Since its creation in 1927, TMR has had a full and rich history. The following History of Ten Mile River is reprinted from the TMR Scout Museum Website.
By the middle of the 1920's Scouting was growing at a tremendous pace. There were, at that time, living in the great city of New York men who were dreaming of vast unspoiled woodland acres as a solution to a problem which weighed heavily on their minds and hearts. This group was the New York City Boy Scout Foundation which, in 1924, was headed by a man of great foresight as well as an abundance of Boy Scout training. His name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who shortly thereafter became Governor of New York State and eventually guided the destiny of the United States as President throughout the Depression era and World War II.
When Franklin Roosevelt was chosen as President of the Boy Scout Foundation, the Camps at Kanawaukee Lakes in the Palisades Interstate Park were being used for the Boy Scouts of New York City. Year after year the attendance at camp had risen steadily until the possibilities of camp expansion were exhausted. The camp was simply too small and no more wild lands were available in the vicinity with which to enlarge the camping facilities.
Accordingly, about 1924, Roosevelt's far reaching vision and limitless energies started the ball rolling toward the acquisition of a new Boy Scout Camp Site large enough to meet the demands of any eventuality. Certain members of the Foundation searched diligently, for two years, within a fifty mile radius of New York City, but to no avail. It was deemed absolutely essential, in the first place, to acquire a very large parcel of land. Other requirements were that the land should contain lakes, streams, swamps, and timberlands, and should not be traversed by numerous highways. Naturally, no such camp site could be found within fifty miles of New York. After examination of many maps and another year of careful investigation, it was found that options could be placed on thirty-two small parcels of land and farms in the region of Ten Mile River, all of which adjoined to form an area of approximately eleven thousand acres. Furthermore, this aggregation of land contained all of the several essential requirements desired.
Trained and trustworthy Scout Officials had been charged with the investigations and bound to the policy of a "tight mouth." It was fairly well known that the Boy Scout Foundation had raised more than a million dollars for the purpose at hand and that there were many who would prey on that million if afforded the opportunity. As a testimony to the trustworthiness of Scouts, no one except the purchasers knew where the new camps were to be established until October 7, 1927 when the thirty-two proportionate land owners were invited to Monticello for the purpose of signing the deeds and receiving payment for their lands.
Harvey Gordon then bent to the task of building a camp on Half Moon Lake for the Staten Island Council which that group christened "Aquehonga." As he stated some time later, he was proud of his privilege to build these camps and wanted the boys who used them to view them with equal pride. Therefore, the buildings were ruggedly and handsomely built to withstand the elements for fifty years or more. His report to the Foundation at the close of the camp's second season reveals an engineering and construction accomplishment of gigantic proportions covering all of the many types of buildings, saw mills, water systems, sewage systems, surveys, plans, roads and fencing.
Worldwide recognition was accorded to the Ten Mile River Camps as one eminent person after another paid a visit to see how far Scouting had advanced under the stewardship of the New York Boy Scout Foundation. Even after Roosevelt was elected President of the United States, he could still find time to visit the growing realization of his dreams. He also found time to make personal radio appeals for the raising of funds to enlarge the work of the Foundation and facilities of the camps to the point where 3,500 Boy Scouts could be given recreation and training at the same time. He visited the camps in the summer of 1933 and on that occasion was initiated into the "Order of the Arrow."
The Civilian Conservation Corps Camp
It was during F.D.R.'s visit in 1933, that his lessons in Scouting brought the president to the idea that the Ten Mile River Camps would be an ideal proving ground for part of his newly organized Civilian Conservation Corps. He saw how the Corps, whose founding was also the fruit of his Scout training, could be utilized for the building of roads, fire trails, and communication lines from camp to camp around the boundaries of this vast property. This idea began to take shape within two months, when on October 14, 1933, work commenced on setting up C.C.C. Camp Number 65 near the outlet of Turnpike Pond. Many local men were involved as foremen over the young men who made up the Corps. The Boy Scout Foundation provided the machines and raw materials for many projects including the construction of the Schiff Trail, the retaining dam on Lake Nianque, and many of the original hike sites. The C.C.C. camp operated for several years until the program was terminated in the late 1930's. In 1940, the C.C.C. camp buildings were turned over to the Boy Scouts and on that occasion First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a spruce tree near the entrance to the C.C.C. camp office to rededicate the camp's use.
The Red Dot Trail is Blazed
In the late 1930's, two particular individuals from Brooklyn Camps, Morty Hyman and Nick Dale, initiated an ambitious project to connect the entire reservation with a trail system which would pass through each camp. Thus, the Ten Mile River Trail was begun. It was difficult work for in many areas the forest and brush were very dense, but work continued until the "Red Dot Trail" was completed. In the same era, the hike sites along the trail were also developed. Each site had, and most still have, three lean-tos, a latrine, and a pump or piped spring.
