On October 28, 1929, a Canadian Vickers Vedette MkII aircraft flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force by No. 1 (Operations) Wing out of Winnipeg was surveying and mapping in northern Saskatchewan when it sank into the depths of a small wilderness lake. Its call letters were G-CYZN; that lake was subsequently named Zeden (ZN) Lake.
1958 - 1959
1958: The Knights of Columbus Councils in Zenon Park, Tisdale, Nipawin and Hudson Bay undertook the opportunity to build and develop a summer camp operation for the children of those areas. A site was selected on ZN Lake, on the newly built Hanson Lake Road in Nipawin (now Narrow Hills) Provincial Park. A formal request was made to the Dept. of Natural Resources for permission to establish a summer camp. Upon approval, plans were made to lay the groundwork for the camp. The name St. John Bosco Camp was chosen, after the patron of young people. The camp’s ideal at that time was to emulate St. John Bosco’s love of children, and help them to recognize, respect, and grow as individuals and groups.
1959: Bishop Morin, pleased with the project, agreed to provide the camp with a Director and part of the staff. Father Deschamps was appointed as Camp Director. Work began with the building of a private road and the initial clearing and the construction of the first building, a combination dining hall/kitchen/chapel. In the last week of July, Father Vyncht of Tisdale celebrated the first Mass at camp. Bosco’s first camp lasted one week and had fourteen campers, all boys.
1960 - 1969
1960: Two one-week camps for boys and a one-week camp for girls were held. By now word of the camp was spreading and campers were applying from all over northern Saskatchewan.
1961: The Nurse’s Station and Dining Hall addition were built.
1965: The cook’s cabin, root cellar, canteen, power plant, and firearm safety building were built.
1966: St. John Bosco Hour was introduced for the first time. Flag poles and backstops were erected. The rifle range was damaged after it collapsed in the winter because of heavy snow. Power is extended to root cellar, campfire site, and fire range building. Waterlines are extended to the campfire site, tenting areas, and toilets. (Director: Father Doucette)
1967: A public address system was installed. Tents were set up in the form of two horseshoes, creating one junior and one senior area. The manager’s cabin was built. (Director: Father John M. Boutin)
1968: A new recreation hall (40′ x 100′) was built by the Arborfield Sub-Council of the Knights of Columbus, containing the Camp Director and Assistant Director offices, leader’s meeting room, handicraft and sports rooms. A survival-oriented program was introduced with emphasis on shelter-building, outdoor cooking, and firebuilding. A Home Nursing Course was offered for the first time. St. John Bosco Camp became a founding member of the Saskatchewan Camping Association (SCA).
1969: The Director’s Cabin was built.
1970 - 1979
1970: A canoeing program was initiated with the purchase of 2 fibreglass canoes. Orienteering was offered for the first time.
1971: A CIT program was offered to senior campers aged 15-16. The Camp Manager position was created. COTS and Canoe Skills were offered
for the first time.
1972: Swimming programs were introduced under the supervision of both the Red Cross and the RLSSC. Canoe programs were split into two: Canoe I, which offered a six-day skills camp at Upper Fishing Lake to teach skills, and Canoe II, which offered a 60-mile outtripping experience down the Sturgeon Weir river and across Amisk Lake. First aid was affiliated with St. John¹s Ambulance. An awards system was set up to recognize annually five men or women who have greatly contributed to camp. New tenting “satellite” areas were set up for intermediate campers aged 11-12.
1973: A Naturelore shelter, storage shelter, obstacle course, showers, and the Staff Shack were built. WSI and Creative Drama were offered for the first time. Canoe Skills was held on Baldy Lake. Survival Skills was held in the bush around McDougall Creek. Staff took their first year-end canoe trip.
1974: A new Chapel was erected. ALE was offered for the first time. Canoe Skills was moved to Lost Echo Lake.
1975: The Survival Skills program changed its name to Wilderness Skills. All 3 COTS programs were filled for the first time. The maintenance shed, laundry room and activity centre were built.
1976: The craft shelter and swimbeach shelter were erected. Bronze Medallion was offered for the first time. Wilderness Outtripping and Wilderness Skills were combined to form WOTS. The “Young Olympians of Canada” program was introduced at JBC in celebration of the Montreal Olympics. A sailing program was offered for the first time. The camp crafts program began the spring of this year. Canoe Skills moved from Lost Echo Lake to Ispuchaw Lake. Firearm safety was discontinued.
