April 02, 2019

Children can experience the great outdoors in style at Touch of Nature this summer

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Children can put the fun in summer at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s outdoor experiential learning camps happenings all summer long at Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

There are several camps planned for ages 7-15, along with a variety of Girl Scout camps.

Three types of adventure camps

Eco Day Camps are for children ages 7-10 while Explorer Camps welcome children ages 10-13. Teens ages 13-15 can enjoy Voyageur camps. Touch of Nature Environmental Center, a 3,100-acre site filled with forests, hills and water, is home to all. The center is located about eight miles south of Carbondale off Giant City Road.

Each of the camps focuses on the great outdoors, with campers enjoying fun activities including zooming down a zip line, exploring the Shawnee Forest, rock-climbing, hiking, paddleboat riding, canoeing, making crafts, tie-dying T-shirts and much more. Each camp session has its own theme and related activities.

Choose from four Eco Camp sessions

The schedule for the 2019 Eco Camps, which are for ages 7-10, along with pricing and camp details, includes:

  • Youth in the Wild Day Camp – June 10-14, giving children a chance to get acquainted with nature through hands-on activities such as land navigation, creek exploration, shelter building, mammoth hunting and more, $230.
  • X-Treme Kids Day Camp – two separate sessions will happen on June 17-21 and July 8-12, each featuring action-packed outdoor adventures including hiking, paddleboat rides, zip lining, rock climbing, making nature art and other activities, $230.
  • Aqua Adventures Day Camp – June 24-28, filled with activities revolving around the water, from shoreline hikes to studying watersheds and aquatic habitats, from collecting creatures with a dip net to canoeing or kayaking on the lake, $230.

Action-packed middle age group options

The Explorers camps offer daytime and overnight options for children ages 10-13:

  • Wild Outdoor Week (W.O.W.) Day Camp – June 10-14, with swimming, canoeing, zip lining, rock climbing and many other outdoor learning and survival skills activities, $275.
  • Adventures Underway Overnight Camp – June 17-21, incorporates hiking, swimming, backpacking and other outdoor activities into an exploration of several state parks, including Elephant Rocks, Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Hawn and Taum Sauk Mountain (where campers can climb the highest natural point in Missouri), $450. This camp is limited to 12 participants.

Land and water exploration open to teens

There are two different camps for ages 13-15, with one focusing on exploring the region on land while the other explores the waterways.

  • Southern Adventures Day Camp – June 24-28, gives campers the chance to discover some of Southern Illinois’ hidden natural gems, including Jackson Falls, Bell Smith Springs, Heron Pond, the Cache River and Garden of the Gods as they learn “Leave no trace” awareness, $350. There’s also an overnight option available on June 27 with the additional $30 fee covering overnight supervision and meals. There is a limit of 12 participants for this camp.
  • Way of the Paddle Day Camp – July 8-12, beginning with water skills training on Little Grassy Lake and moving on to the Cache River State Natural Area, paddling on Devil’s Kitchen Lake and testing watercraft skills in the Southern Illinois wilds, $350.

Sign up now

Find registration and additional details about the camps online, along with information about available discounts for multi-camp participants and multiple campers within the same family. Or, call 618/453-1121 or email tonec@siu.edu for more information.

Registration is available on a first-come, first-served basis, so sign up early to claim a spot.

Free transportation

Parents may drop children off at the camp or, free transportation is available from the SIU Arena parking lot to Touch of Nature. The bus leaves the lot at 8 a.m. and returns at 4:30 p.m.

Touch of Nature hosting several Girl Scout camps

Girls of all ages can find a Girl Scout camp just for them at Touch of Nature this summer. There is a day camp for the younger girls along with overnight three-day and weeklong camps for various ages. Sign up online for all of the camps under the “events” tab at gsofsi.org or by calling 618/692-0692. The registration deadline is June 3 for each of the camps.

Free bus transportation is available from designated locations in O’Fallon, Effingham and Mount Vernon; call 618/692-0692 for exact locations and details.

Day camp for Daisies

Little Daisies (grades K-1) can see what a camp experience is all about at the Daisies Big Day at Camp, set for 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on July 31. It’s a great opportunity for girls to explore what fun camp can be and they’re welcome to bring a buddy – be it a friend or a stuffed animal- for camaraderie. The cost is $25.

Mini-sessions planned

The camp will have a variety of mini-sessions which all take place July 24-27. The cost is $255, which includes a $50 deposit, due at registration. Groups of girls registering at the same time, whether as a troop, family or friends, receive a $30 per participant discount.

The camps include:

  • “Where the Wild Campers Are” Brownies camp (grades 2-3) – a fun adventure with wild arts and crafts projects, baby animals, snacks, swimming and more.
  • “No Probllama at Camp” Juniors camp (grades 4-5) – a laid-back time to connect with the true animal spirit while rock climbing and taking part in archery and other camp activities.
  • “The Brave Outdoors” Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors camp (grades 6-12) – a high-adventure challenge giving campers a woodland experience incorporating “Leave No Trace” ethics, along with time for swimming in the lake, climbing the rock wall and more.

Weeklong camps set

The Girl Scouts will also have several weeklong camps this summer at Touch of Nature, all running July 28 to Aug. 3. The cost is $380 per scout or $345 per person for groups registering at the same time.

The schedule includes:

  • “Brownies, Gnomes and Wizards” Brownies camp (grades 2-3) – see the forest come to life with fairies, gnomes and wizards as the campers build fairy houses, make magical potions, learn to help wounded animals, swim, eat s’mores, catch fireflies and meet live owls and go on an owl prowl.
  • “Mermaidia” Juniors camp (grades 4-5) – campers will become ‘mermaids’ for the week, enjoying lots of water adventures as they make bubble wands, discover underwater friends during a creek walk, search for sunken pirate treasure during a scavenger hunt, make sea treasure crafts and shoot arrows.
  • “Clothed and Afraid” camp for Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors (grades 6-12) – includes a crash course in camping and “Leave No Trace” skills as participants enjoy rock climbing on natural sandstone bluffs, paddling across the lake at Giant City and having other adventures.
  • “Counselor in Training” camp for Seniors and Ambassadors (grades 9-12) – giving them a chance to learn and practice leadership skills as they plan and direct activities for younger campers.