Girl Scout Camp Latonka

Camp Latonka 04-09-2016I’ve been scanning a lot of Boy Scout stuff recently. Dad, my brothers and I were members of the Anpetu-We lodge of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scout National Honor Society. I liked the Order better than the Boy Scouts because we were older boys, selected by our troops, and dedicated to service. We spent weekends building things and doing repairs at Camp Lewallen, for example; things that we could point to years later and say, “I built that.”

While doing a search, I ran across a note on Facebook saying that “as the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service, we have an opportunity to assist the local Girl Scouts at Camp Latonka again this year.” I hadn’t been on a work day since probably 1967, and I had never been to the Girl Scout camp located on Lake Wappapello in Wayne County. This was going to be a chance to kill two birds with one stone.

The worker bees

Camp Latonka 04-09-2016When I got to the camp, I saw several trucks and cars around the dining hall, but there was no sound of saws, hammers or other activity, so I just roamed around shooting mug shots of the facilities.

I finally ran into the group taking a lunch break before heading down to tear rotted boards off cabins, do some painting and general clean up. I shot this group photo of the Order of the Arrow members and The Friends of Camp Latonka in front of a stack of rotten wood that would be burned in a bonfire later.

A beautiful site

Camp Latonka 04-09-2016Without going into a lot of detail, some of which can be found here, a merger found the Girl Scouts with two camps in Wayne county. The Missouri Heartland board decided to retain Camp Cherokee Ridge at Patterson, and “divest” lands not needed, like Camp Latonka.

If I was cynical, I would say that the Latonka site, with waterfront access to Lake Wappapello and great overlooks of the lake, would be prime pickings for developers, with the proceeds going to support other Heartland activities. Fortunately, there was enough of an outcry that the camp has been given a new lease on life. It still depends heavily on donations and volunteer labor to keep going.

Camp mugshots

Pictures of people can be divided into portraits, which attempt to capture a person’s personality, and mugshots, which are merely records of facial features. Since I had never been to the camp before, I knew nothing of the “soul” of the place. What you see are merely mugshots that I hope will stir some memories for some of the hundreds of girls who have passed through the camp. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

11 Replies to “Girl Scout Camp Latonka”

  1. Theses photos are bittersweet. Very sad to see the place in such disrepair. I spent many happy summers at Camp Latonka and have often wondered of its condition. I have a few aging photos from my days as a camper. At that time there were no indoor bathroom facilities. I was surprised to see that upgrade. We roughed it. My favorite memories are of gatherings at the lake in the evenings where we would sing the wonderful, traditional girl scout songs. Sometimes we were told to bring a piece of tree bark to the lake. We would mount small candles on our little bark rafts, light them and let them float off onto the lake while we were singing. Wow…..lots of memories. I later went to counselor training at Camp Cedarledge at Pevely, MO and then obtained my water safety instructor certificate to work as a swim instructor at Camp Bear Creek on KY Lake. That job had a special perk as the swim instructors could take out the canoes during free time. I spent lots of years in the Girl Scouts and I am most grateful for all those experiences and opportunities. I am grateful to the various women who served as my troop leaders from Brownies through Senior scouting. I really appreciate your photos of Camp Latonka. Thank you!

    1. Susan,

      The pictures may not be fair to the camp. The ranger told me that the tent platforms at Level Acres are being torn apart because that style of shelter no longer meets GSA safety standards in areas with overhanging trees.

      Cabins located in other areas are pretty nice. The outhouse I shot is no longer in use; all the camping areas have shower rooms and toilets near them. The dining hall and other common buildings look to be in good repair.

  2. Did you find me in those photos on the wall Ken??

    Thanks for taking such good shots of my “home by the water.” (That’s what Latonka means- or so the story goes!)

    Some stories on a few shots…

    The canoes have decades of use. They had numbers on them, but long before I came along, one had “Titanic” painted in it. It had no airpocket, so it was never used for “swamping” or overturned canoe drills, where girls learned what to do in case of emergency. In the early 2000’s, this camp director and an older girl were running one of the canoe escorts during the “mile swim” (to the point and back) and being silly, we declared our ship the Black Pearl ala Pirates of the Carribean. One thing led to another, and I put together a list of historical or literary ships and showed up at the waterfront one after with list, some acrylic paint and a brush. Dumb move. I shoulda remembered the immortal words of my 8th grade science teacher- “heated things are hot!” Ouch. Metal canoes in the sun get blisteringly hot.

    The Chidester flag pole at the waterfront is the one I canoed OVER in the “big flood.”

    Remembering your comment about seeing things you built years later? Oh those sad wooden recycling bins. I built those with a group of girls one spring. My girls who showed up were mainly K-3rd grade. We’ll blame their crookedness on that and go on.

    We had our own group of older girls that was sorta Order of the Arrow-ish, without being part of a National thing. That sign in the Dining Hall proclaiming the Home of Osage Braves was something I am proud of contributing artistically. The directional sign post near the waterfront had some of my work too.

    The Osage Society got merged into “Four Fires” after the council realignment. I’d deducated a lot of time behind building up Osage during my tenure, and Four Fires has so much potential, but in many ways it isback to square one without top admins understanding its value. Luckily the person currently directly over summer camp program (as opposed to the property parts of things- she runs camp staff, and plans what girls are offered to do etc) GETS Four Fires, being from one of the groups that fed into it.

    1. April,

      I thought about looking for you when I shot the pix on the wall, but I had a lot of ground to cover and didn’t linger long anywhere.

      I chuckled at the names on the canoes.

      It’s been decades since I was at the lake. When I saw duck decoys hanging in the trees, I can only imagine how high the water level was. Pretty amazing.

  3. Happy memories of my Scouting days from 1953 to 1961. I used to take my trumpet to camp and play taps at the end of the night. My favorite year was Outpost, which lasted a month. We started out in the platform tents (no cabins back then) and then spent a week or so on a canoe trip packing our gear and setting up nightly on the shoreline. I remember learning to swim quickly because the mud was surely 10 feet deep by the swimming dock. Well..maybe only 6 inches…but a yucky feeling. I took C.T. (Counselor Training) there and during college worked in a camp in Colorado teaching of all things, Drama. Latonka days were full of dung beetles, vespers, campfires, lashing skills, one pot meals, cleaning the dining hall, flag duty, trail maintaining…and hoping the wild pigs didn’t enter your tent and root through your luggage. Every year someone didn’t follow rules and brought candy. And…oh, yes…the store where you could buy batteries and insect spray. It was a good place to grow up. And now…ta da…I own an RV park in the Foothills of the Ozarks and get to be out-of-doors all the time.

  4. Sherry’s post reminded me of the year I was there and a wild sow decided to give birth to 11 piglets in our platform tent. Needless to say, we were moved to another area because Mrs. Mama Pig was NOT happy to see/hear a group of young gals around her newborns. Other than that encounter, my visit there will always be full of memories of good times swimming, canoeing, singing around the campfire and crafting all the unusual things girls make at camp.

  5. Very nice, is there any way that I can share this with
    my Girl Scout friend and former ED of Otahki council?

    1. Sure, just copy the link and send it to her. I love it when people share the stories. Copying the pictures is another matter. We’ll need to talk about that if that’s what you want to do.

  6. AHhh, Camp Latonka! Some of my best summer memories are of that camp! It looks a lot the same. I remember the wild hogs that would get under the tent platforms at night and scare us! Of course, cleaning that latine seemed to be my job more often than I liked!
    Thanks for the pictures brought back many happy memories.

  7. Thank you for sharing your great photos. It’s nice to see pictures of home and what it looks like these days.

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