The land upon which Camp Meriwether sits was purchased in 1925 by Scout Executive George Oberteuffer (Chief Obie) of the Portland Area Council. Following a fire and the destruction of the lodge at Camp Chinidere, near Wahtum Lake on Mt. Hood, the Council began to look for a new property.The idea of having a Boy Scout summer camp along the Oregon Coast was ridiculous to most and the proposal submitted by Oberteuffer was originally turned down by five of the six council board members. Eventually, Oberteuffer was able to persuade the council to purchase the land from the Chamberlain family at price of $19,000, which was a large investment considering the entire operating budget for the council for the year was $26,000. The first year of camp it was known simply as "The Boy Scout Summer Camp at Sand Lake", as that was where the road ended and the hike into camp began. After the first year, George Oberteuffer decided to formally name the camp after the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804. Camp Meriwether was decided to be the name and the Corps of Discovery has been a large part of the program at Camp Meriwether ever since. The camp to the north of Camp Meriwether is Camp Clark, which runs a similar program but for Cub Scouts. The combined camps make the Meriwether-Clark Scout Reservation and over 1,000 acres of land along with two miles of private access beach.
Camp Meriwether is located between Cape Lookout (to the North) and Cape Kiwanda (to the South), along the Oregon Coast near the town of Cloverdale, Oregon. This location between the two capes creates a strong outward current that is also known as a rip current, which can make swimming in the area dangerous. The two miles of coastal beach adjacent to the Meriwether-Clark Scout Reservation can be accessed by hiking from a parking lot near the top of the cape or by walking North from Sand Lake Recreation Area. This makes for one of the most secluded beaches in Oregon. A weekly service project also makes this one of the cleanest beaches during the summer camp season. The photograph to the right depicts the beach and the western half of the Camp Meriwether and Camp Clark properties. The lake shown is Chamberlain Lake and Camp Meriwether's Dining Hall, "Discovery Lodge" is visible by its green fire resistant roof.
Cape Lookout is a sharp rocky promontory along the Pacific Ocean coast of northwestern Oregon in the United States. It is located in southwestern Tillamook County, approximately 10 mi (16 km) southwest of Tillamook, just south of Netarts Bay. The promontory extends 1 mi (1.6 km) perpendicular to the coast, and is approximately 0.25 mi (0.5 km) wide at its base, tapering as it extends outward from the coast. Cape Lookout State Park is located on the north side of the promontory, which is part of the Siuslaw National Forest and Camp Meriwether is located to the south. The Cape Lookout Trail is a popular hiking trail, extending 2.5 miles through Sitka spruce forest to the tip of the promontory. The cliff-top viewpoint offers views of Cape Kiwanda and Cascade Head to the south, and Cape Meares and Neahkahnie Mountain to the north. Migrating whales can also be seen, generally from December through June. During World War II, the cape was the location of a notable crash of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. There was one survivor (the bombardier), Wilbur L. Perez who died in 2009. A plaque on the cape memorializes the victims of the crash. Information taken from Cape Lookout.
Named after Kenneth Wells, one of the original staff members at Camp Meriwether and a staff member at Camp Chinidere when the dining hall burnt down in 1925, Wells was one of the first people to discover a small opening at the eastern-most face of Cape Lookout that at low tide revealed a small cove that one could walk into and explore. Time and traffic have eroded the trail heading down to Wells Cove but with careful planning and keeping the tides in mind, one can still trek down to the cove. Apart from having a cove named after him, Kenneth Wells is the author of Camp Meriwethers only historical book entitled "An early history of Camp Meriwether: With some additional notes about Obie (G. H. Oberteuffer) and the Columbia Pacific Council's early years". His memoir of historical events and personal experiences was written in 1986 for 60th anniversary of Camp Meriwether. In the Obie Rangers program (a leadership comprehensive Trail to First Class program at Camp Meriwether) the highest honor a Scout can receive is the "Kenneth Wells Award for Individual Excellence", which is awarded to Scouts that participated in the program and demonstrated the most leadership and initiative.
