Emerald Bay Reopens for Scouts/Camping on Catalina Island

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After more than a year, campers returned to Emerald Bay.

For more than a year, Emerald Bay, located on the undeveloped west end of Catalina Island, has been closed for camping. That changed the first weekend in June, when Palisades Cub Pack 223 became the first group to be welcomed back to the island.

The group included 75 Scouts in kindergarten through fourth grade, joined by parents.

The journey started at 6:30 a.m. on the Harbor Breeze Boat out of Long Beach. Mom Joanna Curtis wrote, “To the boys’ delight, the group was greeted with a mega pod of dancing dolphins as we neared the island.”

For the next two days, there were field sports, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming and hiking. After dinner there were songs and skits around a campfire, followed by a stargazing walk led by the visiting camp doctor, Dr. Mike Sanford.

On Sunday morning after breakfast and cleaning up the camp site, the Scouts packed their gear and walked to the dock to board the boat for the trip home.

“Based on their smiles and enthusiasm, the Scouts were the embodiment of ‘Happy Campers,’” Curtis said.

In addition to Scouts, during the spring and fall, school, church, business and organizations may also use Emerald Bay for retreats and events.

Back in 2018, Circling the News was invited by Troop 223 Scoutmaster Mike Laning to stay on the island the first season that girls camped under the Boy Scout banner.

It was a magical experience away from technology and electricity. To adequately describe the beauty of the area is almost impossible: the soaring hills, the clear water and skies filled with stars.

It is rustic, with campers staying in two-man, army-style wall tents. Each tent contains two cots and two mattresses. There are showers and toilets in an area away from the tents. All meals are served at specified times in a large mess hall.

The history of Emerald Bay dates back to the 18th century when Chumash Indians, Spaniards, and the occasional pirate occupied the land.

In the mid-19th century, the Johnson Brothers used Emerald Bay to graze cattle and ship them to the mainland.

The Crescent Bay Area Council founded the Boy Scouts of America facility in 1925 and Scouts from all over Southern California began going through the facility.

In 1940, the Navy requisitioned the camp for underwater demolition training and some of our oldest staff cabins are the remnants of the officer and trainee housing.

Camp Emerald Bay re-opened in 1946 with roughly 80-100 campers. It has continued to grow and now serves more than 4,500 Scouts in a summer. The land and the ocean surrounding it are pristine and under the care of the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Lanning, a longtime Palisadian, told CTN: “I wish I could figure out a way to get more parents to come and take a look at the program.”

He feels that many parents tend to sign their kids up for sports and don’t explore Scouting, which “is the oldest conservation organization in America. We’re trying to get kids to take care of nature.”

For information about Scouting for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, contact: cubscoutp223@gmail.com. For those in sixth grade or older, contact frostfamily223@gmail.com.

For large group camping information on Emerald Bay, contact: https://www.campemeraldbay.org/

The campfire gathering is the last activity before campers go to their tents in the undeveloped area of Catalina Island.

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