In the Beginning: Camp Royaneh is the oldest camp in the GGAC and was the second permanent Scout camp of the San Francisco Council when the property was acquired on April 15, 1925. Camp Royaneh is also regarded as one of the oldest continuously operating Scout Camp west of the Mississippi.
However before Camp Royaneh was acquired, the summer training camp for the San Francisco Council was located at Warner Canyon in Mill Valley in 1917 and then near the town of Olema from 1918 until 1919 and then at the Montgomery property at Elim Grove in Cazadero from 1920 until 1924. Each of these locations was not owned by the San Francisco Council which meant the council could not set up a permanent camp, however this would change.
Having operated the training camp at Elim Grove for a few years, the leaders of the San Francisco Council were well known in the small Cazadero community. In early 1925 the San Francisco Council seeking a permanent location for a new summer training camp, was able to purchase the nearby Watson Ranch from Sarah Watson as well as additional acreage from her son Charles. The Watson ranch was located adjacent to a tributary of Austin creek known as East Austin Creek and was only two miles from Elim Grove. The 120 acre ranch property was purchased from the Watson’s for $17,000 ($142/acre) for use as a permanent Boy Scout camp. The Watson’s were long time residents of Sonoma County after having moved from the Midwest. Sarah was a former nurse during the Civil War and her deceased husband Greenville was a Captain in Company “F” of the 5th Infantry unit of Kansas. The purchase agreement between the San Franciso Council and the Watson’s allowed for both Sarah and Charles to live on the property as caretakers for the remainder of their lives. Unfortunately Sarah passed away only a month after the deed to the property was sold to the SF Council at 93 years of age. Charles passed away three years later in 1928 after collapsing from a nervous condition brought on by his years in the Union army. All of the Watson’s are buried in Guerneville at the pioneer cemetery overlooking the Guerneville River.
How the name of “Royaneh” came to be: The name Royaneh came about in May of 1925 when SF Scout Executive Raymond O Hanson held a competition among the scouts of the San Francisco Council to name their new summer camp in Cazadero. A scout by the name of George Hart from San Francisco Troop 54 won the competition by submitting the name “Royaneh” for the new camp. George indicated that the meaning of the word “Royaneh” came from the Iroquois Indians that meant “Camp of Joy” or “Meeting Place of the Tribes”. Over the years the meaning of the word “Royaneh” has changed slightly as others try to reinvent the word, but George Hart’s description from 1925 is what the word Royaneh originally meant. The spelling of Royaneh also changed over the years. The San Francisco Scout newsletter from 1925 until the 1930’s spelled Royaneh with a hypen as in “Roya-neh”. The totem of Camp Royaneh initially was the Indian head which would last 30 years until the 1950’s when Ralph Benson changed the totem from the Indian Head to the Thunderbird.
Camp Construction: Other than some cabins that were used by the Watson’s, the new camp property was void of any other buildings. Louis Kern was the contractor that built the original buildings at Camp Royaneh including tent platforms and the Mess Hall which could seat and feed 500 Scouts and leaders at one time. According to the annual report of 1925 “Working against great odds and the terrific rain storms, there was considerable delay in the preparation of the Camp for the accommodation of the Scouts during the first session on the new grounds, but due to the untiring efforts of Vice-President Samuel Clarke (chairman of the Camp Committee) and George Chadwick of Chadwick & Sykes, who gave a large measure of his time, thought and energy to the supervision of construction, and to Mr. Louis Kern, the general contractor, the Camp was practically in readiness on the opening day.
The First Summer Camp: On June 24, 1925 almost five hundred scouts and their leaders assembled at the Ferry building in San Francisco for the first journey to Camp Royaneh. At the head of the Scout contingent was the San Francisco Scout band. The scouts boarded the ferry boat Cazadero which left San Francisco at 8:45am for the trip across the bay to Sausalito and then onward via narrow gauge train to the Watson Train stop where they were met by Raymond O. Hanson, “The Chief” as he was known. The train ride to the first Royaneh summer encampment was as scenic as one could image. The route of the Northwestern Pacific narrow gauge took the scouts through the towns of San Anselmo and Fairfax over the grade to the town of Lagunitas through the Redwood forest of Camp Taylor (Samuel P Taylor State park) and then over to Pt Reyes station. From Pt Reyes the train turned north and followed the eastern shore line of Tomales Bay until it turned inland at the Keyes Estuary to the next station at the town of Tomales. From Tomales it was over some more hills, through a tunnel past Occidental until it reached Monte Rio and the Guerneville River. Turning west once more the train followed the river’s south bank until the town of Duncan Mills for the river crossing and then about six more miles over to the Watson train stop and Camp Royaneh. In later years the Watson stop would be renamed the Royaneh stop and is included on official maps of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. During the first summer a total of 857 Scouts and leaders would use the new facility over a four week summer camp (two, two-week sessions). The cost for the first two week session was approximately $7 for the roundtrip train ride, food and a canvas tent. Water for the camp was drawn from the East Austin creek and pumped up to a retaining tank for use by the camp.
