History of Tomahawk

Tomahawk Scout Camp has a long and exciting history. In an effort to capture and celebrate that history Northern Star Council has published a Tomahawk History Book. The Tomahawk History Book tells the story of what makes Tomahawk special—the place, the people, the program. It is photo heavy and chronicles the major changes over the years and key stories that shaped the camp. This book is the perfect thing to cap off the celebration of 70 years of Scouting at Tomahawk. 

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The year was 1952, and the Indianhead Council Board of Directors was looking for a new camp. Their existing facility, Camp Neibel, had become outgrown.  Camp Neibel was a 101- acre property, located in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin.  During its largest season, Camp Neibel served over 1,000 campers.  The camp was named after Frank Neibel who served as the Council Scout Executive from 1915 – 1937. A contract to purchase 1,932 acres of land with over eight miles of shoreline on Long Lake was signed on February 14, 1953.  The land was purchased from Aksel Nielsen, a restaurateur from Illinois, who had intended to raise cattle on the property.  The Nielsen family continues to maintain a summer home near Tomahawk's entrance.

Work on the new camp began during the summer of ‘53 with troops working to clear campsites, roads, and trails.  The first two summers were fairly rugged as the camp developed. 

By 1955, the camp was ready to run a full program with troops camping in present day Chippewa Camp.  The dining hall, referred to as the Service Lodge at the time, was the first major structure completed in the camp.

By 1958, campsites were found throughout Chippewa Camp stretching south into the area now called Sioux Camp.  The Central Service Lodge was also complete; providing an administrative space, a central kitchen, several offices, some staff housing, and a provisional camp dining hall.  During the summer of 1958, Tomahawk was officially dedicated.

By 1965, Tomahawk was serving over 3,000 Scouts each summer. It was a thriving two-camp property, gaining a nation-wide reputation as an outstanding Scout program.  While these programs continued to thrive, the physical changes to the property were much subtler for many years.  

Tomahawk began being utilized beyond the summer months in 1979 when the Spearhead Winter Program started. The Spearhead Winter Program eventually evolved into the current Tomahawk Snow Base Program. The 1980’s also began showing some growth in camp attendance. During that decade, participation grew by more than 60%, with over 4,600 Scouts camping at Tomahawk by 1990. A sense of change was in the air.

Tomahawk’s renaissance began taking place in 1991 with several new additions to the camp. The central kitchen facility was moved from Chippewa Camp to the Central Service Lodge, allowing for the expansion of the Chippewa Dining Hall and for the ability to serve more campers out of a central kitchen facility.  

The addition of Navajo Webelos Camp came in 1991. It had been more than 20 years since Scouts had last camped in that part of Tomahawk. A year later, the Randall Scout Ranch was acquired, bringing the total acreage to 2,500.  Steadily increasing numbers of campers provoked the initiation of Tomahawk’s newest sub-camp, White Pine.

Construction of White Pine began in 1994, with its first full season coming in 1995.

In 2007, the 567 acre Rindsig Farm, located north of White Pine Camp, was purchased. This acquired property brought Tomahawk’s total acreage to just over 3,000. 

Today, Tomahawk is among the largest and most prominent Scout camps in the world.  Annually, it serves over 10,000 youth and leaders from around the world through year-round camping opportunities.




History of Tomahawk