girl on a zipline

April 12, 2021

SIU’s new Voyageur camp at Touch of Nature helps teens develop as outdoor leaders

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Voyageur Leadership Program, a unique new outdoor leadership skills development program for teens, is coming to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center this summer. Participants, ages 13-16, will develop outdoor skills, expand their comfort zones and enhance their leadership abilities as they enjoy a wide variety of adventures during a series of weekly programs.

The inaugural program begins June 7 and there is a session each week thereafter, meeting Monday through Friday for four consecutive weeks. The first day of each session is onsite at Touch of Nature and will include orientation and preparation for daytime and overnight adventures. Beginning the second day, campers will stay overnight.

Diverse program

The program features:

  • Mad Dog Canoe Adventure, June 7-11. Teens will camp, canoe, portage, backcountry cook and more at locales including Devils Kitchen Lake, Little Grassy Lake, Panthers Den Wilderness Area and Touch of Nature.
  • River to River Zipline Adventures, June 14-18. Campers will explore the beauty of the region via the air and backcountry trails, including aerial adventures at Touch of Nature, Shawnee Canopy Tours and hiking on the River to River Trail.
  • Rock Climbing Adventure Week, June 21-25. Participants will explore some of the region’s most popular rock-climbing spots during safe, supervised climbs on day trips.
  • Eleven Points River National Scenic Trip, June 28-July 2. During this final week, the explorers will learn more about backcountry and canoe travel as they discover the natural beauty of the scenic site with towering bluffs and rushing springs, including Class I and II rapids, located in Missouri.

Safe and confidence-building

The goal is to provide the teens with enjoyable outdoor experiences, mentored by Touch of Nature staff, that help them build self-confidence, improve decision-making and stewardship skills, and prepare them to become the leaders of tomorrow. Environmental interpretation, service learning, challenging expeditions and leadership challenges will be included.

Enhanced safety and social distancing measures will be in place, including group size limitations, in compliance with state and university pandemic safety guidelines. Tents, camping gear and necessary equipment will be provided.

Plans also call for offering Voyageur Leadership Program events throughout the school year to give teens further opportunities to develop as outdoor leaders and stewards of the future.

Register now

The cost for each weekly session is $350. Registration is required at least two weeks prior to the beginning of camp and is open on a first-come, first-served basis, so early registration is recommended

Sign up now online.

The camp takes place at Touch of Nature Environmental Center, located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road. Options for transportation to and from the Banterra Center, lunches, T-shirts and water bottles are available when registering.

For more information, contact Erik Oberg at or 618-453-3945 or visit the Touch of Nature website at