1928 Camp Program
Camp Thunderbird, located 16 miles west of Olympia on the western shore of Summit Lake, is one of two camps that make up the Cleland Scout Reservation. Together with Camp Martin, they occupy over 150 acres of dense picturesque forest surrounded by the scenic Black Hills.
The camp property is rich in history. In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln granted the Northern Pacific Railroad the land on which Thunderbird now stands. The original highway from Olympia to Grays Harbor ran through the property. A Stagecoach Inn was built, near the present Dining Hall, to provide food and lodging for travelers. In 1899 the property was sold and passed through several hands until April 1941 when the Tumwater Area became interested in acquiring it. At that time, the camp was a 65-acre private boy’s camp called Camp Olympus, owned by Otto C. Mauthe, Jr. The council used the camp on a rental basis for the summer of 1941 and intended to purchase it as soon as possible, but World War II hindered that effort.
The Army Corps of Engineers used the site for training practice before embarking for Italy. They built the original boat dock, using poles for piling obtained from old railroad trestles found in the Capitol Forest Area. They also dug the swimming pole. The scouts used the camp on and off from 1942 – 1944. The purchase of Camp Olympus became final on November 29, 1944 and the camp name was changed to Thunderbird in late 1948 after a council contest was held. Over the years, 85 additional acres were acquired and/or leased and the entire camp became known as the Cleland Scout Reservation. The oldest buildings at Thunderbird are the Lewis Lodge erected in 1952 and the Totem Lodge (Dining Hall) built in 1955-56.
Camp Thunderbird is known for its great traditions. The Geech Song written by long time camp staffers, Lantz Berets and Ralph Kunkle, was inspired by several WW2 lifeboats that the council had acquired over the years. It was always an adventure to take the Geech for an outing to Devil’s Island located at the far end of the lake. Captain Thunderbird also lived down at that Island. He would arrive at the opening campfire to greet the campers. The captain would tell the scouts that they should work hard during the week to gain experience in scouting and campcraft skills and learn how to work with their patrols as a team in order to be successful at the Hullabaloo festival held on Friday afternoon. Each Troop member would also need to learn the Hullabaloo song and their individual campsite verses in order to be prepared for other times during the week when the Hullabaloo song was recited. The camp staffers were always ear numbing when they sang their lines, "we are the Bunyan Boys, we play with Tinker Toys and we make a lot of noise." On Friday night at the closing campfire, the Hullabaloo Award would be given to the Patrols that placed highest in the events.
Another tradition at Thunderbird was the trek to Kennedy Falls. The troop could select their guide from a group of trained junior staffers and then they would depart on the half-day trek up to the falls. Scouts would tie a rope on a tree above the falls and scurry down the cliffside to the sandbar located below. Then the bravest swimmers would jump into the frigid water and make their way under the falls to the small alcove behind it. 2 of 3 small scouts could fit easily in the cave and watch the water pour out from above them.
Thunderbird has always been knows for its waterfront activities, including water-skiing, which few other camps offer. The Order of the Arrow has always had a strong presence including their campfire and Indian Village Area and Indian artifact displays. Hikes to Rock Candy Mountain or excursions on the Council bus to the State Capitol and Museum in Olympia were also memorable.
If this all sounds like too much, you may just want to wonder around camp for a while. If you take the time to find them, many different types of exotic trees can be seen, including Redwood Sequoia, Japanese Larch, Scotch Pine and Alaska Cedar, plus a lot more.
As you can see, Camp Thunderbird has a fascinating history and strong traditions.
2005 was the 60th Anniversary of Camp Thunderbird, but sadly, the Pacific Harbors Council Executive Board decided to no longer have Boy Scout Camp at Thunderbird after the 2005 season.
Fortunately, Cub Scout Resident Camp and Webelos Overnight Camps are still being held at Thunderbird so the camp is still being enjoyed by many Scouts throughout the area.
From the North: Take I-5 South towards Portland; take Ramp (right) onto US-101 towards US-101 / Aberdeen / Port Angeles - road name changes to SR-8. Turn right (North) onto Summit Lake Rd (Summit Lake Rd NW) Camp Thunderbird is at 11740 Summit Lake Rd, Olympia, WA 98502
Camp Thunderbird History revised: 05/30/12