Virtual Tour: Lake Area

While Onteora was my favorite place to camp, I don't want to ignore the Council's other camp, Camp Wauwepex. Located in Wading River, a hamlet in Suffolk County on Long Island, the 550-acre Wauwepex was an ideal place for weekend camping trips. In fact, my first troop, Troop 182 from Baldwin, would head out to Wauwepex almost every month. When it got too cold for tent camping, there were some great cabins to spend the night.

Camp Wauwepex opened in 1921 in Miller Place, then moved to the present location the next year. It has faithfully served campers from Nassau County ever since. As might be expected of a camp that old, it is steeped in Scouting tradition and history. For example, as mentioned in the history of Buckskin Lodge of the Order of the Arrow, the lodge had its beginnings in an honor society founded at Wauwepex back in 1923!

Current entrance sign

The entrance to camp on Wading River Manor Rd. (2001)

There's a lot more history at Wauwepex and we'll explore some of it on this tour through the property. We'll also learn how it got its current name of Schiff Scout Reservation. By the way, I still think of it as "Wauwepex" and will likely use that description for most of this section of the website. No disrespect meant to the Schiff family.

Ready to take a virtual tour of the camp? First, you might want to get familiar with the property. Wauwepex is centered around the camp's lake, Deep Pond. Here's an overall topographical look:

Topographic map

Topographic map of the property

Deep Pond is described by the state as a glacial kettlehole, measuring 32 acres and having a depth of 40 feet. The area marked on the map and the photo below as "Scuttle Hole" is also referred to as "Sunken Lake" - not to be confused with Sunken Meadow, a whole different part of Long Island!

Aerial view

An aerial view of the property

Back in the days I camped at Wauwepex all of the housing off the right was potato farms. Ugly urban sprawl has come right up to the edge of the camp but inside history lives on. Sadly the camp is no longer as large as it was in the 60s. Financial drains on the Council forced it to sell off pieces of the property many years ago. The old management of the Council actually had wanted to sell off the entire camp but an uproar from concerned Scouters happily put an end to that very ill-advised idea.

Today the public has an easement for fishing at the lake as part of a complicated deal with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but overall it's still a Boy Scout camp - and a very good one, even if the main usage has shifted more to Cub Scout programs and weekend camping.

In case it's been a few years here are some maps you can use to follow the route as we explore the camp. I will be updating some of these with larger images as time permits.

1950 - it's a bit rough, but it's the best one I've found so far that shows all three of the camps at Wauwepex
1996 - Cub Scout version
1997 - Cub Scout version
1999 - Hiking Trails version

Before we begin the tour, here are a few quick Wauwepex observations:

* The Council bought the property in 1926 for $250,000. Not a bad deal!

* Wauwepex means "Place of Good Water".

* There were once three separate camps operating at Wauwepex, named Pioneer Division, Frontier Division and Indian Division. The dining halls were named accordingly, as Pioneer Hall, etc. The camp divisions are no longer used, and the dining halls are now Hickox (formerly Frontier) and Hayden (formerly Indian) Halls. The old Pioneer Hall had been used for a while as a craft lodge but has since been demolished.

* The camp once had an outlying piece of property used for overflow camping. This section of the camp, which was formally known as the "Ponderosa" section, was better known as "Inchworm Land", for it was full of these tiny, wiggling and generally disgusting creatures. They would hang from tiny threads and get in your hair, face, clothes, sleeping bag, and worst of all, your food. Inchworms were once so pervasive on Long Island that the government would pay bounties for bringing in bags of them. Some troops are said to have earned enough to pay for the full year of their program events. This 147-acre section of the camp was sold to the State of New York. While it's nice to be rid of the inchworms, this deal did call for the public to have access to Deep Pond.

* Unlike Onteora, Wauwepex is no longer used for summer troop camping. As mentioned on the Onteora pages, attendance at Wauwepex had dropped in the late 60s, and by 1973, it had to share the annual patch with Alder Lake. Finally, after years of declining attendance, it was closed as a summer camp in 1976. The property does get a lot of use during Summer though, as local groups use it for day care and the Council holds Cub and family camping there. The property is used throughout the rest of the year for a variety of Scout activities, and local troops continue to use the cabins, lean-tos and campsites for camping.

* The property has a new name these days: John Mortimer Schiff Scout Reservation. When the famous Schiff camp in New Jersey closed up in 1979, the Schiff family made a significant donation to the Council for honoring the camp's namesake, John M. Schiff, and thus the name transferred over to Wauwepex as well. The original Schiff Scout Reservation had been named for his father, Mortimer L. Schiff. The Council has had a long association with the Schiff name, as can be seen on this time-worn plaque on the property:

Mortimer L. Schiff plaque

Mortimer L. Schiff plaque

Erected by the Boy Scouts of America
Nassau County, New York
In Memory Of
whose wise counsels and generous
gifts so greatly aided them in
securing for their permanent use

President, Boy Scouts of America
May 6th to June 4th, 1931
Director for Nassau County Council
January 1st, 1920 to February 3rd, 1930

OK, ready to do some exploring? Grab your map and continue your tour with the menu below.

Tour pages