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Camp Woodsmoke: A little slice of paradise |

Camp Woodsmoke: A little slice of paradise

GREENSBURG – Camp Woodsmoke is located at 9219 E. CR 640 N., Greensburg, in the far northeast corner of Decatur County. Its 264 acres include unspoiled forestland crisscrossed with wandering paths, some paved and some as wild as the gentle woodland creatures that live there.

A cheerful stream babbles through the forest, providing a haven for its woodland residents and a place for respectful campers to explore. There’s a playground there designed for children of all abilities to enjoy and the paved trails make it easy for them to explore unassisted. Abundant trees and wildflowers create a quiet and reverent backdrop for the small outdoor amphitheatre there.


This place is a haven (or perhaps a ‘“heaven”) for folks of all walks and abilities, young and old. There’s an old-fashioned dining hall with an ultra-modern kitchen and a bath house with plumbing.

Cabins dot the forest landscape and there’s even a small chapel where campers can thank God for all this beauty.

On a rainy day – even though the sun doesn’t filter through the canopy above, creating a patchy mosaic of yellows, greens and browns on the forest floor – the sound of the falling rain and the cool breezes through the forest lull one into quiet wonder. This is definitely a beautiful piece of nature’s artistic majesty, lovingly painted into the Indiana landscape.

Established in 1964 by the Lions Club of District 25-F, (Lions Club members know what that means, and that’s all that really matters) Camp Woodsmoke has grown to provide unique camping experiences to underprivileged children, individuals with mental or physical disabilities and other worthy souls who would enjoy a communion with nature.

“It started with this shelter house,” said Lion David Straughn. “They built it, and then started cutting a path from the road all the way to this shelter, selling the timber all the way. After 54 years, this is what you see.”

Camp Caretaker Paul Bowling, who lives on the grounds, told the Daily News about the campers who use this beautiful venue.

“It’s primarily for people with disabilities. We have 11 cabins that sleep eight to 10 people, all handicapped accessible,” Bowling said. “Our dining hall is fully equipped with utensils, cookware, pots and pans, all for the use of the campers,” he said. “We have natural trails that are not paved, and we have trails that are paved so those in wheelchairs can explore, too. Folks camp here the whole year round because all our cabins are heated. And people like to camp when there’s snow on the ground. That’s just a neat experience for them.”

Giving priority to disabled campers, those involved with operating and caring for Camp Woodsmoke also allow church groups, Scouting groups and even wedding parties to use the facility.

“And it’s all free to the campers. They can make a donation and that money will go straight back to the upkeep of it,” Bowling explained. “And if you want to reserve it, we’re booked all the way up to November.”

Woodsmoke hosts a “Pork Chop” day every year. This year’s event is on Sept. 30, and tickets for the fundraiser are $10. According to Straughn, the ‘expert’ on Pork Chop day, a $10 donation “gets you a pork chop, a baked potato, green beans, applesauce, a slice of bread, a drink and a dessert,” he says.

Because of Woodsmoke/s 501(c)3 status, the process for making a reservation there is a bit different than at public campgrounds.

Interested campers must apply for the right to use the campgrounds by visiting the Camp Woodsmoke website (www.campwoodsmoke.org), printing an application, and then submitting it to any Lions Club District 25-F member to sign. Interested parties may also buy a memorial brick for $40 and have it lettered in honor of someone, or just to support the camp.

The process allows Lions Club members to know the groups using the campground fit the criteria for respectable campers and, of course, to insure the disabled are allowed first dibs.

“That’s just the way it is,” said Lion Ivan Nading, who’s been a Lions Club member for 35 years. “We built this so that disabled folks could have a chance to enjoy nature like we do when we’re here, and we expect all our campers to respect the beauty of it and take care of it like we do.”

“It’s actually a very educational experience camping here, or anywhere for that matter,” Boling said. “It teaches them respect for the environment and teaches them to take care of things. Everyone should get a chance to enjoy this!”

When asked about his pay as the camp caretaker, Bowling responded as he pointed to the beautiful setting around him: “Well, I’m not getting rich, but what if this was your office every day? Your pay wouldn’t matter that much!”

For more information, call 812-527-2526 or email campwoodsmoke@yahoo.com.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111, ext. 7011 or email at bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com

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