Kids + camps = summer |

Kids + camps = summer

With another school year coming to a close it’s time for parents to start thinking ahead to the long days of summer and creative tactics for fighting boredom. There are a number of summer programs and both day and summer camps in Nevada County offering outdoor fun and hands-on learning.

Nevada County Land Trust Summer Nature Camp

Five years ago the Nevada County Land Trust began holding nature camps on Frances Burton’s property as a way to introduce kids to their local environment. The camp continues to this day bringing experts in local history, forest biology, aquatic studies, stargazing and Native American studies.

There are two sessions this year, each costs $75 and includes healthy snacks. The first is a three-day Native American Studies program held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 21 to Friday, June 23 and taught by Maidu camp co-leader Wendy Olenick. Her family will share information about local tribes with storytelling, music, dancing and crafts. Evidence such as grinding stones left from early indigenous people remains visible on the property. “It’s a very strong Maidu site,” said Lynn Campbell, camp director and founder of the Land Trust. Recently a Maidu bark house was built for elders on the site.

The nature camp is held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, June 26 – Friday, June 30. Every lesson includes a lecture from local experts, exploration of environment and an arts and crafts project. Passed lecturers have been John Olmsted of Sequoya Challenge, Linda Chaplin teaching Native American studies, Ann Westling of Tahoe National Forest and Randy Oliver leading aquatic pond studies.

Children will learn about local wildlife and bird populations and do a bit of tracking as well. “We just hit as much as we can on natural elements,” said Campbell. A sleepover campout is scheduled for Thursday evening and stargazing with local amateur astronomer Alan Stahler. “The camp is very local, that’s the whole intent of it. The family feeling of it is very valued,” said Campbell. Contact the Nevada County Land Trust to make reservations 272-5994. Group sizes are small and camp fills up quickly.

The three State Parks

Activities are ongoing at Nevada Counties three state parks: Empire Mine, South Yuba River at Bridgeport and Malakoff Diggins. Beginning Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day, gold panning will be taught at 11 a.m. every Saturday at Bridgeport and 3 p.m. at Malakoff Diggins. Saturday evening campfires will be held from 8 to 9 p.m. during the summer at Malakoff Diggins. Singing, storytelling, marshmallow roasting and games are all part of the fun.

Saturday, June 10 is the annual “Humbug Day” festival held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the park is free that day. There will be a barbecue and food vendors selling ice cream, popcorn, beverages, etc. Children’s activities will include; candle-making, wagon rides, tin punching and gold panning. All the museums will be open and a water cannon used for hydraulic mining will be shot off. Mountain Laurel and the Anderson Family Band will perform blue grass and old time music.

Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe National Forest will hold nature walks at Rock Creek Nature Trail at 10 a.m. Wednesdays June 14, 21, 28 and July 5. The one-mile trail gives visitors a glimpse at various forest ecosystems and the guide will discuss past logging history.

Big Bend Visitor Center will hold Junior Ranger programs for kids age 8-13 at Indian Springs Campground, Sugar Pine Reservoir and Truckee River on Saturday mornings during the summer. Junior Rangers will explore aquatic life, go for nature walks and learn to identify trees. There will be family outings to the old Boca town site. Boca was an ice-producing town that died after the invention of refrigeration.

Stargazing will be held at Big Bend on Saturday, May 27 from 9-10:30 p.m., 9 to 10:30 p.m. June 17 and July 15, 8:30 to 10 p.m. Aug. 12 and 7:30 to 9 p.m. Sept. 16.

The Packer Lake Kid’s Fishing Day will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. July 15 north of Sierra City. No dogs or boats are allowed. “We’re going to have lots of fish,” said Phil Sexton, interpretive specialist. Fish printed T-shirts will be made with real dead fish. There will be hot dogs and sodas for sale and minimal gear. Kids over 16 need a California State fishing license. Contact Forest Headquarters at 631 Coyote St. Nevada City 265-4531 for more information or Big Bend Visitor Center 426-3609 and look for a complete schedule coming soon to the Web at

The Imaginarium

The Imaginarium holds summer day camps throughout the summer but two of them are worth mentioning on the Outdoor page.

