person in a kayak

March 22, 2022

SIU’s Touch of Nature expanding summer camp offerings for children

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — This could be the best summer ever for children ages 4-16, thanks to a variety of outdoor fun and adventure summer camps at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center.  

This year’s expanded Edventure Camp schedule at the experiential learning center runs from June 6 through Aug. 5 and offers some two dozen camps, each with a specific theme created especially for the various age groups. The camps run Monday through Friday with younger children, ages 4-5, attending half-day sessions from 8:45 to 11:45 a.m. All other ages enjoy full-day sessions from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 a.m. There are a few overnight camp opportunities for older teens.

Registration is now underway online, and all camps take place at the scenic center, located about 8 miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road. All of the camps offer not only a unique chance to explore and learn but also the opportunity to make new friends and enjoy fun interactions. They will also learn about the Leave No Trace principles so as to not leave their mark on the beautiful area.

Forest Day Camps

Six weekly sessions of Forest Day Camps are on tap for ages 4-7 with the ages 4-5 meeting in the mornings only and ages 6-7 attending all day. Participants will explore the outdoors and learn about the world around them as they discover flora and fauna and water-world life in and around Little Grassy Lake, Indian Creek and the Shawnee National Forest.

Eco Day Camps

Children ages 8-9 can choose from six Eco Day Camps. They can learn to pitch a tent, paddle and fish in the lake and creek, identify trees and leaves, look for fossils and more as they explore the forest, waterways and plants and animals found at Touch of Nature.

Adventure Camps

Preteens ages 10-12 have six options for outdoor fun and excitement. Canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, rock climbing, water games, trying the high ropes course, cooking on a campfire, learning to navigate through the forest, swimming and hiking nearby natural areas including the Cache River, Garden of the Goods and Jackson Falls are just a few of the things children can do.

Underway Adventures Camps

An assortment of day and overnight camps are offered for youths ages 13-16 with the Underway Adventures Camp. Activities include rock climbing, paddleboarding, zip lining, mountain biking, hiking, enjoying the high ropes course, exploring the River to River Trail and numerous other areas, including Bell Smith Springs, Heron Pond and Garden of the Gods. One of the overnight adventures includes a trip to the scenic Eleven Point National Wild and Scenic River in Missouri for canoeing among Class I and II rapids.

Register early

Camp registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, and some typically fill up quickly. All registrations are due no later than two weeks before the start of the camps.

Signup is online for the Forest, Eco and Adventure Camps. Registration is also available online for the Underway Adventure camps. The day camps range in price from $255 to $275, while the overnight expeditions and the zip line camp are $375.

Discounts are offered for children attending more than one camp or when more than one child from the same immediate family participates. Camperships are also available for children with financial need.

Safety measures in place, transportation available

Touch of Nature, an outdoor learning laboratory, will adhere to SIU’s policies and guidelines in response to the COVID- 19 pandemic as well as state and federal guidelines for its summer camps.

Free shuttle bus transportation is available for children from the SIU Banterra Center to Touch of Nature for the camp sessions, with the exception of children ages 4-5, who must be dropped off and picked up at Touch of Nature.

For more information, including the complete camp schedule, visit the website, call 618-453-1121 or email For information on all SIU camps, visit

group of people wearing climbing gear, in a forest