Over the past 100 years, thousands of youth have developed leadership skills, gained wilderness experience, cultivated friendships and built memories during summers spent at Camp Mitigwa.
A Boy Scout camp operated by the Mid-Iowa Council, it’s located across the river from the Iowa Arboretum in rural Boone County. This June marks its 100th summer of camping, and next year will commemorate its 100th year in existence at its present location.
A new book, “Memories of Camp Mitigwa,” chronicles the story of the camp. Its pages (totaling more than 500) are filled with stories, anecdotes, mementos, newspaper clippings and photos from the last century. Merit badges and patches are also meticulously documented.
It was authored by Mid-Iowa Council Historian Steven Palm, and designed by Jeremy Schultz, men with roots at the camp.
Palm, who holds a mass communications/broadcast journalism degree from Iowa State University, was also once employed at the Boone News-Republican. Telling the camp’s story has been a labor of love. While he’s aassed artifacts the last 25 years, work on this book began in 2015 after he and fellow members of the Mitigwa Lodge authored the book “History of the Order of the Arrow in Central & Southern Iowa.”
Palm first attended the camp as a Cub Scout in 1975 and then rose through the ranks, later joining the staff. His children are also active in the organization.
“Scouting was formed in Iowa in the latter part of 1910. By 1916 there was a need to create a formal scouting organization in Des Moines,” Palm said. “A meeting was chaired by ET Meredith, founder of Meredith Corporation, and he was affiliated with William D. Boyce, who had brought scouting to America from England. They were both publishers, and they knew that young boys were part of their target workforce: to carry newspapers, delivery magazines and man newsstands.”
In 1921, the original site of Camp Mitigwa was established in the Adel area, but by the end of 1922, it became clear it was time to find a new spot.
“The Ledges area was considered, but there were high cliffs,” Palm noted. “Then the State of Iowa ended up creating Ledges State Park there.”
On June 12, 1923, the camp opened its doors at its current location.
“Considering the Depression in the ’30s, World War in the ’40s, a time of great change in the ’50s and ’60s, the Vietnam era and the difficulties of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Boy Scouts continued every summer , including the summer of the derecho and pandemic,” Palm said. “It hasn’t missed a year.”
In the fall of 2018, Palm recruited Schultz to design and organize the content of the book’s text and images. Schultz, who has a background in graphic design, marketing and print news, was intrigued. He had first met Palm in the fall of 1991 as a camp attendee when Palm was brought in to share some of the history of Mitigwa with the next generation.
“I really wanted to make it a coffee table book: a big experience. It goes beyond just the content itself — evoking the place, history and emotions when people think back on their time at camp — whether it was last year or 99 years ago,” Schultz said. “It was also important to compile a list of all the camp staff through the years. It’s a love letter to the staff. It’s really for them, so they can return to camp and those experiences.”
Schultz said the book charts a fascinating history of the evolution of the Boy Scouts’ activities and programming.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon and through the Mid-Iowa Council. The camp is located at 1820 Magnolia Rd., Woodward. To learn more, visit www.scoutingiowa.org.