Wathana, according to Council lore, means “place of beauty”. Camp Wathana was so named in 1926, when the beautiful place on Green Lake in Oakland County’s Rose Township was presented jointly by local philanthropists to the Detroit Councils of Camp Fire Girls and Girl Scouts. During the next ten years Camp Fire raised funds from individuals and foundations to construct camping units, a dining hall, and an accessible waterfront.
In 1935, Camp Fire bought the Girl Scouts’ interest and took full ownership of the entire 151 acre camp. Watona Lodge was built then, on the south shore of Green Lake. The naming of the Lodge was a tribute to Mrs. Harry Hooks, who led the Camp Committee for more than 20 years, directed camp development, and donated 60 more acres of land to Camp Wathana. Mrs Hooks’ ceremonial name was Watona, meaning one who serves from the beginning.
Over the decades, more structures have been built and razed, land bought and sold, caretakers come and gone. But Camp Wathana’s 250 acres of forests, rolling hills, meadows, lakes and bogs endure. Under an agreement with the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy established in October, 2012, Camp Wathana is now protected in perpetuity.
However, such facts and figures do not tell the complete, human story of our camp. In the last 80 years, literally thousands of children have joyfully hiked Wathana’s leafy trails, paddled her sparkling lakes, washed up in her biffies, sung songs, appeased the hermit, and slept under the stars. It is the place where many “city kids” were awed by nature for the first time. Hundreds of campers came of age there and went on to become counselors, cooks, lifeguards and nurses, leaders and board members, enabling new generations of children to experience and learn to appreciate the wonders of nature and the camaraderie of friendships forged around a campfire. Countless others have gone on to become gardeners, outdoor sportsmen, environmentalists, photographers, teachers, advocates for and stewards of the earth. And informed voters! The human history of Camp Wathana is also its future.Wathana though we stray a million miles away, We’ll always wander back to you. Your fragrant memories and golden harmonies, Wathana, we belong to you. Your glowing Indian fires, incite our gypsy hearts. Your lofty oaks inspire true thoughts that never depart. And through our lives express a lasting happiness. Wathana, we belong to you.