1977: (May 15) The Fishing Lakes Fire raged through camp, burning many buildings and damaging trees and property. Structures destroyed by the fire included the root cellar, recreation hall and nearby toilets, buildings at the dump, obstacle course, activity centre, craft shelter, swimbeach shelter, 25 round tent pads, and 20 square tent pads. Tenting areas were extended down to Ispuchaw Point, which was donated by the Boy Scouts. Ispuchaw Trail was created from main camp to Ispuchaw Point. A new master plan was instituted for the future development of camp. Solo camping was offered as a program for the first time.
1978: The Quonset was built. Work began on the Camp Cabin, Naturelore building, and greenhouse.
1979: The Camp Cabin was made livable with the help of many people. The St. John Bosco Youth Corps was started. The greenhouse was used on an experimental basis.
1980 - 1989
1980: The Administration building was erected. The inside was finished by the Knights of Columbus. Two new tenting areas were created. Father John Boutin’s last summer as Director.
1981: The Camp Cabin, Naturelore building, and Parr Course in front of the Admin building were completed. A new walk-in freezer was built on the south side of the Canteen. (Director: Father Albert LeGatt)
1982: Ray Beyer served as Acting Camp Director while Father Albert was away. The walk-in freezer was completed.
1983: 25th anniversary of camp! Canoe Beach was terraced. A staff reunion was held July 27-30.
1984: A new gate was built at the entrance to camp. The greenhouse was damaged by fire.
1985: The Naturelore program is integrated with Wilderness Skills program. Swim Beach is terraced from the Camp Cabin and Nurse’s Station to the waterfront.
1986: A retaining wall was built at swim beach. (Director: Jim Kaptein)
1987: Camp switches from diesel to electrical power and the power generator is shut down. (Director: Chris Brochu)
1988: Camp gets telephone connections with the outside world. Camp goes co-ed for the convenience of parents to cut down their travel expenses. The greenhouse is torn down. (Director: Darryl Staflund)
1989: Creative Drama, Yoga, and John Bosco Hour were combined to form the Discovery program. Intermediate areas moved from Ispuchaw Point to east side of Ispuchaw Trail. (Director: Jim Lissinna)
1990 - 1999
1990: Three summer camps are offered in July and August instead of four. (Director: Christian Kahlert)
1991: Director: Mike Lacoursiere
1992: The walk-in freezer was moved from the Canteen to the kitchen and attached to it. New septic tanks were installed by the kitchen, by the outhouse near the Nurse’s Station, and by the showers.
1993: The shower complex was overhauled. A new archery shelter was built. The BOTS program and Adult Get-Away Weekend were introduced.
1994: Director: Mark Lich
1995: (June 1) Because of heavy smoke from the Nipekamew and Monday forest fires, staff and campers were evacuated. Camp shut down for the next week while smoke cleared and fires were brought under control.
1996: St. John Bosco Camp goes online with its own e-mail address and webpage! 7-day camps are offered concurrently with 10-day camps for the first time.
1997: The Board of Directors takes on a more active role in the running of camp during the off season. Bosco offers only two 10-day sessions in July. (Director: Peter Kahlert)
1998: The upper deck on the Naturelore building is replaced. (Director: Chad Thurber)
1999: A chlorination system is installed on our water supply. The roof and deck on the Camp Cabin are replaced; replacement of the dock at Canoe Beach begins. (Director: Chantie Champigny)
2000 - 2009
2000: The Administration building is re-shingled. Aluminum tent frames are purchased and installed in all the tenting areas. The lower deck of the Naturelore building is replaced. A canoe replacement program begins with the purchase of three new canoes.
2001: Third camp is reintroduced, offering a 7 day program for Juniors and Intermediates. The canoe dock replacement is completed and a new change house at Swim Beach is built. (Director: Brad Harasymchuk)
2002: A new metal roof is installed over the beach change house. The Orienteering shelter is rebuilt and finished with a metal roof, and the staff Overflow building gets a new metal roof. Work is started on the Dining Hall, a new metal roof is built over the freezer/cooler section. Work also was done on the interior of the shower building. A new floor is laid in the laundry building.
