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Adventure Island Camp

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Hey, Camp Fans!

Door County was full of summer campers in the 1920s. Chock full of forests, fields, and bays, that the Wisconsin State Legislature designated for preservation in 1909, Peninsula State Park offers a breathtaking view looking northwest: the chain of Strawberry Islands as they skip through the Green Bay water. A world of fun was had here by children in the Midwest who attended camps in this gorgeous part of Wisconsin such as the rustic Adventure Island Camp off the shores of Ephraim on the thumb of the state.

Check it out! 

It was a man from Illinois, Charles “Skipper” Kinney who spearheaded a boys camp on the largest of the Strawberry Islands (initially named Big Strawberry Island and renamed Adventure Island) in 1925. He kept dominion over the land and summer operations season after season, and remained true to the original purpose the camp was founded upon—“The Spirit of Adventure which is inherent in practically every boy.”  

Adventure Island Camp was truly a self-made camp. Aside from the cooking, all the work at Adventure Island Camp was done by the campers. They did it all and they did it without electricity or running water. In the very beginning, work included the construction of the camp’s cabins and other structures.

To compensate the boys, Skipper gave them incredible freedom. Every day, he would ask them individually what they wanted to do for the day and, as long as you weren’t going to kill yourself doing it, he provided the material and guidance for them to achieve their goals.  

The 7 to 14 year old boys would venture out on solo treks for overnights in the woods or build their own wooden kayaks. One year, the kids constructed their own Viking ship and named it ‘Serpent of the Sea’. They took it on a five-day cruise, a voyage off to distant lands like Escanaba and Marinette!

To make the freedom that much better, the boys could even bring their dogs for the summer. The freedoms taught the campers invaluable lessons. They found that they were ‘free’ not to do their dishes, but then must eat on dirty plates. They were ‘free’ to stay up at night, but had to be up and at ‘em with the sun.

With further establishment in later days, the camp came to offer a baseball league, stamp club, journalism, an orchestra, and a shooting range to expand the options the boys had for activities. A true inspiration for why we have summer camp, the Skipper was a wonderful influence on the youth of his day. The camp stayed in operation until 1952.

There were a handful of other historic camps that operated in close proximity to Adventure Island such as Meenahga Girls camp and the Cherry Camp. I’ll cover these camps and more in future Blog posts. And, as always, thanks for reading, Camp Fans!


- John


  • Until 1955 my family used to spend every July in Ephraim. In 1944 or 1945, when I was 6 or 7 years old, I was a camper on Adventure Island. You can compute my present age.

    I do remember Skipper who was in charge of the camp. There was a yacht basin where there were little boats, called doodle bugs, which we younger kids paddled with a kayak paddle. The camp had a boat which was powered by a totally exposed car engine in the middle of it. On one trip in the boat we went to Chamber’s Island.

    There was limited running water. It was provided by pump driven by a gasoline engine and pumped water into an elevated tank. There were also other gasoline engines used to power various things.

    Because I was quite young, my memory of the camp is rather limited. I’d really like to find a way to get to the Island again, and also to Chamber’s Island, the strawberry islands, and Horseshoe Island.

    I now live in Palm Springs, CA.

    Frank Eggers on

  • My father helped my uncle skipper run this island and my brother went there for a short time. Skipper and his wife (as well as first wife) had a home here in Fairhope, Alabama. In my past searches I have been unable to find much but I do have slides and have a fb page where I have begun to upload the slides in my spare time. I’m so glad to find out more. When Skipper died, many of the families wrote to Ella to tell her what a difference he and the camp had made. Valerie Kerr Conner

    Valerie Kerr Conner on

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