The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) camps are for youth interested in the outdoors and the environment. The DEC camp program includes a variety of workshops and activities that help campers become more aware of the environment around them as they learn how to be good stewards of our natural resources. Activities and workshops are conducted outdoors, providing campers with direct hands-on experiences with their environment.
All 12- to 14-year old campers participate in lessons on field, forest, water, basic ecology, group dynamics (teambuilding) and human solutions. Campers learn about the natural environment through hands-on activities and fun, outdoor recreation.
The 15- to 17-year old campers explore forestry, aquatic biology, wildlife management, field ecology and other environmental issues. The program emphasizes group dynamics and teamwork as essential to the environmental decision-making process.
Campers can select from several different optional activities to develop or enhance their outdoor skills. These include fishing, archery, hiking and nature study. There are opportunities for campers at all skill levels, whether they are a beginner or have years of experience. Classes and experiential learning help campers develop a variety of outdoor skills, including backpacking, fire building, knot tying, Leave-No-Trace principles (hiking and camping etiquette), canoeing, and low-impact camping.
First-time 12- to 14-year old campers have the opportunity to participate in the optional NYS Hunter Education program. To get a hunting license, hunters must complete this mandatory hunter education course.
First-time 15- to 17-year old campers can participate in an optional Shooting Sports program. They are taught firearm safety, responsibility, and marksmanship under the guidance of DEC Sportsman Education Instructors and NYS Environmental Conservation Officers.
More than 50% of DEC camp staff return from year-to-year. Many of our staff have been campers at one or more of the camps. The camp counselor positions are highly competitive, and each person selected has gone through a thorough interview process and reference check. All counselors have at least two years of college in an environmental, teaching or outdoor recreation field. All camp directors are at least 25 years old or have a bachelors degree. Throughout the long history of DEC camps, many of the camp directors have been campers and counselors. Our camper to staff ratio is eight to one, which is higher than required by NYS Department of Health regulations for children’s camp.
The camp experience brings many benefits for the youth who take part. Campers learn about their world and how to be responsible for its care. They also learn about themselves as they gain independence on their way to adulthood. Lifelong friendships are one of the many reasons camp memories stay with campers, year after year.
When you register for DEC summer camps, mark on your application that you learned about our camps at mysummercamps.com and you’ll receive a free 1-year subscription to New York State Conservationist Magazine.
- NYS Department of Health Regulations