League Lines: Youth Camp is a Natural Partnership

Youth Rock ClimbingMinnesota > Deep in a 6,300-acre wildlife conservation reserve in northern Minnesota — surrounded by a pristine landscape of forests, lakes, rivers, and bogs — you’ll find something so rare that you may consider it endangered: youth (ages 9-16) enjoying the outdoors, some with their grandparents and/or parents.

The Izaak Walton League Youth Camp celebrated its fifth year at Deep Portage Learning Center in 2015. With conservation-minded activities geared toward novice and experienced campers, this summer camp attracts attendees from across the state and as far away as Montana.

Each year, members of the League’s Cass County Chapter partner with Deep Portage Learning Center staff to provide a week of enriching camp experiences. Recent camp activities include:

  • Invasive species watch
  • Environmental advocacy 101
  • Fish identification
  • Introduction to firearms safety
  • Shoreline management
  • Freshwater testing and macroinvertebrate search
  • Canoe skills
  • Natural resource planning
  • Bog walk
  • Outdoor survival
  • Fly fishing and tying
  • Introduction to archery

The summer camp introduces attendees to the League through adventure learning and shows them how regional issues can have a broader impact. While most youth attend by themselves, the camp is somewhat unique in that it encourages them to bring along one or more parents and/or grandparents. “Wherever we go after this experience, we will carry a better understanding of our woods, water, and wildlife,” says Sue Zenk, a Cass County Chapter member who attended camp with her granddaughter last summer.

Canoeing on RiverSeveral League chapters across Minnesota provide scholarships for youth who want to attend the camp but whose families may not be able to afford it. (The camp fee is $400 for an individual and $700 for a multigenerational duo.) However, attendance is not restricted to members of the League. Twenty-three youth and five adults attended the camp in 2015. Camp enrollment is capped at 30 participants.

The close relationship between Deep Portage and the Izaak Walton League made the youth camp a natural partnership. With help from members of the League’s Cass County Chapter and other local supporters, Cass County Land Commissioner Fay Harrington (a League member) raised the money and support needed to set aside more than 6,000 acres of tax-forfeited land around Big Deep and Portage Lakes for environmental and conservation education. The Deep Portage Conservation Reserve was founded in 1973. A Resource Heritage Center, which provides indoor learning facilities and overnight accommodations, was opened to the public in 1987. Current Deep Portage Executive Director Dale Yerger is also a League member.

Between the activities and the fun, the foundation of this summer camp is what happens when one generation mentors the next in the League’s conservation legacy. If you are interested in attending this camp or want more information, please contact the Deep Portage Learning Center by e-mail at portage@uslink.net or visit www.deep-portage.org.