Sciots Camp is a unique community of 77 woodsy cabins located on 250 acres between 5,600 and 6,000 feet of elevation in the Eldorado National Forest near Lake Tahoe California. The comradery is unsurpassed. The original lease was signed with the forest service on October 17, 1921. The organization that founded the tract had the motto of “Boost One Another” and to this day this seems to be the feel of Sciots Camp.
Over the years the cabin owners have bonded together and taken on some very large projects. The first was building a bridge from Hwy 50 across the American River. The original bridge was a wooden structure that was washed out in 1938 by high water. The sturdy steel replacement was deemed “highway safe” by the state, and remains strong enough to support the heaviest fire equipment which was using camp as a staging point to fight the devastating Caldor Fire.
These same hardy cabin owners built a wooden clubhouse in 1924-25 that is approximately 50 feet by 80 feet. It has been maintained in excellent condition to this day. In the past the clubhouse had a small store which has since been converted to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. During the summer, cabin owners sign up to scoop ice cream from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday evenings. We are not sure what is enjoyed the most – eating a towering ice cream cone or the scooping like a soda jerk. The deck of the clubhouse is full of kids and adults enjoying the mountains, ice cream and each other until dark each Saturday evening.
The clubhouse also has a full kitchen, a laundry room, and library and game room. During the summer it is the center of camp’s social life, hosting potlucks, brunches, cabin owner meetings, themed potlucks and wine tastings, live music (we have some great musicians in camp), and weddings and anniversary parties for the cabin owners and our neighbors at other tracts.
The clubhouse deck looks out over a large, shaded picnic area with picnic benches and playground equipment for kids of all ages. The picnic area is also the site of Sciot’s signature social event, the annual Independence Day celebration. Camp supplies the hot dogs, hamburgers and all the fixings. Cabin owners bring salads, casseroles, and wonderful desserts.
The festivities begin with the decorated quad parade which starts at the car bridge and winds it way through camp competing for prizes for the most creative concepts. Not to be outdone, there are also prizes for best table and cabin decorations. Dinner is followed by the World Famous Sciots Kids Olympics where no one is too young or old to participate in the three-legged race, no-hands gummy bear face plant, watermelon pit spitting contest, tug-of-war and for the finale, the water balloon toss, which usually ends in a free-for-all drenching.
There is a serious side to camp as well, as the comradery of the original cabin owners remains well intact. All of the roads in the tract were built and are maintained by the cabin owners. They are in excellent condition and are watched carefully to avoid erosion.
Cabin owners benefit from our state of the art water system, which draws water from a small dammed reservoir on Cody Creek above camp. The cabin owners researched and found that a slow sand filter would be the best system for our tract. A special assessment was approved, and the Water Works was built and then licensed by the county as a public utility. Our water is chlorinated and tested daily during the summer season. We are the only tract in our area that has water year-around. This makes it possible to visit our cabins in the dead of winter for a long weekend in the snow. Several cabin owners in adjoining tracts have joined our association just to be provided with water year-around.
The water system also provides an incredibly valuable defensive asset – a separate, non-potable source of water from Cody Creek which flows to a system of 21 fire hydrants located strategically throughout camp. Because the water source is high above camp the water pressure is so great that tanker trucks fighting the Caldor fire found it faster to refill from our hydrants than running hoses to the American River.
Miraculously, only one cabin in camp was lost in the fire. We are eternally grateful for the bravery of the fire fighters who defended our cabins. But we also believe that were it not for our high- pressure system of hydrants – which cabin owners maintain, check and exercise annually – the damage would have been much worse. While the risk of fire remains ever present it is comforting to know we have a defensive system that was tested under the most extreme conditions, and worked.
Keeping the common areas and roads of camp free of forest debris is another important defensive tactic. Cabin owner participation is required at one of at least two annual all-camp work days, when debris is removed, dead trees marked for cutting, and culverts cleared to prevent erosion. Works days are also a time to maintain and repair the common facilities like the car and foot bridges, the clubhouse, the Water Works and the dam. At this elevation of the Sierra there is always plenty to do after the winter snow melts. And everyone agrees that work days are a great way to meet new cabin owners and catch up with friends from other parts of camp.
Sciots Camp is a registered non-profit Cabin Owners Association (COA) with a strong governing body of three elected officers (president, vice-president, and secretary/treasurer) supported by an elected seven member executive committee with specific responsibilities for bridges, water, roads, the clubhouse, the playground, the environment, and social activities. Dues are $500 annually. Our COA holds three meetings annually – on Memorial, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends. Elections of officers and the executive committee are held every two years.
Cabin owners as well as residents up and down the American River Canyon are regular visitors to the camp’s web page, which among other features includes a link to a web cam that shows the snow depth and temperature at the top of camp each ½ hour of daylight during the winter. It also has links to other things of interest such as Doppler Radar, ski resorts, earthquakes, road conditions, photos from around camp and the schedule of events. The web address is: sciotscamp.org. Check it out.
In the Ice Cream Parlor we have available T-shirts, sweatshirts, aprons and bill caps, all with the tract logo on them. There is also a cookbook available with the favorite recipes from the cabin owners. A history was written about the first 75 years of the tract, along with group photos taken in 1924, 1996 and 2021. Forty-eight of the cabins in Sciots Camp have a preliminary historical rating between 4-6 in a survey conducted by Eldorado National Forest.
We at Sciots Camp take seriously our responsibilities as stewards of the forest. We appreciate and revere our magnificent surroundings. The Caldor Fire reminded us we must remain vigilant in maintaining our forest and streams so that generations to come may enjoy this wonderful area. There is no place on earth like Sciots Camp.