Greetings! Welcome to the beautiful Camp Wapsie, a branch of the Cedar Rapids Metro YMCA . This summer marks the 100th anniversary that Chuck Filipi took a small group of boys camping along the Wapsipinicon river, creating the first ever Wapsie Y Camping Group. The following year, the YMCA located and developed a permanent site for Camp Wapsie on the southeast edge of Central City, across the river from the Linn County Fairgrounds. This location was home to YMCA Camp Wapsie for the next thirty-four years. During these early years campers lived in both tents and cabins, ate their meals in the lodge, and had campfires along the Wapsipinicon River. Staff members in the first few years learned leadership skills under the guidance of Chuck Filipi, carried water from the camp pump to the kitchen because there was no running water, rarely left camp throughout the summer because none of them had cars, and were paid 50 cents for each camper they could recruit for the summer.
A tradition that Chuck Filipi started at the original location was the Decision Rock. The “Decision Rock” was used at the campfire ceremony where each camper was asked to make some decisions which would guide them later in life. After doing so, campers find a small rock and scratch his/her name on the rock and place it at the base of the Decision Rock. The rock was also used for a place for campers to come and sit quietly and reflect on their lives and how they wanted to live in the future. Since the Decision Rock was such an important part of camp and its traditions, it was moved to camps current location, where it sits at the top of the Outdoor Chapel.
In 1951, the YMCA learned that camp’s lease for the land would not be renewed the following year. The first reaction was one of great dismay and regret, however, this proved to be a blessing in disguise. A new camp would be built on a new site.
YMCA executives and directors began looking for a new location for the new Camp Wapsie; they looked at places around the Coralville Dam, Lake McBride, along the Iowa River, and even a location in new Marshalltown. Finally they received a call from the mayor of Central City, Vern Phelps. He described a location northwest of Central City that would be perfect for what the YMCA was looking for. This new location had a spring which had been flowing for years with a large supply of water. It was on the backwaters or the Wapsipinicon River, making canoeing and swimming a possibility without the dangers of a current. There was a good mix of both wooded area and open land. The majority of the property was located on land high enough that camp’s buildings would not be damaged in the event of a flood.
A campaign to raise $125,000 began on May 15, 1952 with a kickoff dinner. The campaign ended on June 6, 1952, when John Turner reported that $135,000 had been raised by contributions from numerous donors. Construction of twelve new buildings began on July 29, 1952, with the help of Loomis Construction Company. All construction plans, with the exception of the pool, were finished by June, 1953. The dedication ceremony of camp took place on June 24, 1953; the first Wapsie campers at the current location arrived a few days later.
Many additions and improvements have been made to camp over the years including the addition of female campers in 1973. Prior to that, Wapsie was an all-boys camp. The TeePee Village was added in 1980 for Wapsie’s youngest campers to have a unique experience unlike the rest of camp. In 1981 additions were made to the girls’ cabins, giving them bathrooms. The bridge to the pool and the Eagles Nest were built in 1982. The original tower “Mt. Murphy” was erected in 1991. In 1995, the current boys’ cabins were built complete with bathrooms. The summer of 2000 was the first summer for Ranger Camp. The current climbing tower; Hope Tango Tower was built and opened in the summer of 2005. Fast forward to 2018, canvas teepees were just replaced with wooden cabin structures built in the shape of teepees by volunteers and staff thanks to financial support by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.
YMCA Camp Wapsie believes in being a partner with our community. We raise about $50,000 annually to be able to provide financial assistance to families who need a little support to attend camp. We also partner with businesses, organizations and individuals who have shared over 5,000 volunteer hours to help make improvements at camp to support our campers.
Currently, Wapsie is conducting a “$100,000 for a 100 years Campaign” to raise money to make more improvements to camp including, kitchen improvements, Health Center remodel, a bouldering wall for expanded programmatic possibilities, purchasing the neighboring property and updating our wastewater treatment system. This campaign is currently half way to its goal. To learn more about how to support this campaign click here or call 319-435-2577.
YMCA Camp Wapsie looks forward to serving campers and families in our community for the next 100 years!