Department of Environmental Conservation

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Summer Camps

Colby, DeBruce, Rushford, and Pack Forest

Registration for the 2023 DEC Summer Camp season will opened in early 2023. Updates and changes can be found on the Camps main web page and on both DEC's Facebook and Summer Camps' Facebook pages.

Please contact EducationCamps@dec.ny.gov if you have any questions.

graphic that says register here for dec summer camp
Register Online
(leaves DEC website)
Watch a clip about DEC's summer camps and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

DEC Summer Camps are Special

DEC camp participants standing by river
DEC camps help instill a life-long passion
for nature and stewardship of
natural resources

DEC camps combine environmental education, hunter education programs, and outdoor recreation into a fun adventure. We use a hands-on approach to teach about the environment. Camps run Sunday afternoon through Friday afternoon.

Campers will have the opportunity to learn outdoor skills including backpacking, camping, and canoeing. They will explore New York's diverse habitats, have the chance to learn basic ecological concepts, and how human activities affect the environment. Campers solve challenges, explore environmental concepts, practice outdoor skills, and spend the week immersed in nature. The 2022 Camp Season marked 75 years of fostering a love for the natural world.

Explore DEC's Summer Camps through images on the DEC's Summer Camps Facebook page. (leaves DEC website)

Adventure, Education, & Fun!

Lessons at camp cover a range of topics led by counselors with backgrounds in science, education, or recreation and include examining insects and flowers in a field, using nets along the lake shore to study macroinvertebrates, or venturing in the forest to learn about biodiversity and forestry. Throughout the week campers engage in activities that emphasize basic ecological concepts about habitats, species identification, and how organisms and habitats adapt to changes. Campers also consider environmental solutions through activities and scenarios that encourage them to make decisions to mitigate their impacts on the environment.

At camp, youth also have a chance to try new skills, including archery, canoeing, fishing, birding, or taking a hunter education course. Hunter education programs are limited and offer campers a chance to complete their safety certificates on the path to a hunting, bowhunting, or trapping license. Visit Hunter Education at Camp to learn more. Counselors also use the I FISH NY program to teach about fishing and fish identification.

Day trips might include hiking, canoeing in nearby lakes, or visiting local nature museums as the week allows. Each week campers also go on one overnight trip and learn camping skills.

Of course, camp also includes skits, songs, campfires, swimming, and recreation games to round out the week. Many of the games and activities at camp are from environmental education programs like Projects Learning Tree, WILD, & WET, allowing campers to play games while further reinforcing ecological concepts.

Map of New York State showing the location of the camps

Follow these links to learn more about camp.

  • Camp Colby (11 to 13 year-olds, 1 week for 14-17 year-olds) in Franklin County, next to the Adirondack Forest Preserve
  • Camp DeBruce (11 to 13 year-olds, 1 week for 14-17 year-olds) in the southern Catskills
  • Camp Rushford (11 to 13 year-olds, 2 weeks of 14-17 year-olds) in Allegany County
  • Camp Pack Forest (14 to 17 year-olds, 2 weeks of 11-13 year-olds) in the southern Adirondacks

About Our Camp Counselors

Camp counselor teaches campers about the forest
Our counselors are critical to the camps success

Our counselors are well-educated and committed to providing a great experience for all campers. Many of our staff are former campers, continuing the DEC Summer Camps tradition by returning to teach the next generation of campers. All environmental education camp counselors have at least two years of college in natural or biological sciences, natural resource conservation, recreation management, environmental education or primary and secondary education. Our counselors are all certified in First Aid and CPR/AED and have been checked through the NYS Sex Offenders Registry.

You can read more about the requirements for camps staff or learn how to apply by visiting the Employment at DEC Summer Camps page.

Cost and Sponsorships

DEC camp costs $350 per camper, per week.

Many campers are sponsored by local conservation organizations, hunting and fishing clubs, garden clubs, and community groups. Talk with organizations in your area to find out if they offer sponsorships, and how to receive one. Sponsored campers must work with their sponsoring organization to receive sponsorship ahead of the January registration opening for camps. Read the 2022 Sponsor Letter (PDF) for more information.

Help Support DEC Camps

You can now donate online (leaves DEC website) to help support the camps program. Donations may also be made in memory of loved ones. Funds raised for camperships help underwrite the costs for youth that otherwise would be unable to attend.

The camp donations are handled by the NHT (Natural Heritage Trust (link leaves DEC website)). It is a 501 (c) (3) charitable trust created to receive and administer gifts in support of parks, land and water conservation and outdoor recreation in New York State. The NHT works with DEC to administer and raise private funds for the camp program. Your donation is tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Click on the image at left to make a donation on line or follow the instruction below to donate by check.

Memorial donations should be sent to the DEC Camps account in the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT). The check should be made out to NHT, with DEC Camps written in the memo section. Please include a note with the name of the person in whose memory you are making the donation and the name of the family member who should receive a letter informing them of your contribution. Checks should be mailed to NHT Camps, c/o Director of Management & Budget Services, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-5010. NHT will send out acknowledgment letters to donors for tax purposes.


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