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History of Camp Emerson

A Brief History of Camp Emerson

In 1919, the Riverside County Council, led by C.J. Carlson, established a summer camp for one week along Idyllwild’s Grays Meadow. The area of the first Summer Camp is about 1 mile East of Camp Emerson, close to what is today, downtown Idyllwild. The area that the first Summer camp was held is now the Idyllwild Pines Camp.

The first summer camp at Camp Emerson’s location was actually held in 1920. This does mean that dating Camp Emerson to 1919 is not entirely accurate, and it is not the oldest contiuously operating Scout Camp West of the Mississippi River. That honor belongs to Camp Parsons in Brinnon, Washington, which has been operating since 1919.

The camp is named for Claudius Lee Emerson (1872 – 1955), who offered to donate land to the Riverside County Council after seeing the success of the 1919 Summer Camp. With that original parcel of six acres, Camp Emerson as we know it began in 1920, with the Council taking legal title to the property in 1921.

Like many early Scout camps, an American Indian camp society was formed in the 1920s, called the Tribe of Tahquitz. This was a different organization than the Tribe of Tahquitz that was formed at the Idyllwild Camp Tahquitz, also donated land from Lee Emerson, and now the Idyllwild County Regional Park. Emerson’s Tribe of Tahquitz would continue until 1938, when Order of the Arrow Tahquitz Lodge # 127 was formed.

Camp patches date to the 1930s, with the early iconic felt diamond-shape patches from Carl Helmick, a design that he took with him to several Councils.

The Legend of Tahquitz is also synonymous with Camp Emerson, with versions of the Cahuilla tale told at evening campfires over many generations.

Camp Emerson is also famous for Tahquitz Rock, a picturesque rock painted with an iconic figure whose original provenance is not known. Although the totem of the Camp is the Bear, Tahquitz Rock has also become synonymous with the camp as well.

Camp Emerson is now over 100 years old, and has persevered over many decades of use. It is now the only remaining Scout camp in the California Inland Empire Council, and it is the duty of every Scout, Scouter, and Alumni, to cherish, celebrate, protect, and build for future generations.

For a more complete history of the Camp, we invite you to read the transcribed 75th Anniversary of Camp Emerson.

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