From 1925 until 1938 scouts slept in either 4-man or 6 man tents that had wooden floors. The canvas sides of the tent were rolled up and then at night those flaps were rolled down. The opening of Plainsman Village in 1938 marked the beginning of the roof-type wooden shelters that now exist at Royaneh. Plainsman Village was the prototype and they were able to learn from the mistakes. Each cabin had a cabinet for the Scout to put his clothes in. After Plainsman they built Frontiersman, Foresters, and finally Pioneers, on the top of the hill. The strictly tent sites of Lion’s Den, Kiwanis Grove, and Rotary Rancho are named for various fraternal benefactors.
In 1927 the first “ Pigeongram ” was sent from Camp Royaneh to the leaders in San Francisco. This trained carrier pigeon was brought up to Royaneh where a message was attached to its leg and released. The pigeon made the 75 mile journey back to San Francisco where the message was read at the council headquarters. It is unknown how long the flight took but it was certainly faster than standard mail.
By 1928, the San Francisco Council was in fine financial shape to be able to pay off the mortgage to Camp Royaneh as well as being able to purchase a new Camp (Lilienthal) for their weekend retreats. In 1934 Clark’s Grove (a large grove of Redwood trees in front of the dining hall) was dedicated at Royaneh in memory of Samual Clark who was Vice President of the San Francisco Council and Chairmen of the camping committee that readied Royaneh for its first Summer Camp. In 1937 Raymond O. Hanson retired from the San Francisco Council after serving 20 years as its Scout Executive and John Tilden took over as the new exec. Less than one year later Camp Royaneh would be renamed.
1938 Camp Royaneh is renamed Camp CC Moore: Charles C Moore was the President of the San Francisco Council from 1919 until 1928. He was also the Vice-President of the National Board of the Boy Scouts of America from 1928 until 1930 and in 1915 the President of the Pan Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Moore was was one of the individuals responsible for acquiring Camp Royaneh in 1925 as well as Camp Lilienthal in 1929 and was instrumental in creating the Crescent M hiking treks in the Sierra’s. Although Charles Moore would die in 1932 his name would live on. At the April 13, 1938 board meeting of the San Francisco Council, the camping committee recommended to the Executive Board to change the name of Camp Royaneh to Camp C.C. Moore in order to “perpetuate the name of Mr. Charles C. Moore”. The motion passed the board thereby officially changing the name of Camp Royaneh to Camp C.C. Moore. From 1938 until 1949 the name Camp Moore was used on all Council literature when it referred to the camp formerly known as Royaneh.
The name of “Royaneh” never disappeared as the term was still used by the council to refer to their two scout camps (Camp Moore and Camp Lilienthal) as “Royaneh Camps”. The patch used at both Camp Moore and Camp Lilienthal was the same patch however if you attended Camp Moore you received an “M” pin to attach to your patch or an “L” pin if you attended Camp Lilienthal. This lasted until the 1950’s when patches specific to Camp Royaneh and Camp Lilienthal were released after the name of Camp Moore disappeared for good. The name of Camp Royaneh returned in 1949 or 1950 after Oscar Alverson became the new Scout Exec. An unsubstantiated rumor has it that the board was expecting the wife of Charles Moore to eventually leave the Moore estate to the Council either when she died or at some other time. It is unknown if this is true or not, but the name of Camp Moore was no longer being used after 1950. This may be due to the dedicated staff, campers and other persons associated with Royaneh that would not let the name Royaneh (named by Scout George Hart in 1925) disappear.
