In 1933 the Ventura County Council decided to have a trial camp on the Plush Ranch. On Jun 10, 1933 under the leadership of Scout Executive Elwood Griest, Camp Three Falls began operation. There was not a lot here back then. Lou Plush had dug an open trench piping system all the way from North Falls to a reservoir in the camp. The reservoir acted as the camp aquatics center where rowing, canoeing, and swimming were held. Other programs at that first camp included rifle shooting and archery in the present day Aztec campsite, native study campfires and horseback riding. Troop activities included cooking the 10 rattlesnakes that were caught, exploring the Pinnacles and hikes to Grade Valley, Lily Meadows and Mt. Pinos.
On July 24, 1933, the Council Executive Committee selected Camp Three Falls as the permanent summer camp and in December of that year construction began on the first building, a 23’ x 28’ administration building that now serves as the nature area. The next time you are in the nature den, look down on the porch and step and you will see the year 1933 etched into it. The 40’ x 90’ pool that is now in use today was built over the original reservoir provided by Lou Plush. During the winter of 1933 the Council opened its second season. The formal dedication of Camp Three Falls was held on July 1, 1934. By then 27 cabin sites had been built, a steel flag pole was in place, 1600’ of water line had been laid and the camp Camp Directors Lodge had been built. All was ready for the Scouts of the Ventura County Council.
The camp needed to grow to accommodate the number of Scouts coming to summer camp. Land across the valley was purchased from Bert Lee. Remember Lou and Ella Plush? Their daughter, Louella, had met a camp counselor at Camp Three Falls by the name of Bert Lee. Bert and Louella married and moved into a house at the entrance of the camp. Bert Lee became the Range Officer for the camp in 1938 along with Tom-Bob Carr. That same year the totem poles by the dining hall were carved under the guidance of Glen Mosberger. R. A. Fremlin provided the redwood for the totems. The totems were dedicated on July 4, 1938.
1939 saw the start of the Tribe of Matilija, a program progressing through various ranks for campers as they returned to Camp Three Falls. The 1940s saw the installation of drinking fountains, the 1950s the replacement of the original dining hall and kitchen, the 1960s the drilling of the camp wells. In the 1970s the double deck bunks were removed from the campsites and replaced with canvas tents. The Order of the Arrow built the health lodge used today and the dining hall was expanded to its present size. The 1980s brought the dedication of Lake Wood, the Dennis Blackburn Memorial Camp Center and the Hales boathouse. The 1990s brought Fort Lockwood, new cabins to Staff Canyon and the Arizona crossing into camp.
Camp Three Falls has brought lifelong memories to thousands of Scouts throughout the years. With countless summer camps, winter camps, training courses, long term hikes, those memories are fond ones. Camp Three Falls has a rich past and an untapped future.
I've uploaded some pictures of Three Falls in the early days to the Camp Three Falls Facebook page. These are courtesy of Wes Fish, who has also posted them on his Troop 102 (Ventura) web site, along with a lot of other historic photos of Scouting in Ventura County.