Sandy Simmonds, a credentialed teacher, RN and Bridgeport educator through the Superintendent of Schools office is leading a Woodsy Owl’s Junior Ranger Camp for kids age 6 to 8 held from 9 a.m. to noon on July 5-7 at the Salvation Army Center on Alta St. “She’s really artistic and really into nature and the environment,” said Imaginarium director, Judy Nielsen. Children will learn about all the creeping, crawling, buzzing, slithering creatures that live in the forest in a classroom and outdoor setting. The fee is $100.

Fulcrum Farm

This is the fifth year for the “Down on the Farm” camp held at Lisa Bjorn and Marney Blair’s Fulcrum Farm. “They have a very unusual farm,” said Nielsen. Rare plants and unusual things such as popcorn and peanuts are grown. The first session is for younger kids age 6 to 8 and is held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 26-28. The farm experience for younger kids includes meeting farm animals, a stream life study and explorations of a “worm castle” composter. Children will learn to harvest and winnow rare beans, seeds and odd grains. Plus there’s paper making from plants gathered on the farm. Older kids age 9-12 will learn how sesame, peanuts, sorghum and popcorn grow. They will harvest, mill and cook various grains. Cows and chickens will be cared for and there will be compost lessons, cheese making, natural dying and bread making. The fee for farm fun is $90.

Maximum occupancy is 15 kids per camp. Register by calling the Imaginarium at 478-6400 ext. 231 or e-mail “Our camps have a really good reputation,” said Nielsen.

4-H Afterschool Summer Day Camps

There are a number of day camp themes throughout the summer for children age 5 to 12. Outdoor related camps include; “Jump into Food and Fitness” held June 12 through 16, “Seeds, Soil and Sunshine” held June 19-23, “Planting a Rainbow” held June 26 – 30, “4-H, Farms and Fairs” held July 31 – Aug. 4 and “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!” held Aug. 14 to 18. A field trip to 4-H camp at Woodchuck Flat in the Sierra is also planned. Call 4-H Afterschool Child Care, Inc. at 530-889-7387 or visit their Web site at for more information.

Placer Nature Center

Placer Nature Center offers family-friendly trails and monthly “family days.” On June 10 look for “Bugs, Bugs, Bugs” and Aug. 12 “Reptile Fair.” Contact the center at 878-6053.

Sierra Friends Camp

Sierra Friends Camp is only in its second year and is still trying to get the word out. It is a nature-based camp with Quaker philosophies such as equality and respect for nature. It is held on the Sierra Friends Campus located seven miles west of Grass Valley and Nevada City on a 230 acre piece of property. The campus was formerly known as the John Woolman School, founded in 1963 until the center was renamed in 2001. Outdoor adventure including camping and age-appropriate backpacking and river trips are coupled with art and creative projects. The camp is geared toward 9 to 14 year olds. Camp is held from July 1 – 15 and July 16 – 30 and costs $1,000 for a two-week session that includes the program, lodging and food. Find out more online at or 530-273-3183.

All Kids and Critters, Inc.

All Kids and Critters, Inc. is a licensed family day care that provides summer day camps June 12 through Aug. 9 for children 7-13. Besides arts and crafts, tie dying, ceramics, field trips to local gymnasiums, Pioneer Park, 49er Fun Park, and nature hikes. The camp offers close-up contact with farm animals on the family’s five-acre ranch. Interested children will get to sit on a saddled horse, milk the goats, bottle feed rabbits or feed the ducks. A separate weeklong horsemanship program will teach children horse safety, general horse care and beginning riding. 11570 Blackledge Road, Penn Valley. Phone: (530) 432-9964. E-mail:, Hours: 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Snow Mountain Camp

Snow Mountain Camp offers various day and summer camp for boys and girls ages 6 to 17. Some activities include water sports, horseback riding and wilderness sports. Choose an area of focus: Water Sports, Horseback Riding, or Wilderness Sports.

Snow Mountain Camp is located in Nevada City off of Lake Vera-Purdon Road. Contact them for a schedule 530-265-4439 or visit their Web site

Laura Brown lives in Nevada County and covers the outdoors for The Union. Her e-mail is

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