Wente logo

Wente Scout Reservation

Rainbow arching over Wente Scout Reservation looking towards Waterfront from Staff Camp.

Wente Camp History (cont)

When the ranch land was first purchased a number of old buildings were located on the property where the lake now stands as well as near the family camp area. Most of the buildings (used for small logging operations) were torn down during the construction of the dam and the lake area. Only the medics cabin (a small two room shack) located about thirty feet in front of the existing directors cabin and the ranch house (an “L” shaped building) located at the end of the auxiliary parking lot remained until the late 1970’s. Before the dam was in place the main road across the meadow crossed in front of the peninsula, where the Chapel is located, and exited near the dinning hall. The small road that is used as a boat launch that can be seen in front of the dinning hall is the last remaining portion of the main road that crossed the meadow. 

Between Black Oak point and the canoeing picnic area, a small pond once stood.  A natural spring that is located at the bottom of the lake as well as an existing spring that is located across the main road near O’Reily’s outpost formed this pond.  It is assumed that this pond was used as a mill pond for the logging operations, as a small building was located next to it, which could have been the sawmill.  Other than a few bushes and some small scrappy trees, the meadow was a big open grassy field perfect for a potential lake.


The original drawings for the scout reservation called for three separate camps known as Camp A, Camp B and Camp C. Each camp would be large enough to accommodate 200 Scouts (although that limit has been pushed to over 600 Scouts and Scouters in recent years). Camp A would be the main camp that surrounded the lake. Camp B was to be located on the west side of Eagle Summit in the upper meadow area. Camp C was to be built on the East side of Eagle summit between Tan Oak Cathedral and Mellow Marsh/Haunted Springs where the lodge pole climbing outpost once resided and the overnight corral outpost now camps.  The secondary sites of Camp B and Camp C would both have swimming pools, a campfire site and areas for eleven troop campsites as well as a staff village and food distribution building.  Only one structure for the other two camps was ever completed, the kybo in the area that was designated as campsite 9 in Camp C.  This outhouse was built to maintain the Scout Reservation designation as one camping area did not constitute a reservation.  The two-seater kybo can still be found today alone and silent at the top of the hill waiting for the ghost Scouts of Camp C.  Each camp was to be self-sufficient but lack of funds did not allow for these other two camps to be built. However full color drawings for the secondary camps still exist and are quite fascinating to look at and ponder what it would have been like with three camps. The camp rivalries and competitions would have been great.  One additional area of camp that was never realized was near the entrance to the camp off of Canyon Road.  The level area where the remains of an old cabin are was to be the family camping area as well as maintenance buildings for all three camps.

In October of 1961 members of the Oakland and San Lorenzo Rotary club donated $15,000 in materials and labor to construct the first two major buildings at the camp, the Admin building and the trading post/commissary. The admin building was constructed and financed by the Oakland Rotary club and would be constructed with a shingle roof, plywood interior and a wide front porch. The building would also contain a small kitchen, shower and toilet facilities. The main room of the building would be used for both staff dinning and office tasks. A fifteen foot addition to the building in the late 60’s would add a staff shower house, first-aid room and camp office to the east side of the building. If you look at the cement porch and the roofline you can see where the original building stopped and the addition was added. Although the interior of the building has changed much over the years, the outside of the building looks the same as it did in 1961. The other major construction project was the building of the original commissary/trading post (today’s Handicraft building) by the Rotary club of San Lorenzo. This building was constructed in an area that was central to the camp during its first few years. If you explore the handicraft building you will notice that the side that faces the Scoutcraft area has pull-up doors, as this was the trading post for the camp. The side that faces the lake is where the Scouts picked up their food and supplies for the Jamboree style cooking. The back of the building that faces site 4 (Sky High) was the loading dock.


At the beginning of 1962, 100 Scouts from the Central District of the Oakland council led by Scout Commissioner Roger Day planted over 500 trees on the southeast corner of the lake. This area was to be a picnic grounds for the parents of the Scouts. If you look across the lake a number of those trees are still thriving today and some of the metal containers that shielded the trees can be found lying around. A few months later the camp began to take further shape as Kaiser Steel of Oakland donated five tons of metal pipe that would be used to lay the lateral water lines for the three camps. It is unclear if any of the water lines for the two other proposed camps were ever laid. However walking from the location of Camp C down to Haunted Springs (Pear Orchard springs) you can find metal water lines along side the hill. It may be possible that some of the lines to the springs were laid in anticipation of building the other camps.

