Michael McCormic, Jr.
YACOLT — A few miles north of the Lewis River, there is a place where hundreds of children from around Southwest Washington can escape the routine of normal life each year and appreciate the simple joys of living in the country.
Sitting on a 230-acre property just outside of Yacolt, Royal Ridges Retreat is a household name across the North Clark County area. Founded in 1978, the camp began with the donation of 78 acres from Roy and Jean Andersen. Since its inception, Royal Ridges has grown in size and in renown.
According to Ron Wanger, the white-bearded executive director at Royal Ridges, the camp’s mission is to “bring people one step closer to Christ.” As a Christian camp affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church, Royal Ridges is a nonprofit ministry that welcomes campers from all walks of life, regardless of race, religion, or national origin.
In discussing their approach to carrying out the camp mission, Wanger says, “We use this natural environment to make it happen, we don’t do that by pounding someone over the head with a Bible; we simply present the gospel of Jesus Christ and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest of it.”
In addition to the land owned by the camp, there is an additional 160 acres of private land that has been made available for camp use. Throughout the combined 390 acres, a treasure trove of activities and amenities are offered to campers at Royal Ridges.
“We have a high-ropes course, low-ropes course, paintball, horseback riding, canoeing, archery, human foosball, we just started gaga ball this year — it’s a big hit — hiking, and crafts. Picture anything outdoors, and then it depends on the camp.”
Because the camp directors want to offer programs that satisfy the interests of different individuals, Royal Ridges offers a variety of camps for groups of children ranging from first grade through high school. Day camps, in which the campers are dropped off in the morning and picked up at the end of each day, are available in three forms. Day summer camp offers classic camp activities such as campfire songs, horseback riding, hiking, archery, crafts and a petting zoo. Additional day camps include horse camp, in which campers learn the basics of horsemanship, adventure camp, where thrill-seeking campers get to experience the low and high-ropes courses along with training in outdoor survival, and paintball camp.
Royal Ridges also offers two overnight camps, or “resident camps,” as staff calls them. Resident Horsemanship Camp, a weeklong, intensive horsemanship training experience, and Resident Adventure Camp, another weeklong camp packed with activities reserved for young adrenaline junkies, are available for campers ready to spend a week away from home in the great outdoors.
Locally, the camp is most famous for their horsemanship programs. As such, nearly 60 horses reside on the premises and are available for campers to ride in the General Day Camp, Horsemanship Day Camp, and Resident Horsemanship Camp.
The staff and counselors at Royal Ridges weave a weeklong Bible study into the camp activities, with each day focusing on a small lesson within a larger picture. So while campers enjoy a week full of fun and games, their time at Royal Ridges also carries a deeper, underlying purpose.
The way Wanger puts it, “All of those things exist because we like to have people to come, and in those non-threatening conversations talk to them about who created the environment, who created the horses. ‘Have you thought about this and that, and spirituality?’ Because we are a Christian ministry.”
On the staff side of Royal Ridges, Wanger says that they welcome new faces to the team, be it workers, counselors, groundskeepers, volunteers, office assistants, horse trainers, or simply somebody who wants to help the camp run smoothly.
To those who may be interested in serving the North County community through Royal Ridges, Wanger says, “If anyone ever wants to get involved, call us. Let us know. We’ll try to let you do a lot of what you like to do, and try not to have you do a lot of what you don’t like to do, but there’s always ‘don’t likes to do’ that needs to be done.”
Summer camps at Royal Ridges continue this year through August 25. Off season programs are also available throughout the year. The camp is located at 20115 NE 354th Street in Yacolt.
For more information, visit the camp’s website at www.royalridgescamp.org or call (360) 686-3737.