Camp Namanu in Oregon Officially Listed as a Historic Place After 100 Years

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Camp Namanu campers stroll beside the Sandy River in the 1920s (Image courtesy of Courtesy of Camp Namanu)

Recently, Oregon's beloved Camp Namanu, operational since 1924, was formally acknowledged and added to the National Register of Historic Places. This recognition highlights its long-standing role as a scenic sanctuary for generations of children.

Located along the Sandy River near Mount Hood, the newly recognized historic district encompasses several structures, including lodges, cabins, and communal buildings, all designed to integrate seamlessly with the natural forest surroundings.

Nancy King, who began her association with Camp Namanu as an eight-year-old camper in 1965 and now serves on its board, shared her memories with OPB. "It’s a magnificent site, surrounded by the forest, with magical streams, vibrant flowers, and a tranquil duck pond. It offered a safe, joyful refuge from my turbulent home life. Being there, with the freedom to play, laugh, and enjoy, was incredibly freeing," King reflected.

King led the detailed effort to compile the 85-page documentation required for the historic listing. "We carefully cataloged each structure, from the cabins where we slept to the campfire rings, and extensively documented the camp's historical and social significance," she told OPB.

An important historical milestone for Camp Namanu was the implementation of inclusive policies by its overseeing body, the Camp Fire Girls of America—now known simply as Camp Fire. In 1948, the organization committed to providing "full participation opportunities for girls from all minority groups."

Among the camp’s architectural highlights are three buildings designed by Pietro Belluschi, a prominent Portland architect. His designs skillfully marry indoor and outdoor spaces, blending naturally with the environment. A notable example is Uncle Toby’s Story House, a uniquely open structure with a creek running underneath it.

Having started as a camp exclusively for girls, Namanu has since transformed into an inclusive, all-gender camp.

King expressed to OPB her thoughts on the impact of her experiences at Namanu. "The camp fostered my leadership abilities and built my confidence. It’s a place where many of us, as young women, discovered our potential. I hope all children have the chance to benefit from such empowering experiences."

With the historic designation, King hopes to secure additional funding for the upkeep of the camp's buildings to ensure Namanu’s preservation for future generations.

As part of its 100-year celebration, Camp Namanu is featured in an exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society, running until June 9. This display chronicles the camp’s extensive history and its profound influence on those who camped there, as reported by OPB.