In 1930 Bill McLeod made his first canoe trip with his father and brothers up the Bird River. At the time there was no road to the river so they began their trip at McArthur Falls. This became an annual event till they grew up and left home and even after. It was most beautiful wilderness country and the fishing was fabulous. They did not always stop at Bird River but often went up to Snowshoe Lake and into Ontario at times.
Nearly sixty years ago Bill began preaching in the homes on the Bird River through the Shantyman’s Association. He met and stayed with a man who owned the property now occupied by the Bird River Bible Camp, this man was a Communist supporter as were most people who lived in the area. He became a believer finally and Bill made him promise that if he ever moved he would sell the place to him for a Bible Camp. It was an easy promise to make because this man was confident he would never sell!
However, he eventually received a job with Manitoba highways and moved to Lac du Bonnet and then was ready to sell. He informed Bill of this and that he wanted $2000 with $1000 down within a month. At the time Bill had a camp fund with only $10 in it but through much prayer he told the owner that they would take it. After some letter writing they had $1200 in, enough for the down payment and a lawyer to draw it up.
The following summer in 1952 they held their first camp with 30 campers sleeping in tents. Souls were saved that very first year and the camp was off and running! Bill’s lawyer suggested that since it was not for profit they should strike a committee to oversee the camp and so they did. The following men were all on that first committee until the camp was turned over to the Baptist General Conference; Bill McLeod, Bob McLeod, Walter Lint, Bill Remple, and Russ Lunning.
• Early on all the campers were in tents and slept on hay “beds”.
• The road would become impassable when it was raining. The busses would stop at the bridge and load gear onto a boat below and bring campers via the river.
• The original kitchen was outside under a shelter.
• As mentioned, the first year of camp had 30 kids all ages. For the summer of 2014, there were 900 campers.
• Originally, the groceries weren’t brought in weekly, but rather they were delivered all at one time.
• Many kids learned to swim at camp in the early days, as swimming class was one of the skills.
• The beauty of God’s creation has not changed over the years – what you see now is basically what they saw then. His glory has always been so evident in the surroundings!
• Campfires were often used as a place of worship and fellowship. In the early days, campers could share something they learned at camp and then put a stick or log on the fire. The fire kept getting bigger and bigger – it was a great visual for what God had done in the week.
• Quite a few baptisms have been done in the river!
• In the early days, a common phrase was - “it’s a short term mission field, a short drive away from the city.”
• Bird River had a 2 week Counselor in Training (CIT) program for many years.
• The core from the early days hasn’t changed – skills, games, daily chapel and devotions, really impacting worship, loving staff. This part of camp has varied little, as it really