2003: Wilderness Kayaking Skills is offered for the first time. Chapel roof receives repairs. A metal roof is put on the main portion of the Dining Hall. A project to vent the outhouses is undertaken. Windstorms over the winter and spring brought a lot of jack pines to the ground. Work on the shower stalls is completed. (July 2) Camp escaped with minor damage after a tornado passed just south of the campsite. Hail stones the size of tennis balls damaged some tents and broke a couple of windows on vehicles, but there was very little wind damage. (Director: Taylor Bassingthwaite)
2004: Wilderness Skills (a combination of Canoe Skills and Hiking Skills) is offered to introduce campers to and prepare them for the senior outtripping programs. Fishing Skills is offered for the first time. A food dehydrator is purchased and used to lighten the loads for the senior outtripping programs. The sandpoint wells that had been supplying camp with water for 20+ years plugged up and needed to be replaced; camp had to haul drinking water until early July. 7-day programs for Juniors are offered both in July and August and 7-day programs for Seniors are offered at the August camp. The Board of Directors hires a part-time year round Camp Director to assist them in the off-season. (Director: Shane Kelly)
2005: The camp office relocates to Saskatoon. Rains last fall and snowfall over the winter raises the lake level once again. The Chapel roof is replaced.
2006: 7-day camps are discontinued; all camps are again 10 days. Grants allow for the replacement of several in-camp and outtripping tents as well as improvements to the orienteering program. Site preparation begins in August for an addition to the Staff Shack. The cement floor is poured on the Thanksgiving weekend and construction starts two weeks later. (Director: Margot Biggs)
2007: The staff accommodation addition is nears completion.
2008: Bosco’s 50th Anniversary Reunion is held on the August Long Weekend. The Naturelore building and Quonset get new metal roofs. The exterior of our remodeled staff building receives a stucco finish. (Director: Eric Pulvermacher)
2009: The outhouse between admin and first aid buildings was given a major remodel and became known as “The Spa” as four step flush toilets were installed. New signs were installed at the canoe and swim beaches. Approximately 120 spruce and jack pine trees were planted by campers and staff. The Duplex received a new metal roof in the fall. (Director: Martin Plemel)
2010 - Present
2010: 6-day camps are reinstated and 8 year old campers were welcomed for the first time. Bike Outtripping Skills is no longer offered. The deck on Staff Building was replaced and safety rails on the stairs in the Quonset were installed. The First Aid building front windows were replaced and the kitchen received new lighting fixtures. The Dining Hall and Kitchen received a new interior paint, along with the exterior of a number of buildings. Funding from a grant allowed us to replace our canoe trailer which lost its axel last year. And last but not least, we replaced the roof on the First Aid building in the fall.
2011: Spring programming for the most part was cancelled this year due to the uncertainty surrounding a teacher’s strike. Wilderness Kayaking Skills is no longer offered. Facility improvements continued with the lights in the dining hall being replaced along with six new pole light fixtures. The laundry area behind the kitchen was rebuilt after the snow load in the spring caused the old structure to collapse. The stage in the Chapel was rebuilt and the exterior of the First Aid building and the Dining Hall were resided and painted. (Director: David Plemel)
2012: On-line registration was introduced and payments using PayPal. The initial plan for a new shower/laundry/washroom facility were submitted to Sask Parks to obtain a building permit. Camper Passports were introduced this year to replace the former badge system. Facility wise saw the demolition of the old flying fortress (8 seater outhouse). Funding received from grants allowed us to purchase three new commercial stoves for the kitchen. The freezer and fridge units were reinsulated and the buildings resided. Mike’s Cabin was pressure washed and received a new coat of linseed oil, as well as a new coat of paint on the Canteen and Chapel. (Director: Gillian Wourms)
2013: Architectural drawings were submitted to Sask Parks and a building permit was issued for the new Shower/Laundry/Washroom building. Excavation on-site begin and the rough-in plumbing was installed. Xplornet satellite internet replaces the dial-up to allow for better communication. The portable radios used for in-camp communication are upgraded. SPOT Satellite GPS locators were purchased and allowed out-trip groups to send one-way messages to camp to say all was OK or to ask for assistance. Chinking the logs at Mike’s Cabin begins and new lights are installed in the Chapel (Director: Miranda Bachman)