Damming the Creek: In 1939 the first seasonal dam was installed by the Council in order to back up East Austin creek to form a small lake for swimming. The dam was a basic gravel dam put in place each year that contained an area where boards could be used to raise and lower the level of the water. Until the creek was dammed, swimming at Royaneh took place at the ye ole swimming hole at a location affectionately known as Romans Plunge. This was an area on the creek where a natural deep swimming hole was located and is still occasionally used today. The damming of the creek to create a swimming area and later a canoe base would take place for almost 50 years. In 1989 the canoe base operations were shut down permanently when the Department of Fish and Game determined that a small shrimp that lived in East Austin Creek was endangered. The official reason for the action is that “sediments dislodged from their construction and removal “may endanger” the shrimp’s habitat. However no study was done on the impact of siltation by heavy winter rainfall runoff and flooding, as the DFG exhausted their funding allocation. Regardless, seasonal gravel dams created by all the property owners could no longer be constructed on any portion of the creek after 1991. This action stopped all activities that took place at the canoe base including canoeing and rowing and which had been added to the camp program in 1953. The small shrimp have since died off, probably because there are no more ponds due to the lack of creek damming.
Horsing Around: The horse program also began in 1939 with the opening of the Bar H ranch which was adjacent to the camp where the archery range is currently located. Scouts that enrolled in the horse program slept with their troops and ate in the dining hall, but all daily activities took place up at the ranch. The bunkhouse located below the archery ranch was the ranch house of the Bar H ranch. In 1961 the horse program moved from the location of the Archery range to its current location when Bob Clarke dedicated the new barn and corral.
In 1950, 25 acres of land adjacent to Royaneh was purchased from the Scanlon family to allow for a year round road to be built into camp from the Cazadero Highway. As a result of this acquisition both Scanlon road and the Scanlon Ridge Campsite are named after the local family. Prior to 1950 the access road to camp was across a seasonal one-lane wooden bridge that spanned East Austin Creek. The small one lane road crossed the creek and came into camp near where the current main road splits between the camp and the canoe base. The road traveled next to the creek until it turned uphill near the old canoe base. During the rainy season cars would have to park on the South side of the creek and visitors would walk across a suspension bridge to access camp.
In 1950 the SF Council also began discussing a location of where to build a swimming pool as the existing swimming hole that was created by damming Austin creek was getting less and less “pure” due to summer cottages being built near the camp. The site selected for the soon to be built pool was on a hillside above the Scoutcraft area which contain an orchard. In 1951 with funds provided by Walter Haas, construction began on the Lucie Stern memorial pool and pool house. Water for the pool, in addition to the camp, was pumped from a 60 foot well on East Austin Creek up to a redwood tank. Occasionally the pool is so cold, even during the summer months, that ice bergs have been known to drift around as if you were swimming in the arctic.
New Buildings: Construction on the new admin building and health lodge for the camp began in 1952. The former Tevis Hospital which was located next to the amphitheater and spanned the small creek was cut into two sections. One section was moved across the creek into the flat area to be used for the new scoutcraft building now known as the Chalet. The other half of the Tevis hospital was dragged down the road and was used as a portion of the new health lodge. When the Admin building was completed it was dedicated in 1953 to the first Scout Exec of the San Francisco Council, Raymond O. Hanson who died in 1944. Five years later in 1958 the Trading post and Chiefs room would be added to the Admin building complex by funds raised by Royaneh Lodge of the Order of the Arrow. The original dining hall that was built by Louis Kern in 1925 was replaced in 1983 with a slightly larger dining hall after the original building sustained major damage during the winter of 1982. During this timeframe, all camp dining was held down in the Quonset hut next to the corral and the food was transported from the kitchen down to the Quonset hut.
Over the next twenty years new activities would be added to Royaneh including Mountain Man and the COPE Course, as well as major reconstruction of the Septic system, upgrades to the Pool and Pool house, a new main shower house and rangers cabin.
1714 Everett StreetAlameda, CA 94501 | (925) 674-6130
1955 West Texas St. Suite 1Fairfield, CA 94533 | (925) 674-6166
500 Contra Costa Blvd, Suite K2Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 | (925) 674-8500
6601 Owens Drive, Suite 100Pleasanton, CA 94588 | (925) 674-6100
© 2023 All rights reserved, Golden Gate Area Council, BSA
Order of the Arrow