All camps have traditions — special rites of passage, songs and cheers shouted and sung year after year, tales of legendary campers and counselors, achievements and accomplishments. Kawaga has a soul.
Our proud 100-plus years of rich history form the backbone of who we are and what we do. No camper leaves untouched — often in profound ways — by Kawaga’s meaningful and connected culture.
In the summer of 1915, a rabbi from Alabama, in search of a site to build a summer camp as platform for his mission of helping boys develop meaningfully into manhood, purchased a 160-acre plot of forestland in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. His name was Dr. Bernard Ehrenrich, though he became known to all simply as “Doc E.” When he found this particular parcel of land on the northeast shoreline of Lake Kawaguesaga near the town of Minocqua, he knew he had found what he had been searching for: a beautiful, inspiring forested peninsula — a natural wonder that was his “Great Out Doors.”
Kawaga was one of the first 25 camps in the country. Now, more than 100 years later, thousands have been fortunate to have been touched deeply by spending their summers “on the shores,” as Kawaga continues to hold ever firmly to Doc E’s original vision, philosophy, and ideals.
These humble — yet purposeful beginnings — catapulted Kawaga into its current position as one of the country’s premier boys summer camps. As Doc E himself described Kawaga’s goal for his campers: “Fun, yes, but always with the thought of the final effect on the boy.”
Each generation of Kawaga leadership and campers has built upon Doc E’s traditions, bringing new ideas and traditions to Kawaga — all consistent with our guiding values. Always looking to the future yet never forgetting the past.
“The Ideal sums up everything Kawaga stands for — kindness, sportsmanship, friendship, empathy, courage, laughter, family.”
– Parent of 14-year-old
Doc E Statement
Life in the open is necessary to make a youth sturdy, strong and self-reliant.
The papered city boy becomes a slave of luxury.
Reared in homes of comfort, he too often is allowed to shrink all responsibility of work – servants are at his beck and call – his desire to be of use is atrophied. But out in the open in camp life – with other boys his energies are forced into play. Not only are his muscles strengthened by hiking, canoeing, boating swimming and all other athletic sports, but his will power is strengthened by his enforced initiative.
During the period of a boy’s free time – the summer months – a boy should be associated with men who will direct his thoughts into proper channels. He should receive the training that will make it possible to meet the difficulties of life, accepting success with understanding and failures without loss of courage.