Philmont Scout Ranch reaches the milestone of one million campers

Waite PhillipsThis summer Philmont Scout Ranch reached the milestone of one million campers.  It all started 75 years ago when Waite Phillips offered 35,857 acres of his ranch to the Boy Scouts of America in 1938 to serve as a national wilderness camping area.

The area was named Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp (after Phillips’ name and the Scout slogan “Do a Good Turn Daily”). Fees for the first summer were set at $1 per week per camper, and 189 Scouts from Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma arrived for the first experience at a national backcountry Scout camp.

CourtyardPhillips augmented his original gift in 1941 with an addition that included his best camping land, the Villa Philmonte and the headquarters of the farming and ranching operation. The second gift was made so that “many, rather than few” could enjoy his rich and beautiful land.

On the trailSeventy-five years ago, the first 196 campers ventured to New Mexico to test out the new high adventure camp in northern New Mexico.  Today, 22,000 campers come from across the country and around the world to trek through Philmont’s 137,000-acre mountainous backcountry.

During their 50 to 100-mile trek, participants visit staffed backcountry camps, each with unique themes. There are mining camps with real mine tours, gun camps and western lore camps featuring horseback rides.  There is even a camp where participants are reconstructing an old railroad, one spike at a time.  In all, there are 35 of these themed staff camps.

Following is a breakdown of the total number of campers, per milestone years:

  • 1st year        1939             196 campers
  • 25th year     1964             25-year total – 131,152 campers
  • 50th year     1989             50-year total – 481,980 campers
  • 75th year     2014             75-year total – 1,000,000 + campers

Waite Phillips was quoted in the Tulsa Daily World saying: “That ranch represents an ideal of my youth … and has meant a lot to my son and his pals. Now I want to make it available to other boys. … I’d be selfish to hold it for my individual use.”  And this year, more than one million campers are thankful for his vision and generosity.

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