An introduction to Onteora

Way back in 1963, I joined the rest of Troop 182 from Baldwin, New York, and headed off on my first trip to summer camp. Our destination? Onteora Scout Reservation, located in the Catskill Mountains near the town of Livingston Manor. Click here for maps of the area, showing the general locations of both Livingston Manor and Onteora.

Main Gate to Onteora Scout Reservation

Main Gate to Onteora Scout Reservation
"The Land in the Sky" (2009)

Onteora is one of two camps owned by the Theodore Roosevelt Council, formerly Nassau County Council, of Long Island, New York (see below for details on the name change.) The other camp is Camp Wauwepex, located in Wading River, New York (They renamed that property to Schiff Scout Reservation a few years ago, but to me it will always be Wauwepex, so I've used that name for much of the site.)

I was a summer camper at Onteora in 1963 and 1965, and a counselor in 1968 and 1969. At that time Onteora was quite a massive operation, for it was the third-largest Boy Scout camp in the country. I also made many trips up there for Order of the Arrow events, the winter camp-outs called Operation Igloo, and some weekends of fun with other alumni over the years. I met a lot of good friends there and have some great memories of the place.

After my years on the camp staff I moved to California, but I made sure to visit Onteora during some of my trips back East. Unfortunately, I learned in 1997 that the Council had closed Onteora a few years earlier, the victim of declining Scout enrollment and a tendency for more upscale camping. This was a real loss, for it was a great experience for me and I'm sure thousands of others. Happily, the Council re-opened the camp in 1998 and has been rejuvenating the property ever since, with summer camp at Onteora once again providing a great outdoors experience to Scouts from Long Island and other parts of the Eastern states. Many Boy Scout camps have been closed over the years, but Onteora has the distinction of being the only one to ever be re-opened. Now, thanks to an incredible amount of hard work by volunteers and a dedicated camp staff, the future again looks bright indeed.

I've had fun putting these pages together to salute the glory years of Onteora, and to showcase the vibrant camp it is again today. I would appreciate hearing from any other OSR campers or counselors that would like to contribute. If you have any pictures, maps or knowledge to share, please let me know. Likewise, if you would like to be part of a mailing list of other Onteora fans, please let me hear from you.

Bill Cotter

Navigating the site

Over the years I've collected quite a bit of material about the history of Onteora, and am happy to share it here on this site. When I first put the site together Onteora was closed, and I used it to help show what the camp had been - and could be - like. Now, with the camp open again, I'm working to include more information on the current facilities and operations.

I'm also recoding the site to make it more user friendly for those using phones and tablets, so things are in a state of flux. All of the "new" pages feature a drop-down menu at the top of the page to make it easier to move between sections. For the "old" pages, well, break out the map and compass, and I'm sure you'll find your way around! Please let me know if you find anything that seems broken or missing as I work on updating the site.

Newcomers might want to start with the Virtual Tour of the camp, which provides a look at each of the major sections of the property.

Upcoming events at Onteora

Camp preparation events
April 27-28: Work Weekend I
May 18-20: Trails Weekend
June 15-17: Work Weekend II

Summer Camp 2018
Week 1: July 8-14
Week 2: July 15-21
Week 3: July 21-28
Week 4: July 29-August 4
Week 5: August 5-11

2017 Onteora Alumni Association Fall Weekend
September 14-16, 2018

Onteora Alumni Association

In 2001 more than 100 past staff members returned to Onteora for the first time in years. For many it was the first time in decades. We held a very successful Alumni Weekend, which started an annual tradition that continues today.

The following year we formed the Onteora Alumni Association, a non-profit group dedicated to helping support Onteora, both financially and through volunteer work at the camp. Everyone with an interest in OSR is encouraged to join; past experience as a staff member is not required. All funds donated to the OAA are held in an account administered by the Council office, and are only spent on projects benefiting Onteora that have been approved by the OAA board.

More information on the OAA is available on this horribly out-dated page that will be updated as I work on the site redesign.

Onteora on social media

Looking for ways to connect with former staff members, have questions about camp, or memories to share? There are several ways to do this. The original way we all communicated was on a Yahoo Group, which was invaluable in putting the original reunion together and launching the Alumni Association. Traffic has slowed down a bit these days but there are still several hundred members and thousands of messages you might enjoy.

The OAA is also on Facebook, with an even larger group of members. Please join us for ongoing updates about changes at camp, alumni events, and to keep in touch with an old tentmate. You can also find other Facebook groups about the Council and current happenings at camp.

The Council name change explained

Still reading? OK, here's the information on the council name change. Teddy Roosevelt, well known for his charge up San Juan Hill and later as President of the United States, was the first Commissioner of Nassau County Council. When a different Theodore Roosevelt Council in Arizona closed and gave up the name, Nassau County Council decided to rename itself to honor his contributions to local scouting. Click on the patch to go to the Council's official web site (but please come back!)

TRC CSP

Visiting Onteora

Thinking of visiting Onteora? Please don't just drive up and expect the gate to be open! You will need permission from the Council office, as access to the property is controlled for insurance and safety reasons.