In May of 1962 the Berkeley geologist made a final visit to the dam site to obtain samples of the fill materials for testing.  During this visit, an eight-foot vertical cut was made into the road that paralleled the creek as well as a seven-foot trench was dug in the valley where the fill material would be “borrowed”.  This material showed it to be a uniform gritty silty clay that tested excellent as a fill material.

In April of 1963 with the “Specifications for Construction of Scout Lake Dam” complete, the council sent bids out for the building of the dam. The expected cost of the dam and the necessary grading was estimated to be around $93,000. The dam would be 51 feet high, 290 wide and ultimately hold back 386 million gallons of water with an 80-acre lake.  Over 9000 cubic yards of material would need to be excavated and 62,000 cubic yards of fill material borrowed for the completion of the dam.  The maximum depth of the lake would be 46 feet at which point water begins to flow over the spillway.  The elevation of the spillway is listed as 1,921 feet above sea level while the original creek bed at the bottom of the lake is at 1875 feet.  A funny aspect contained within the specifications for the dam is in Division “C”, Section 7 – Guarantee of Work.  The camp had a one-year guarantee on the failure of the dam against any defects in workmanship and inferior materials.  The water from the lake would be used as the drinking source for the camp through a filtration plant to be located below the dam. The water would be pumped up to two 100,000-gallon redwood tanks on the hillside above the lake and gravity fed to the campsites. The lake created by the dam would be the largest on the West coast created specifically for Boy Scout aquatic activities.  

In May of 1963 the Camp Flag Pole was erected on the west end of the Admin building.  The flag pole was presented by Troop 211 of the Lake District in honor of Herbert Hauser (executive board member and first Silver Beaver recipient of the Oakland Area Council, 1929-1962). 


One month later on June 10, 1963 with the construction bid process closed for the dam, over 200 people (including William Knowland publisher of the Oakland Tribune, who was in charge of the fundraising efforts for the new camp) attended the gala groundbreaking ceremonies for the dam and also the completion of the trading post and commissary building by the Rotary Club. Construction of the dam would commence immediately to ensure the camp was open for the 1964 season. The building of the dam required the removal of some small buildings, the moving of power lines and the building of a new road across the dam.  Also a number of small oak trees had to be removed from the dam site and the waterfront area had to be graded and conditioned for swimming and aquatic use.  With all the work that needed to be done, the dam, spillway, bridge and new main road would still be completed in the fall of that same year.  


On October 31, 1963 the single 18 inch diameter pipe and its two flood gates (one on the inlet and one on the outlet) were closed-off and the small beginnings of the lake driven by the various springs and winter rains began to backup behind the dam.   It would take two full winters for the lake to reach its capacity and overflow the spillway into Boy Scout creek below the dam.  Although the lake would be ready for use by summer the completion of the campsites still had a long way to go. By December of 1963 only two campsites had been completed and five more still needed to be built. 


During the first months of 1964 a major change took place at the council that had been in the works for almost four years. On February 10, 1964 atop Yerba Buena Island in the middle of the bay, the flags for the Oakland Area Council and the San Francisco Council were lowered for the last time during a ceremony where the two councils merged and the San Francisco Bay Area Council flag was raised. With the raising of the SFBAC flag there now were six camps in the united council (Dimond-O, Los Mochos, Camp Loomer, Willits Scout Reservation, Camp Royaneh and Camp Lilienthal). With the cost to operate so many camps the two undeveloped camps at the Scout Reservation (Camps B & C) were dealt a deathblow and would never be built.

In June of 1964, 16 years after the closing of Camp Dimond, Willits Scout Reservation the newest camp of the Oakland Area Council (now the San Francisco Bay Area Council) opened for its first summer camp.  During the first summer, there were only seven campsites to choose from (Big Dipper, Wishbone, Sailor’s Rest, Sky High, Madrone, Moss Shadows, and Sunrise Ridge). 


Sea Scouts




Shooting Sport


Scouting for Food

Order of the Arrow

Skip to content