Chamberlain Lake is the small Coastal freshwater lake located on the Camp Meriwether property. It is the largest lake in Cascade Pacific Council and is the home to the waterfront area. In the early years of camp, the lake was home to the S.S.S. Lion, a building on the shore that was made to look like a ship. Complete with masts, pilothouse, and galley, the ship was home to Sea Scout campers who bunked and prepared meals on board. Other locations of importance near Chamberlain Lake include the campfire bowl, which is located on the west face of the lake, and a boat house donated by the Rotary Club in the 1950s. Future activities include a possible mountain biking trail around the lake, fishing, and rugged campsites placed above the lake for outbound adventures.
The Sand Lake Recreation Area is located along Oregon's North Coast, 15 miles southwest of Tillamook between Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda, and is just south of Camp Meriwether. It is a rather large recreational area, covering 1,076 acres of open sand dunes surrounded by forests, and adjacent to Camp Meriwether and the Pacific Ocean. The area is largely used by All Terrain Vehicles and Dune Buggies for offroading.
In 1890, a large Norwegian sailing schooner, called the Struan, was traveling from Port Discovery, Washington to Melbourne, Australia, when it encountered a great storm. It lost its sails and rudder and went adrift for twelve days before the crew were rescued by a passing ship. On Christmas Day, the Struan ran aground and broke up just west of the flagpole at Camp Meriwether, spreading its cargo of over 1,000,000 board feet of lumber, including massive bridge timbers, all along the beach. Much of the wood was salvaged by the Chamberlain family who used it to build a new house and a saw mill that ran along Allen Creek.
From 1942 through 1943 during World War II, Camp Meriwether was shut down as a Boy Scout Camp and used as a United States Army outpost along with a temporary home for the United States Coast Guard. Roads constructed by the National Guard and Coast Guard still function as main roads at Camp Meriwether. Also, there is a distinctive slash through the trees that was cut for telegraph lines and there are turret mounts located at the top of the present day flagpole and parade grounds. Several alumni proclaim that the camp used to have the machine guns that were mounted there but those have since then been lost.
On 1 August 1943 a Boeing B-17F-95-BO Flying Fortress, 42-30326, c/n 5440, of the 541st Bomb Squadron, 383d Bomb Group, piloted by Roy J. Lee, was headed north up the Oregon coast on a routine patrol flight. The plane had left Pendleton Field, near Pendleton, Oregon, at 0900 and was tasked with flying to Cape Disappointment on the Oregon coast. They were then to fly 500 miles out to sea, followed by a direct flight back to Pendleton Field. On arriving at the coast, the crew found the entire area hidden in overcast clouds that extended to an elevation of 8000 feet. The pilot decided to locate Cape Disappointment by flying below the overcast. The overcast proved to reach almost to the level of the sea. The plane was flying at about 50–150 feet above the waves. Deciding that the risk was too great the crew began to climb back up into the overcast. Unfortunately, the plane crashed into the side of Cape Lookout at about 900 feet in elevation. The Aviation Archeological Investigation & Research website lists the crash date as 2 August. Parts of the bomber can still be seen today. The lone survivor Wilbur Perez lived for another sixty six years before dying on March 20, 2009 in Escondido, California.
The Vi Et Consilio Award is an award at Camp Meriwether. Before the Order of the Arrow was created as the Boy Scouts' National "Honor Society" in 1934, many of the original Boy Scout camps had their own "Honor Society" for Scouts where one could strive for a place among the finest in Scouting. The name given to this award at Camp Meriwether from 1928 to 1945 was Vi Et Consilio, Latin for "by strength and wisdom", which was the Meriwether Lewis family motto. The award was given by the staff each week to a few outstanding Scouts. The original recipients of this award received a bronze pin and were recognized on engraved wooden plaques that hung in the Big Lodge. Later, the bar-shaped pin was replaced with a scroll-shaped "Vi Et Consilio" patch. By the 1980s, the award's meaning had changed and was eventually discontinued. It has since been brought back to camp and has been completely redesigned to embody many of the core values to which it was created in the first place.
