Celebrating 75 Years by the Campfire: The Enduring Legacy of Black Lake Bible Camp
Going to camp—whether for a summer, over school holidays, or just spending weekends under the stars—is a tremendous experience. Jumping off a dock into the lake, meals around scuffed picnic tables and warm lodge bunkbeds, staying up late, singing songs, and making s’mores are timeless activities for many of us. In Olympia, Black Lake Bible Camp and Retreat Center has hosted campers galore since 1946. Thanks to the recent Disaster Relief Grants made available through the US Department of Treasury under the American Rescue Plan Act and funded through the Washington State Department of Commerce that the Thurston EDC administered and managed the grants and mentored applicants through the process—and multigenerational love from local families, they look forward to another 75 years around the campfire.
The camp’s executive director, Phil Ewert, explains that 2023’s Disaster Relief Grant funding helped with repairs from weather and storm damage to buildings on their 60-acre property. “Over 10,000 campers will come through the camp this year to be refreshed, and this grant is helping ensure we have the right facilities to serve them.”
And those campers come in droves! Marketing manager Kristen Eoute says that 65% of Black Lake Bible Camp visitors are youth from local churches, groups, and non-profits. But, she reminds us, “We are not just a kids’ camp, and we serve many adults. We’re open year-round for retreats and camps. We offer a variety of activities such as mini-golf, disc golf, climbing wall, archery tag, axe throwing, BB guns, archery range, swimming pool, canoeing, kayaking, blob, wakeboarding, pickle ball, and hopefully, in 2024, a giant swing.”
In partnership with the city and county, Black Lake Bible Camp is building four new ADA-compliant cabins for guests of all ages and abilities. Adult guests come for work retreats and get-togethers, and they host civic groups like the Olympia and Lakewood police departments and local fire crews for training exercises and sponsor events and activities both on-site and around town.
“Our mission is to see youth, families, and communities grow physically and spiritually,” says Eoute, “And we want to be active community members. We currently sponsor Tumwater’s Easter Egg Dash, open our doors to the community for our annual Christmas Extravaganza, and we participate in Black Lake Elementary’s Trunk or Treat. We have partnered with public and private schools through retreats, OUTDOOR EDventure classes, and field trips.”
In winter, visit their annual Christmas Extravaganza in early December. The Holiday Bazaar welcomes more than two dozen local vendors, and local schools and homeschooling cooperatives provide musical performances. There is a Children’s Carnival with games, crafts, and horseback rides. The bazaar is free to attend, but wristbands are sold online and at the event for carnival activities.
You can find details on seasonal programming or facilities rental at www.BLBCOlympia.com or 360.357.8425. Sign up for their newsletter on the website or find ways to give back to the camp that’s provided so many happy memories over the years.
It’s estimated that more than 26 million children and adults in America annually attend camps. Thanks to iconic spots like Black Lake Bible Camp, such experiences are just around the corner. Explore forested greenery, cannonball into the chilly lake, dust off your fire-making flint, and hunt for the perfect marshmallow-roasting stick because camp is fun for all ages all year round.