2014: The Chapel gets new vinyl slider windows. Chinking work is completed on Mike’s Cabin. Hebertism course receives some much needed work and a new zip-line is installed. Work continues on the new shower building any by the early June we have built the forms and had the concrete floor poured. Over the summer the walls are raised and the roof goes on. Rough in wiring is completed. (Manager: Bernie Vossen; Director: Miranda Bachman)
2015: Moved in two new to us buildings – Managers Cabin and new First Aid building. Work is done to increase the efficiency of our walk in fridge and freezer. New Docks and Rafts were purchased. 10 new outtripping tents were purchased for use by Junior and Intermediate groups when on their overnight hikes. Work continues on the new shower building with the interior walls, windows, doors, shower stalls being installed. Renovation to Admin building see the removal of the wall between the first two offices, installation of baseboard heater and new lighting. Ceiling fans installed in the Chapel and new lighting in Mike’s Cabin. (Manager: Bernie Vossen; Director: Carlin Preun)
2016: Additional six bows and other additional equipment purchased to expand the archery program. Work continues on the new Shower building with shower fixtures, sinks and toilets and ventilation system being installed. The water heater is connected to the propane supply and the building is substantially complete and ready for use by early July. Electricity is connected to the Manager’s Cabin and New First Aid Building. The compressor in the freezer is determined to be in need of replacement – decision to go to chest freezers for next year. Flooring in bedrooms of Mike’s cabin replaced. New flooring installed in the Admin building. (Manager: Bernie Vossen; Director: Colton Vallee)
2017: Camp launches a new website. Three new washers and dryers are purchased for the new laundry room. The shower building receives a base coat of stucco. Walk-in freezer is modified and turned into a dry storage room with two chest freezers. Interior walls and insulation removed from loft of Mike’s Cabin to assist in squirrel/mouse proofing the building. Work begins on renovations to the Manager’s Cabin including cupboards, washroom renovation, new flooring New septic tanks installed for Manager’s Cabin and for New First Aid Building. Decision to sell the kayaks as the program had not been offered since 2010. (Manager: Bernie Vossen; Co-Directors: Shaelyn Preun and Jake Uytterhagen)
2018: Bosco’s 60th Anniversary celebration on the August long weekend. Final coat of stucco to the new shower building completed. Hebertism Course rebuilt with new obstacles and layout. Plumbing and fixtures hooked up in Manager’s Cabin and flooring completed. Work begins on New First Aid Building, with a new door and windows, deck and ramp. Rooms are reconfigured. Ventilation fans installed in freezer/dry storage in kitchen and canteen. Electrical repairs to Quonset line. Power rerouted from old shower building. Old shower building torn down and former laundry/maintenance building moved to provide storage behind the Manager’s Cabin. (Manager: Bernie Vossen; Director Carlin Preun)
2019: A very successful year for camp, with higher than average numbers in both spring and summer programs compared to recent years. (Manager: Bernie Vossen; Co-Directors: Shaelyn Preun and Regan Wilson)
2020: Bosco was forced to cancel all spring and summer programs due to COVID-19. In light of the cancellation, a few staff were hired on to make a digital summer camp program through a YouTube series of videos to keep the Bosco Spirit alive. See the videos on our channel here: St. John Bosco Wilderness Camp – YouTube (Manager: Bernie Vossen)
2021: We planned to run a Family style retreat program before the last minute lift of COVID-19 restrictions, however we ended up running a modified summer program where our senior camps were run in a staggered start and end date with little time in main camp to reduce risk of any possible COVID-19 outbreaks. The groups stayed in the playing field while in camp and prepared all their food over a campfire. Forest fires also threatened camp and campers this season. We had to evacuate camp for a 24-hour period and our manager had to take a long drive through Manitoba to check in on one of our outtrip groups. However, after a short break, camp resumed. We also housed some firefighters who brought with them new air conditioning units for a few buildings and a sense of safety for camp. Due to the fires and the modified camp, we had plenty of staff to help with clearing the slash, deadfall and low laying branches to make camp safer. In the fall, we also installed a tin roof on Mike’s Cabin. (Manager: Bernie Vossen, Director: Layton Willick)
2022: Back to a “normal” summer for camp. We ran school groups, Juniors, Intermediates and Senior Programs. Got a backup power generator operational for summer programs. Tin roof installed on the Admin Building. Bernie announced his retirement as Camp Manager for many years and his replacement Karen Babcock was hired to begin in 2023. (Manager: Bernie Vossen, Director: Layton Willick)