Since I often do reviews when I go camping, I thought I’d do an article about some of our experiences at John S. Swift Explorer Base. Swift is located at S -F Scout Ranch near Farmington, Missouri.
It is difficult to do a real review of Swift summer camp because their program there is so diverse throughout the summer. They run several weeks of co-ed Venturing camp, Dad ‘n Lad overnights for younger Cub Scouts, three day Webelos mini-week camps, and then special interest weeks like the Catholic Adventure Week for Scouts BSA which we attended. For that reason, I am going to mostly focus on the program opportunities offered for Venturers and Scouts BSA and the camp itself.
Swift’s big feature is the waterfront on Nims Lake. Nims Lake is the largest privately held lake in the state of Missouri. At Swift, Scouts can swim and boat. The swimming area has a sandy beach. Scouts who want to build sandcastles can check into the “sunbathers” section on the buddy board. Boating options include sailboats, canoes, rowboats, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards. Speedboats take campers out tubing and water skiing.
Huck’s Cove, which is just around the corner is a small water park on the lake. It features two large slides on one side of the cove. On the other side there are things like zip lines and rope swings for water fun.
Other program opportunities include horseback riding, shotguns, rifles, and archery. There is also a high ropes course and a low ropes course. And of course for many Scouts, no trip to Swift is complete without a few hours spent rock climbing and rappelling on the cliffs.
Meals are served in a dining hall and the food is good quality and plentiful. There are five campsites at Swift and each site takes a turn for one day being service crew, which involves helping out at the dining hall and some cleaning duties. I like this as opposed to sending people to set tables for every meal. We shared our campsite with a provisional troop, so we only had to send our group up a couple of times for duty that day.
The campsites at Swift Base are spacious and wooded. Each site has a number of wooden platform tents. Most are large three person tents. If those fill up, you can pitch standard wall tents with floorboards. There is plenty of space to pitch additional tents.
The staff at Swift Base are excellent. We had a lot of campers the week we were there, but everything was kept running smoothly. Staff must be 18 or older to work at Swift (probably because they are staffing high adventure activities like horseback riding, climbing, ropes courses, etc.) , and this small but experienced group of staffers put on lots of great program. Since we were there for a Scouts BSA only week, the staff did merit badges in the afternoon.
I’d like to give a special shout out to the aquatics staff. One of our campers was not a strong swimmer but really wanted to pass the swim test. They did instructional swim with him all week, gave him lots of encouragement, and let him keep trying. Finally, on the fourth try on Friday afternoon he passed. This was a tremendous accomplishment for an 11 year old who had some anxiety about even jumping in water over his head at the beginning of the week.
So if you are looking for a camping experience for your older scouts (Scouts BSA or Venturers) or if you are interested in one of the special weeks of summer camp at Swift, I highly recommend it. Swift is a great place to experience the joy of being outdoors and independent and to remember that camping is about the experience as much as it is about earning merit badges.
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