring-fed lake and wooded areas.

By 1972, the summer camp attracted more than 600 kids and it was time to expand. A year later, a 14-acre gift was given by Commonwealth Edison to join the existing acres. Again in 1973, they contributed another 15 acres of land. The plans were to build a lodge that could be used year-round. The lodge was finally finished in the fall of 1974, and its main purpose was to facilitate camp programs.

By 1984, the YMCA again began to look for ways to expand. In 1989, there were 260 campers a week and 2,000 campers a summer. The problem was solved in 1990 when a land developer and the YMCA agreed to swap 15 acres of the riverfront property with 68 acres of land across the road. The Y already owned 50 acres on the West side of IL Route 2, which made for a total of 118 acres. This gave the Y fewer concerns with children crossing the road and it gave them enough room to relocate.

The new land included a year-round log lodge, an outdoor amphitheater and two pavillions. Around 2,200 campers were expected to attend that opening summer in 1991.

In 1996, the 130-foot climbing wall was added. In 2000, they began building two new facilities - an addition to Webster A called Webster B, and the Johnson Environmental Center. These two additions were completed in 2001 along with Splash Fountain, a sprinkler used to cool off on hot days, and the Black hole, a slide through a long black tube.

Since 1966, Camp Winnebago has provided kids with a fun-filled summer of canoeing, trail hiking, archery, crafts and games. This natural habitat is the perfect place to provide a memorable summer and rewarding experiences for each child and family.

ALUMNI - We Want Your Stories

Tell us about your experience at Camp Winnebago YMCA. When were you a camper? What was your favorite part? What do you remember most about your time at Camp Winnebago? Submit your story below.