The War Years
During the war years of 1942 to 1945, there was great difficulty in getting staff to man the camp since most every healthy, able-bodied young man was involved in the war effort. During this time some decreases in population occurred due to the hardships of the nation. The bus service to Ten Mile River, which had been established in the middle 1930's, simply became unavailable due to the difficulty in procuring gasoline and rubber. Therefore, train service to camp was reestablished, and for the first time in several years the Scouts made their way to camp on the "Erie." But many of the summer campers had to attend the summer camp operation at Kanes Open at Tallsman, New York instead of traveling to Ten Mile River since Kanes Open was able to maintain a more complete staff during the war years.
Ten Mile River continued to expand and build. In 1941 the current Dining
Hall building at Camp Kunatah was constructed and in 1945 Camp Rondack
was constructed. Rondack was the first experiment in the modern style
of "Troop Camping." The camp was specifically built with troop-sized
sites rather than 100 boy-sized sites as was typical of the provisional
style camping, which had been the rule until that time. The experiment
was successful and troop camping was encouraged more and more.
In the 1950's Ten Mile River continued to thrive. In August of 1952 the Silver Jubilee of Ten Mile River was held on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the camp's inception. By that time Ten Mile River had more than 250,000 alumni, having served an average of roughly 10,000 boys in each of the proceeding twenty five summers! In the summer of 1952, Scout Mark Sobell of Troop 702 in Manhattan, was given an award by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as the 250,000th Scout to attend Ten Mile River. By this time her late husband's fond dream of a camp which could accommodate 3,500 Scouts at one time had been fully realized.
By the middle of the 1950's the Ten Mile River Scout Camps was organizationally somewhat different than it had been at it's inception. Instead of eleven camps around Rock Lake comprising "Brooklyn Camps," there were now four distinct camps known as Kunatah, Kotohke, Chappegat, and Ihpetonga. On Crystal Lake, the original "Camp Manhattan" was now Camp Keowa and Camp Rondack. The old "Queens Camp" known as "Camp Man" was now Camp Kernochan, Camp Lakeside, and Camp Central. On Lake Nianque the original "Bronx Camps," known as Divisions "A" "C" and "E" were now Family Camp, Camp Nianque, and Camp Ranachqua respectively. Only Aquehonga remained essentially unchanged by this time. However, despite the name changes and organizational changes, the reservation still had the same basic boundaries and very much the same Borough loyalties to the camps which had existed since the beginning.
In 1958, the Greater New York Councils began operating a new camp called Davis Lake which had previously been operated as a troop camp called "Waramaung" by Troop 121 of Bay Ridge and later as a lone troop camp. In 1958, under Camp Director Denver Wallace, the new camp was opened as a truly primitive camp. The troops were required to prepare their own meals and for the most part provide their own program though staff was now available to supplement the program. During the last week of that summer at Davis Lake, the first Explorer Camp was run successfully. For this program power boats were brought in a water skiing program that provided some true High Adventure!
The 50th Anniversary Capital Development Campaign
From 1958 to 1960, the Greater New York Councils conducted the 50th anniversary of Scouting Capital Campaign with the expressed purpose of building capital projects at Ten Mile River. This campaign was enormously successful and among the facilities constructed were the staff and family cabins at Rock Lake, Crystal Lake, and Lake Nianque. The entire headquarters service area including the Administration Building, the Main Trading Post, the Health Lodge, the Maintenance Shop, the Central Warehouse and fourteen Adirondack shelters for housing key staff and families were also constructed during this era.
The residual effort of this capital infusion of 1960 was to continue to increase boy populations so that at it's peak in 1965 Ten Mile River was operating eleven camps with a peak usage of nearly 12,000 boy-weeks. The Council was also actively purchasing parcels of land which bordered the Ten Mile River property so as to increase the potential of the physical operation. In 1964, the old "Half Moon Resort" property was purchased giving Greater New York Councils full ownership of Half Moon Lake. This would later become the new Camp Aquehonga and the "Barta House." In 1965, the riverfront property known as the "Conklin Farm" was purchased. This enabled the development of a "Canoe Base" from which the Delaware River canoeing operation was first developed. A number of other parcels were purchased in both New York and immediately across the river in Pennsylvania until the land holdings at Ten Mile River totaled more than 15,000 acres.
In anticipation of further increases in population in the late 1960's, Camp Davis Lake was renovated and expanded in 1968. In the same year a brand new and expansive Camp Aquehonga was constructed on the opposite shore of the lake and the much smaller old Camp Aquehonga was abandoned. In 1969, yet another new camp was completed and opened on the opposite shore of Davis Lake. It was first called Davis Lake West but was changed to Camp Hayden in 1970. Also in 1970, Camp Sanita Hills in Holmes, New York, was prepared for summer camp usage and Tom Voote, the successful camp director from Davis Lake, got the call as it's first director. For the first time in almost two decades, Greater New York Councils was operating summer camps in two distinct locations.
In August of 1969, not long after the Scouts in Ten Mile River had applauded the great event of the first manned moon landing, another momentous occasion took place not 240,000 miles away but less than 10. The Woodstock Music Festival was held in August of 1969 at Yasgur's Farm in Bethal, New York, not 3 miles from the northernmost boundary of the Ten Mile River Camps.