The Black Watch honors outstanding leadership and dedication to staff and volunteers who have shown exceptional support to the Meriwether-Clark Scout Reservation and to Scouting as a whole. Started in 1986 by Camp Director Duane Rhodes, the Black Watch has grown into a society of more than 70 Scouts and Scouters who have shown service to Camp Meriwether and Camp Clark. In the 1980s, there was a long-standing tradition where Pendleton Woolen Mills would give camp directors within the Columbia Pacific Council each a Black Watch Tartan for their dedication to Scouting. The Black Watch tartan dates back to the Scottish infantry regiment of the British Army from 1881 known as the Black Watch for their dark green and blue apparel that helped them blend into their surroundings as they ambushed their enemies in the night.
Since there was no award camp could bestow upon staff members for their service to camp, Rhodes gave the shirt off his own back to a staffer who he had believed showed leadership and dedication to Camp Meriwether. This act of giving the shirt off your own back to someone else deserving has transformed the Black Watch into a membership of dedicated Scouts and Scouters. Today, there is much more pageantry involved as new staff are inducted into Black Watch. Each year, a current Black Watch can choose someone he or she deems deserving to give the shirt off their back to that person. This is a symbolic gesture of respect and when a Black Watch is given out, the member who gave theirs away may not wear a Black Watch for the rest of their summer at camp to maintain the spirit of the gesture.
The Black Watch is not without its controversy. Complaints of an "elitist" group of staffers has created tensions in the past and the Black Watch program has been shut down on multiple occasions when people thought it was becoming too powerful or elitist. Current rules set in place and constant diligence has reformed a once polarizing group into a group of people who are the role models for Scouts and staff. As of 2014, current prerequisites that must be met in order to be eligible for a Black Watch include:Must have staffed at a scout summer camp for at least four years. Two of those years must have been on the Meriwether-Clark Scout Reservation.
If a nominee receives 75% of the votes in favor of acceptance, they can be inducted into Black Watch after three years of staffing. This rule was adapted in 2014 and only two Black Watch members have been inducted using this exception. This exemption of the rules is only given towards staff members who have shown extreme service to camp.
Must have a leadership position within camp.
This rule does not necessarily mean you have to be in a leadership position, but instead implies that you are a leader among staff, or as a volunteer.
In 2014, with the help of current Black Watch members, Camp Meriwether started a relationship with Pendleton Woolen Mills out of Pendleton, Oregon to distribute Pendleton Black Watch shirts at production cost to Black Watch members as well as giving Camp Meriwether their own apparel tag that displays the Meriwether Crest, the Pendleton Logo and the words "Camp Meriwether Collection".
Camp Meriwether had its very own museum in its first years of operation that housed mostly natural artifacts found within the vicinity and wreckage from the Struan. Being entirely constructed of various parts from the ship "The Struan", which came ashore and broke apart just west of Camp Meriwether on Christmas Day, 1890, the building was unique but very poorly constructed and with lack of interest and repair, eventually succumbed to time and the harsh Pacific Ocean atmosphere. Plans for an official Camp Meriwether Museum have been brought up for a long time due to the large amount of historical artifacts the camp has possession of and the historical events that have taken place there. Despite popular demand, financial concerns and upkeep have been the leading factors against building a museum on the premises.
