March 03, 2017

Summer camp schedule set at Touch of Nature

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Fun and adventure await children of all ages as Southern Illinois University’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center is offering a wide assortment of summer camp experiences.

The 3,100-acre experiential outdoor educational facility, located along the shores of Little Grassy Lake about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road, is sponsoring a series of EdVenture Camps for youths ages 7-15. Exploration of the great outdoors, hands-on and age-appropriate nature activities, and lots of excitement are packed into each camp experience.

The Eco Camps are for children ages 7-10 while tweenagers ages 10-13 can enjoy Explorers Camps and teens ages 13-15 can participate in Voyageurs Camps. Each camp week has a specific theme and correlating activities to help participants enhance their ecological awareness and understanding of the world around them as they have a good time.

Many are day camps that children will attend from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Parents may drop children off at the camp or take advantage of free, supervised bus transportation from the SIU Arena parking lot to Touch of Nature. The bus leaves the parking lot at 8 a.m. and returns at 4:30 p.m.  Supervision is provided only during those times so drop-off and pick-up at the arena should be timely.

Some of the Explorers and Voyagers camps are overnight camps. There is no shuttle service available for these camps.

Registration for all camps is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

There is one special camp, Mississippian Heartland Intergenerational Camp, for children ages 10 and older along with their grandparents. The camp, set for June 19-23, is open to ages 10-80 and participants will learn of the region’s ancient culture. Before European explorers arrived, the Mississippian culture was the largest pre-Columbian civilization in North America and participants in this camp will explore earthen mound cities, a glacier-carved canyon featuring pictographs and petroglyphs, village sites on bluffs, stone forts, museums and other fascinating historical places. It wraps up with a visit to Cahokia Mounds, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

The 2017 Eco Camps schedule, for ages 7-10, along with pricing and camp details, includes:

  • “Survival 101 Day Camp,” June 5-9, $200, with hands-on programs to help children build their knowledge of nature and survival skills. Activities will include hiking, paddling, building shelters, collecting water, making fires, reading maps and a compass and team-building exercises.
  • “X-Treme Kids Day Camp,” separate sessions offered June 12-16 and July 10-14, $225, an action-packed outdoor adventure that will include hiking, paddleboat rides, zip lining, rock climbing, and tie-dying a T-shirt to take home.
  • “Blue Planet Day Camp,” June 26-30, $200, offering an eclectic blend of activities revolving around the water, from hikes along the shore to studying watersheds and aquatic habitats, from using a dip net to canoeing or kayaking on the lake.

The Explorers Camps schedule, for ages 10-13, includes:

  • “Survival 102 Day Camp,” June 12-16, $275, with optional overnight camping June 15 and June 16. Participants will explore their relationship to nature, learn basic survival skills and engage in hiking, navigation using a map and compass, canoeing, building shelters and fires, and they will learn environmental stewardship. They can also test their skills by completing a survival challenge.
  • “Adventures Underway Overnight Camp,” June 19-23, $450, an action-packed session incorporating rock climbing, tightrope walking, hiking, canoeing, survival skills education, roasting marshmallows and other experiences along with creating a tie-dyed T-shirt to take home.
  • “Wild Outdoor Week (W.O.W.) Day Camp,” July 24-28, $250, featuring swimming, canoeing, zip-lining, rock climbing and other outdoor and survival skills learning activities as well as making a souvenir T-shirt tie-dying.

The schedule of Voyageurs Camps, for ages 13-15, includes:

  • River Runners Overnight Camp, June 19-23, $500, filled with lots of time on the water. The first day is spent paddling on Little Grassy Lake at Touch of Nature and then campers take their watercraft skills to Missouri for paddling and exploration fun on the Eleven Point River where they’ll camp, eat s’mores, watch the stars and more. The cost includes transportation, food, gear and lodging and the camp is limited to the first 12 to register.
  • “Leadership Overnight Camp,” July 24-28, $450, gives participants the chance to hone their leadership skills through simulated survival experiences. They will zip line, navigate the high ropes course, build fires and shelters, do back-country cooking, learn to navigate and go canoeing and hiking.
  • Southern Adventures Day Camp,” July 17-21, $300, exploring many of Southern Illinois’ hidden natural gems including Jackson Falls, Bell Smith Springs, Mermet Springs and the Cache River. Campers will climb sandstone bluffs, explore swamps, snorkel at a local scuba training center and more and the camp is limited to 14 participants.

As a bonus, those who register for the Mississippian Heartland Intergenerational Camp, the Adventures Underway Overnight Camp, the River Runners Overnight Camp or the Leadership Survival Overnight Camp save $50 per camp session if they sign up before March 31.

Online registration, and additional details about the camps, is available by visiting and clicking on “Camps and Retreats.” You can also call 618453-1121 or email for more information.

In addition, Touch of Nature is partnering with the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois to offer several residential Girl Scout camps this summer. The camps are open to all girls, regardless of whether they are scouts or not. Planned activities include swimming, canoeing, hiking, archery, environmental education, crafts, singing, campfires and working on badges. In addition, the older girls will go rock climbing and do the high ropes course.

The Girl Scout camp schedule includes:

  • “Living Like Bigfoot” Brownies camp, July 26-29, for girls entering grades 2-3, helping them learn how to be untraceable in the great outdoors as they swim, cook over the fire and explore nature.
  • “Women Warriors” Juniors camp, July 26-29, for girls entering grades 4-5, helping them tap into their inner strengths as they throw giant darts with an atlatl (spear-thrower), use a dart gun to launch smaller darts, operate a slingshot, shoot with a bow and arrow, build a survival shelter, swim in the lake or join the “one match” club.
  • “F.L.O.W.,” Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors camp, July 26-29, for girls entering grades 6-12, enabling them to enhance their outdoor skills and improve their leadership abilities by designing a camp experience and possibly leading one or more programs.
  • “Finding Nature” Brownies camp, July 30-Aug. 5, giving girls entering grades 2-3 the chance to discover enchanted friends living in the trees, streams and underground, while walking in a summer creek, making s’mores, swimming, exploring the woods and having their faces painted.
  • “Water World” Junior camps, July 30-Aug. 5, offering girls entering grades 4-5 plenty of opportunities to explore the water world by swimming, riding in a pontoon boat and canoe, paddle boarding, and even going on a “whale” hunt.
  • “Expedition W.I.L.D. (Women in Leadership Development) Cadettes, Seniors, Ambassadors camp, July 30-Aug. 5, providing girls entering grades 6-12 with opportunities to showcase their skills and learn new ones as they focus on camping, “leave no trace” principles and the great outdoors.
  • “CIT (Counselor in Training) program for Seniors and Ambassadors, July 30-Aug. 5, teens entering grades 9-12 will learn about leadership and develop leadership skills as they work with younger campers in a variety of camp activities and programming.

The cost of each of the July 26-29 mini-session camps is $255 and that includes a $50 deposit due at the time of registration. The price for the weeklong camps July 30-Aug. 5 is $380, including a $100 deposit due at registration. The deadline to sign up for any of the Girl Scout camps is May 25.

Register online at or by calling 618/692-0692.