Image: Camp Manitou (1929)


Camp Manitou, located on the north shore eleven kilometres west of Whitefish Falls, was founded in 1925 by John F. Pruitt of Detroit Michiganas a camp in the Canadian north woods for American boys. It operated successfully under his guidance and his philosophy that work and play would give the camper a better coordinated and stronger body; that the camper's experiences would stimulate and expand their awakening mind; and comradeship with other campers would deepen their inherent love for good thought and action.

Mr. Pruitt died unexpectedly in January 1931. In May 1931 the Pinckney Dispatch ofLivingston County Michigan announced that Eugene F. McDonald, an explorer and president ofZenith Radio Co had purchased Camp Manitou. His boat the Mizpah, motored through the Bay several times including when President Roosevelt visited on summer vacation. We have a picture of the Mizpah docked in front of Camp Manitou. McDonald announced camp would be run by Dr. George Fox of Three Oaks Michigan. It operated for 3-4 years until the 1930's depression took hold.

In 1941 the camp was acquired by Herman Phillips, track coach at Butler University who also operated Camp Pokagon, a successful boy's camp near Angola, Indiana. Campers came by car or train to Poncet (now Birch Is.) station and were transported by boat to camp. After the war was over camp declined once again and the property remained vacant for a number of years. In the late 1950s the camp was purchased by W.H. Kiefaber of Dayton Ohio, a summer neighbour(Islands TP2659 and TP2667) and long-time associate of Camp Manitou. He turned it over to theAnglican Diocese of Algoma to be used as a youth camp. 

The site at that time included ten camper cabins, large dining hall and attached lodge, complete with stone fireplace and names of long-time campers inscribed. There was a Manager's house and Carpenter's shop and the large Parent House located on the eastern limit of the property. This had been built to accommodate short-stay visits by parents of the boys who were in camp for the full two month period.

In 1961 the various youth camps operating at St. Augustine's Church and Mission School inWhitefish Falls were transferred to Camp Manitou. Separate one week boys and girls camps were introduced. Transportation was provided by Ernie Spry of the Stump and Spry store in his boat, the Kayak. The camp was operated and maintained by skilled and enthusiastic volunteers who enjoyed being part of an organization supporting affordable youth camping in a spectacularly beautiful setting at the base of the LaCloche Hills.

In 1965 a voyageur canoeing program was initiated and in 1967 the Montreal Brigade, 39boys and men from Camp Manitou, paddled unassisted, over 600 miles to Montreal as Manitou's contribution to the centennial celebrations. The so called Parent House was transformed into a training base and warehouse for the trip and it is now aptly named Voyageur House. In the following years separate boys and girls voyageur trips paddled all over Northern Lake Huron and beyond including trips from Sault Ste. Marie, a trip on the Albany River to James Bay and Moosonee and various other trips north, east and west of the camp property.

Camp continued to grow through the 70s and by the 80s there were three family camps that supported the four youth camps through volunteer and financial contributions. In the 90s a nature camp was added as well as fourth family camp.

In 2000, a successful fundraising campaign raised $400,000 dollars for renovation, renewal and updating of buildings and equipment. Donations came from current and past campers(including those who were campers in the 40s under the American boys camps) and ranged in size from $5 to $60,000. A boat shed and tractor garage were built and purchases made of a new tractor, a new boat and multiple new canoes and kayaks.

In the later 2000s, following discussions regarding Camp Manitou's status and relationship with the Diocese, a decision was made to separately incorporate the camp. On 7 November 2008Camp Manitou Bay of Islands was incorporated as a charitable non-profit corporation to:provide camping programs that accentuate whole health and fitness, provide, where feasible, subsidies to camp participants whose economic situation is disadvantaged, safeguard and preserve the natural environment at and near the camp property through environmentally sensitive practices.

In 2020, Manitou is overseen by a Board of nine directors with three standing committees: property, program and kitchen. For over twenty years we have been members of the Ontario Camping Association (OCA) which sets standards and provides accreditation via camp inspections. Camp Manitou is still entirely run by volunteers who help with all aspects from maintenance to cooking to program. We own and use the former St. Augustine Church and School property in Whitefish Falls, for parking, docking and storage. Programs include four weeks of children's camps in July (Boys 8-11, 12-15, Girls 8-11, 12-15) followed by our one week nature camp and three weeks of family camp in August. We do extensive hiking in the La Cloche hills including our traditional 45 minute walk up to Mount Stadnyk which provides an expansive vista of theBay of Islands. We have a ridge walk which continues west from Mount Stadnyk toWrights Lake and back to camp in 2.5 hours, also with beautiful south and north vistas.Bay residents are welcome to access the trails in the La Cloche hills through our property.We ask that you check in with the camp director on your way through.

Canoeing and kayaking remain a popular activity in our 18 kayaks, six double canoes and five group canoes including two Kennebec 26’ canoes that are original camp vessels, three 26’ chestnut Ogilvy canoes purchased for the Montreal Brigade and the 36’ KevlarPeterson.

Each year we welcome up to 150 youth campers and 300 family campers who are able to enjoy the beauty and majesty of the Bay of Islands and La Cloche hills at affordable rates thanks to our committed volunteers and generous donors.

Current information about Camp Manitou including camp dates, board members and director profiles can be found at manitoucamp.org and on our Facebook page accessed from the website.