Granite State Stories: Camp Chocorua launches summer camps

  • Ernest B. Balch and boys in Camp Chocorua’s outdoor chapel, as pictured in an article by the founder’s sister Elizabeth Balch, “The Boys’ Paradise,” in the magazine St. Nicholas, June 1886. Courtesy of the New Hampshire Historical Society

Published: 9/3/2018 10:51:34 AM

In 1881, Dartmouth College student Ernest Balch opened Camp Chocorua on Squam Lake, New Hampshire’s first children’s summer camp and one of the earliest and most influential in the nation.

Balch wanted to encourage teenage boys from wealthy families to spend their summers exploring the wilderness and learning the values of independence, resourcefulness and spirituality. The boys cooked their own meals, cleaned, built huts and cleared paths around the campground.

Camp Chocorua closed after nine years, but Balch’s ideas gained national attention and inspired a movement. There have been more than 450 overnight camps in New Hampshire since then, providing an outdoor experience to an expanding audience.

The Granite State is also the home of the first summer camp for girls, Camp Redcroft on Newfound Lake, which opened in 1900.

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