Camping trips with family and friends are a must-do summer activity in the Sunshine State, and Florida is full of campgrounds ideal for escaping city life and getting a little rest and relaxation. But one campground in Florida stands out as a place where nature meets nostalgia: Camp Chowenwaw in Clay County. This 150-acre park at the mouth of Black Creek is known for its unique treetop accommodations and is teeming with history just waiting to be explored.
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What draws many visitors to Camp Chowenwaw is the chance to stay in a treehouse. Your childhood dream really can come true, as you sleep perched high in the treetop canopy at Treehouse Point. The camp has nine treehouses and each can accommodate four people. Large staircases lead up to the treehouses that stand tall on stilts among the towering cypress trees. Two sides of the treehouses are screened to further immerse you in nature, while still keeping the bugs away. There’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars on a warm summer night.
When you stay at Camp Chowenwaw, you’ll experience more than just the great outdoors — you’ll get a glimpse into Florida’s history. Camp Chowenwaw (Cho’-wen-waw) opened in 1933 and was used for more than 70 years as a campground for The Girl Scouts of Duval County. In fact, the name “Chowenwaw” roughly translates to mean “sister” in Muskokee and the camp has played an important role in more than three generations of young women in Northeast Florida. Camp Chowenwaw is unusual among 1930s public projects in that the Girl Scout Council had federal assistance through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, an unemployment relief program of President Herbert Hoover’s administration. This was used to help construct the Big Cabin, which still stands today, using timber harvested on-site. Today, visitors can step back in time at the Camp Chowenwaw Park History Museum and take a look at the history of the Girl Scouts in Florida. The camp has been an integral part of Clay County’s history and is recognized by the state as a historical landmark, with a state historic marker erected in 2016.
While the treehouses are a fun way to stay, Camp Chowenwaw also has four other campsites with cabins, some of which have air conditioning, and two camping areas if you prefer to pitch a tent. In the past, these campsites and cabins were added as more and more Girl Scouts came to the camp. Today, these campsites not only serve as accommodations for individuals, but continue to serve as a gathering place for large groups. The Big Cabin and other on-site accommodations can serve as meeting facilities for team outings and retreats, harkening back to its original use for Florida’s Girl Scouts.
But there’s more to this camp than historical preservation and unique accommodations. Camp Chowenwaw is perfect for nature lovers and offers plenty of outdoor adventures for the kids and kids at heart. Two miles of nature trails wind through the park, perfect for hiking and nature watching. The Jungle Trail is the oldest of the three trails on-site and features a long boardwalk that leads to an observation deck on Black Creek. The Treehouse Trail also features a wooden boardwalk that travels through the forest to Treehouse Point, while the Hickory Trail loops through the forest to the camping areas, as well as the pool and the Big Cabin. Camp Chowenwaw is home to a rich variety of wildlife too, including barred owls and bronze frogs, nesting songbirds like the Summer Tanger and White-Eyed Vireo, as well as plenty of reptiles including turtles, lizards and 10 different species of snakes.
Those looking for more adventure can take to the waterways to explore the area by kayak or canoe. Camp Chowenwaw is a natural conservation area, not only for the land but also the waterways. Kayakers can paddle up Black Creek to watch for wildlife and see how this waterway got its name. The creek is known for its unique color, which comes from chemicals known as tannins. Tannins seep out of leaves as water slowly flows over them, making the water have the color of weak tea. In fact, a similar process happens in your cup of tea! Other activities at the camp include a fishing pier, a swimming pool, and a playground for the kids.
Camp Chowenwaw encompasses more than just a summer camping trip. This camp offers visitors the unique chance to stay at a historical landmark, where generations of leaders stayed before them. Embark on an old-Florida adventure complete with treehouses, outdoor recreation and endless opportunities to make memories. Plan your trip to Camp Chowenwaw at ExploreClay.com.