Hard Times in the 1970's
By the early 1970's, attendance at Ten Mile River began to dwindle. The aftermath of the Vietnam War had created a deep rift in the American consciousness. Values were changing rapidly and scouting was getting lost in this re-adjustment. The National Scouting movement experimented with new programs which tended to depart somewhat from the things which made scouting great; namely, camping and the outdoor program. Scouting enrollment plummeted in New York City and the corresponding effect at Ten Mile River was less boys at camp.
Some of the very same persons who were involved in the ambitious capital expansions of the 1960's were now forced, by real economic circumstances, to do an about face. Camp Nianque, which had a long history going back to 1929 when it was known as Bronx Division "C", was closed in 1970 for lack of attendance. At the end of 1973 Camps Davis Lake and Rondack were closed for the same reason. Thus, by 1974, where eleven camps had operated a decade earlier, six were still open.
By 1975, Greater New York Councils no longer found it feasible to operate Camp Hayden but an agreement was worked out with Rockland County Council to lease the camp from Greater New York. By 1979, Camp Ranachqua also became infeasible to operate but another agreement was worked out with Hudson Delaware Council to lease this property and it remained actively used.
In 1977, Federal funds became available for summer camp programs for N.Y.C. youth. As a result, the "Country Adventure" program was instituted, bringing city youth without camping or even Scouting experience to Ten Mile River, in provisional troops. In 1982, Camp Kernochan, the final remnant of the original three Queens camps, was shut down.
Expansion in the 1980's
By the early 1980's, it was clear that Ten Mile River required substantial renovation. In 1985, the 75th Anniversary Capital Campaign raised at least $1.2 million, mostly spent on purchasing new equipment and upgrading facilities at T.M.R.
In 1986, the Ten Mile River Great Expedition, a week-long backpacking program, was introduced at T.M.R. for older scouts with previous camp experience. Scouts hiked the T.M.R. Trail around the reservation, visiting the camps and participated in horseback riding, canoeing, sailing, rifle and shotgun, rappelling, survival techniques and other activities. Also in 1986, G.N.Y.C. sponsored the T.M.R. Rally for Junior Leaders at Ten Mile River. Overnight facilities, most meals and a closing show were at Camp Keowa. Different activity areas were established all over the reservation.
In 1990, the 36-mile T.M.R. Red Dot Trail was designated a “Nationally Approved Historic Trail” by National Council. Scouts completing the Trail Award requirements received a pocket patch, backpatch, medal and award bars. In the 1990’s, Ten Mile River expanded the number and variety of Specialty Camps. This helped boost attendance and utilize the excellent, but underused camp facilities available.
Starting in the early 1990’s, the N.Y.C. Human Resources Administration reimbursed full summer camp fees for children in the Aid to Dependent Children (A.D.C.) program, for a maximum of 21 days. G.N.Y.C. urged eligible scouting families to participate in this program as a way of allowing more Scouts to attend summer camp.
In the early 1990's, many B.S.A. Councils nationwide merged to form larger and stronger Councils. As a result of this consolidation, many summer camps closed. Some local Councils reserved an entire week at a T.M.R. camp instead of operating their own summer camp. In 1993, Camp Kernochan reopened with new basketball courts and updated facilities and program equipment. Camping was in tents or lean-tos with dining hall feeding. In subsequent years, Kernochan was attended primarily by non-traditional scouts including the In-School Scouting program.
In 1996, G.N.Y.C. received approval from the National Council, B.S.A. to conduct a pilot program for female campers at Camp Kernochan. This was the beginning of providing both boys and girls from the In-School Division with the opportunity for a summer camp adventure. The girls-only camp was very successful and continues at Kernochan.
In 1997, The Village at T.M.R. was established at the former Camp Lakeside site on Crystal Lake. It offered a variety of programs designed for first-year campers, including a scout skills area, fishing station and a barnyard animal petting zoo. In 1998, the Ten Mile River Scout Museum, a museum of T.M.R.'s history, opened at the Main Trading Post at Headquarters Camp. The following year, the museum moved to it's present home, and operated with a full-time staff for the first time.
In July, 2000, Greater New York Councils sponsored Camporee 2000 at T.M.R., immediately before the start of the regular summer camp season. Special activities were held at all of the T.M.R. camps, ending with a gala evening show at Camp Keowa.
Late 1990's & Today
In the late 1990's, camp attendance rose from 3,800 scouts to almost 6,000 scouts, resulting in expanded use of camp properties. Camp Keowa absorbed the old Rondack area and is a Greater Camp Keowa, covering the same territory as the original Camp Manhattan. Camp Kernochan, now specializing in Outreach and In-School programs, absorbed most of old Lakeside, making it a Greater Kernochan.
Ten Mile River began providing camp support and services at Camp Ranachqua under the leadership of a camp director selected by Hudson Valley Council and approved by G.N.Y.C. Camp Ranachqua is now open to both Hudson Valley Council and New York City Scouts. Camp Aquehonga remains one of the most popular T.M.R. Camps and is filled almost every week.
Camp Kunatah remains as one of the few Kosher Scout Camps in the United States today. Boy Scouts wishing Kosher feeding attend from all over the Eastern United States.