The Big Lodge as it is affectionately known was completed in 1929 and was the camp's original multipurpose building. The Big Lodge is a large wooden lodge with an open main floor and stone fireplace. Bridge timbers salvaged from the wreck of the Struan were used in the construction of the lodge. It is large enough to fit all of the campers and staff, which it has done many times during particularly wet weather. Below the main floor are several smaller rooms that have been used variously as workshops, a trading post, staff quarters, offices, and storage. When the Big Lodge was completed in 1929, it was in the center of camp. Over the last decade, the location of many of the areas and facilities at Camp Meriwether have shifted south to consolidate the camp into a smaller area of the property. There was a big push to save the big lodge when the roof was in dire need to be replaced and the council had decided that it was not worth saving. With the help of the alumni and the support of the council, a metal roof was installed and the Big Lodge was effectively saved. The Big Lodge is used for staff events in the summer and for events in the winter and spring time. When camp was shut down in 1942 and 1943 as a military outpost when the United States feared a coastal invasion, the Big Lodge was used as the headquarters for the United States Army. Future plans for the Big Lodge include staff housing below and a general renovation. There are several unique aspects to the Big Lodge that make it stand out. For one, there was a boxing ring set up in the Big Lodge during the early years of camp operation where staff members would settle friendly disputes. Boxing was banned in the 1930s but the floor ring mounts still remain to this day. The "C-L" burned into the fireplace mantle, which is now the horse brand at Camp Baldwin near Dufur, Oregon stands for Cape-Lookout and was the horse brand at Camp Meriwether until the council moved the horse program to Camp Baldwin when it opened in 1962. Finally, the totem pole seen at the west entrance of the Big Lodge is from a time period where every year the staff would spend the summer carving a totem pole unique to that year. Camp Meriwether has many different totem poles that have since been moved to the Totem Pole campsite but the one near the Big Lodge remains there.2004 - A decrepit roof is replaced with new modern fire resistant metal roofing.
2008 - Construction begins on the first floor for small summer and off-season lodging. The construction is quickly halted due to lack of funding.
2015 - The west deck and stairs are torn up and replaced with new lumber, thanks to a massive donation from Stimson Lumber.
Even though the Sleepy Hollow Campfire Bowl has not been used for campwide program activities since 2003, with the construction of the present day campfire bowl on the North side of the lake, the Sleepy Hollow campfire bowl is used for staff and Order of the Arrow Ceremonies as well as for limited program use for different areas. The campfire bowl is set up in a horshoe shape with a large stone raised platform in the middle that houses the fire. The stage is set in between the two sides and has a green painted backdrop. Several notable features include the ground of the campfire bowl which used to display sand art of various images created by the staff. The campfire bowl is also unique in that instead of cutting down trees to make room for the bowl, the campfire bowl was built into the trees. This makes for several amusing seat choices with fairly obstructed views but adds to the characteristics of the campfire bowl. There are two campfire bowls at Camp Meriwether with the Sleepy Hollow Campfire bowl being the favorite among many campers, staff and alumni. The campfire bowl was discontinued after a push to consolidate the camp property to the southern side. The campfire bowl is located at the northern most side of the camp property just behind the Big Lodge. George Obertueffer; the Council Executive that lead the purchase of Camp Meriwether in 1925, retired in the Sleepy Hollow Campfire Bowl in the 1960s 2013 - The alumni organized a small-scale renovation of the campfire bowl which included replacing the backdrop and benches that had started to decay.
2015 - Thanks to a large donation from Stimson Lumber, and generous volunteer hours from Utah Scout Troop 999, the Campfire Bowl was completely replaced with new lumber and for the second year in a row used during the final campfire program during the summer camp session.
With the age of Camp Meriwether, there are many things present that are not seen at any other camps around the United States. One such example is the graves of the original homestead owners, the Chamberlains. While the graves have been at camp since the death of Hannah and Ezra Chamberlain (the original land owners) the present grave site and memorial was put in by the National Guard in the late 1980s. The grandson of Hannah and Ezra, Orlo Rexford is buried at Camp Meriwether and he has a plaque in his memory placed next to his grandparents. He died in Florida in 1988 at the age of 95. His ashes were brought to the Camp in 1989 and were placed next to the graves of his grandparents, the last homesteader returning to the place of his birth. The Chamberlain family lineage can be traced back to Henry Chamberlain (the blacksmith), born about 1592 in England and arriving in Hingham, MA in 1638.
