Onteora Scout Reservation

After seeing Bill Cotter's Onteora site, my brother Dave and I decided to visit the camp that we enjoyed so much when we were kids. In October, 1998 we took a drive up to Livingston Manor. (Bill has a great site with much more detail than mine. I'm not even going to try to duplicate that, there's no reason to. I've just included some pictures here that I took on our recent visit.)

Dave and I were members of Troop 82 in North Bellmore, NY and our Dad was the scoutmaster. We had an active troop, and the two weeks of summer camp at Onteora Scout Reservation was the event we looked forward to all year. I went to camp at Onteora every summer starting in the late 1960's, and spent two summers in the mid 1970's working  there in the Conservation shelter. It was great fun but the pay was terrible, and financial considerations forced me to get a real job. I hadn't been back in over 20 years.

I had only been to Onteora in the summer, except for one brief Operation Igloo in the pouring rain. It looked strange at first to see the trees without leaves. There was an eerie quiet in camp, since besides the camp ranger, we were the only people there. However, Onteora looked pretty much the same as we remembered it, except the distances seemed shorter and the hills not as steep. It is still just as rocky as ever! We spent the afternoon hiking around most of the main camp roads and taking pictures, just soaking it all in.
Jim at Onteora sign 1969

Entering the camp, we drive past the sign next to the Ranger's house.


I cheated a little -- this picture wasn't taken in 1998, it was taken in 1969. The young scout standing next to the sign is me when I was 13 years old!

It's a better picture than the one I had here originally, and it gives me a place to link to my old scout pictures. Click here for some pictures of Onteora from 1968-1971.

Down the hill and through the parking lot, we come to the camp Administration building. This was the site of the only link to the outside world, a pay phone (remember this was in pre-cell phone days). The staff lounge was in the basement behind the admin building.

Administration Building

Health Lodge

Just past the admin building is the Health Lodge on the right. For the Scouts, the camp nurse was the last female you saw before visitor's day, the middle Saturday of each camp period. If you were lucky, you saw the nurse when you checked in, and then not again until next year.

On the left is the Parade Grounds, and Orchard Lake is in the distance. In the late 1960's, the near shoreline was the location of the Buckskin waterfront. My troop used this waterfront in 1968, and  I still remember the murky water and muddy bottom. The Chiefs and Tribes waterfronts, on the right shore as seen in these pictures, were more in the stream's current and didn't suffer this problem, although the water was much colder there. (Remember the stream feeding this lake is a trout stream!)

Orchard Lake and road

Parade Grounds and Orchard Lake

The road curves around to the right and starts uphill past the Trading Post. The Tuttle House, which used to be on the right side of the road here, was gone. Only a foundation remained. 


The Trading Post

The Long Island Trading Post. Nobody ever called it that. It was just the Trading Post or usually "the PX". The PX could be a big distraction, so we were limited as to when we could go there. We were usually kept pretty busy in camp, so this wasn't a problem.

Dave next to the Trading Post. You could get candy, soda, post cards, and all kinds of Scouting stuff here.

Dave and totem pole

Continuing up the hill past the On-On-Tio camp site, we come to the Otter Shelter. I stopped and took a picture looking back down the road we just came up (on the left). The road to the right curves up the hill to the water tower and the Long House. The road behind the photographer leads up to the Council House.

The road to the Council House

Chiefs Camp cross roads

This shot is taken from the same spot as the previous photo, but looking in the opposite direction. Up the hill is the Council House, now in disrepair. You can see the flag pole in front of the Council House leaning over in the center of the picture. Lets take a look at the Council House.

The Council House. It was sad to see it all boarded up.

Council House 1998

The Power Line TrailBack down to Otter and then up the road towards the water tower. With our backs to the water tower, here is the view looking down the Power Line Trail. It's still as steep as I remember it!
Next to the water tower is the James E. West shelter. It was being rebuilt while we were there. One year the Conservation Shelter I worked at was just across the road from here, which is the present site of the Buckskin Craft Lodge.

Rebuilding James E. West shelter

We walked down the road next to the Power Line Trail, past the Buckskin Craft Lodge and then looped around to the right. Many of the old camp sites are gone. Eventually we came to Teddy Roosevelt Shelter, surprisingly intact.

Teddy Roosevelt shelter

Here is a familiar sight. Sometimes this was the only way to tell the location of a camp site.

Latrine and wash stand


The Larry

Taking a closer look (but not too close), it appears that the old "hole in the ground" has been replaced by an underground holding tank of some sort.


Last stop, the Long House. While we were there, the ranger was busy shoring up the roof. It's in pretty bad shape. We looked around inside and saw plaques on the rafters dating back to the 1960's and 1970's. Dave even found some with his name on them from his summers working in the Long House kitchen in 1979 and 1980.

The Long House

I have more slides and pictures of Onteora from the late 1960's and early 1970's. One of these days I'll scan and post some here. Those were the glory days at Onteora, when the camp was operating at full capacity for four 2-week camping sessions each summer. It's good to hear that, after several years of being closed completely, summer camping returned to Onteora in 1998. 

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