Camp Tamarack began as an exclusive horse camp for girls in 1935 during the height of the Great Depression.
Camp Tamarack was founded by Donna Gill of Lebanon and Lucille Murphy of Portland, who leased the land for the camp from the USDA Forest Service (The Sunday Oregonian 1960:33). The camp was established not long after a 1933 Recreation Handbook was issued by the Forest Service that prioritized the type of development that organization camps, including private camps, could use to create their own facilities under a special use permit. Private organization camps like Camp Tamarack were usually allotted lands that were off a main road with adequate acreage, capacity, water, seclusion, and safe sanitation (Throop 2003:37).
Donna Gill’s and Lucille Murphy’s goal was to provide the girls with a unique opportunity for summer recreation at Camp Tamarack. To construct the camp, a road was extended from present Highway 20 and a lodge and cabins were built with lumber from a mill in Sisters (Stranahan 1979). The first year, 12 girls (aged nine to 17) were enrolled for a two-week period. By 1937, the camp program had expanded to two sessions of 30 girls each (The Sunday Oregonian 1937:71). There were 24 counselors who guided camp activities in horseback riding, boating, archery, badminton, swimming, sailing (in small Sailfish boats), fishing, and trail camping.
Donna Gill sold her interest in Camp Tamarack to Lisa W. Taubman in 1955. The new owners of Camp Tamarack, Lisa W. Taubman, Margaret C. Lumpkin and later Velda Brust. The camp’s program was “unregimented” encouraging individual independence and responsibility, departing from “our group-conscious, group-dependent culture” (Lumpkin and Taubman ca. 1962). Each girl was held accountable for “personal orderliness” and participated in “general camp housekeeping” (Lumpkin and Taubman ca. 1962).
By the 1960s, the campers at Camp Tamarack were separated by age groups. The youngest campers lived in bunkhouses with their counselors nearby in adjacent rooms. The intermediate age group lived in tent cabins, or new cabins situated on the hillside. The oldest of the campers lived in the cabins closest to the lake (Lumpkin and Taubman ca. 1962). The camp was available for use by other non-profit organizations too.
After Margaret Lumpkin, Lisa Taubman, and Velda Brust relinquished their lease of the camp, it was sold to Betty Roberts, Phyllis Ford, and Gale Orford in 1980. They planned “to operate much as it has in the past” (The Oregonian 1980:8). Edie and Ted Jones took over the camp in 1990 (Anderson 2013) followed by True North Institute in 2002.
In May of 2013, On Belay TY, a non-profit formed in 2010 following the untimely death of Tyler “Ty” Anderson who passed away while doing one of the things he loved, jumped at the chance to purchase Camp Tamarack. TY’s memory and love of nature and helping kids and adults enjoy the wonders found outdoors will live on through the activities taking place at Camp Tamarack.
Today, over 2,200 5th/6th grade students come to Camp Tamarack in the spring and fall for Outdoor School for 2 nights and three days and just over 600 campers get to spend a week of their summer, playing, bonding, taking risks and trying new things during summer programing.