Completed in 2004 at the cost of $4.5 million collected through private donations and through match grants with the Ford Family Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, and the Weyerhaeuser Community Foundation. The dining hall at Camp Meriwether was christened "Discovery Lodge" after the Corps of Discovery that trekked across the United States at the request of Thomas Jefferson. The dining hall portion of discovery lodge is a 19,000 square foot complex that can seat 600 people, which is a large improvement over the 250 seat dining hall that was in use at Camp Meriwether for many years. In addition to the dining hall portion, Discovery Lodge also houses a trading post, administrative offices, an infirmary, restrooms and a staff room. The dining hall was completed along with over $7.8 million of camp improvements including a new campfire bowl, staff housing, a new parade grounds, and the construction of a full-scale replica of Fort Clatsop used by the Corps of Discovery. Because of the lodges use for events and corporate getaways in the offseason, much of the interior of the dining hall is generic and the only permanent Scouting fixtures inside include the Fleur de Lis on the floor near the fireplace and the plaques on the walls honoring donors for their contributions to the dining hall. The old dining hall was filled with historical memorabilia and Scouting-related items that with its demolition been moved into the Discovery Lodge trading post.
Fort Clatsop was the winter encampment for the Corps of Discovery from December 1805 to March 1806. The full-scale replica at Camp Meriwether was finished in 2004 and dedicated to Chris Kroker, a sixteen-year-old Camp Meriwether staffer who suffered a severe head injury and eventually died from a piece of a black powder cannon that exploded during a flag ceremony in 2003. The small size cannon was not used extensively and was only operated by staff as part of the Lewis & Clark heritage and black powder programs at Camp Meriwether. Cannons are no longer used in conjunction with Cascade Pacific Council programs. With the fire that destroyed the replica of Fort Clatsop in Warrenton Oregon, Camp Meriwether's replica became the oldest full-scale replica of Fort Clatsop in the world. The Fort Clatsop at Camp Meriwether was built to contribute to the Corps of Discovery theme at the camp. Activities such as blacksmithing, examining archeological sites, firing black powder rifles, Tomahawk throwing and attending reenactments from the time of this historic stockade. Scouts and adult leaders wishing to participate in the Frontiersman program are able to sleep in the fort on one of their nights at Camp Meriwether.
Built in 2010 and opening for the first time in 2011, the Chaku-Kĥanamakwst Climbing Tower is a concrete climbing tower built just east of Discovery Lodge. The climbing tower was built of concrete to survive the harsh coastal climate and features four climbing courses of varying difficulties, an external and internal rappelling wall and future plans for a zip line on the southern side. The surrounding wall features a 360 degree bouldering course and a climbing facility used for instruction and storage of climbing gear. Previously, a smaller wooden climbing tower on the camp service road was used to teach climbing. Before that, repelling was practiced off the front porch of the Big Lodge and at the "Three Fingers" basalt columns on Cape Lookout.
In late 2015, council executive Matt Devore unveiled Cascade Pacific Council's plans to lease 200 acres of the coastal property for 50 years to Mike Keizer, an internationally renowned golf course developer. The lease is due to a multimillion-dollar maintenance deferral for properties and operating costs of a council that has seen a drop of nearly 25,000 registered youth since 2004, when Camp Meriwether's current dining hall was built. The proposal has been met with harsh opposition coming from conservation organizations, and even members of the state park system.Kenneth Wells - National Director of Research for Boy Scouts of America from 1945-58. Helped develop the Wood Badge Adult Leadership Program within Scouting.
G.H. Obertueffer - Scouting Executive for the Portland Area Council for 36 years. Camp Director at Meriwether for 18 years.
Bob Warner - Distinguished World War II Veteran, a member of the 17th Airborne Division before it was disbanded and Warner was relocated to the 82nd Airborne Division.
George Harrison - Of Ancient Wonders and Fab Four fame. Served in the 1980s as a Commissioner.
Victor G. Atiyeh - The 32nd Governor of Oregon. Atiyeh frequented Meriwether often both as a Scout and as an adult. His favorite campsite was Bunyan.
Matt Dukeman - National Director, Order of the Arrow. Camp Meriwether Business Manager in 2006 and Camp Director in 2007.