...A little Bit of History...
The year following the War to End All Wars, Louis Plush homesteaded a piece of land that was later to become Camp Three Falls. Lou and his wife, Ella, came to this valley in 1919 to begin their family. Soon after coming, the Plushes had a baby and they named her Louella.
The Ventura County Council operated a camp called Camp Gray in the Wheeler Gorge in 1927. Camp Gray operated for 5 years at that location. If you drive through the gorge today you can still see the original camp headquarters building on the right just as you enter the Forest Service camp. The Great Depression of 1929 forced the Boy Scouts to move on. During the Great Depression many public works projects were done to help put men back to work. One of those projects was the construction of a road between Ojai and Taft now known as Highway 33. A section of that road goes over the swimming pool at old Camp Gray.
With the Boy Scouts without a camp, a search was started to find a camp for the Scouts of Ventura County. The search ranged from Santa Cruz Island to Lockwood Valley. The council remembered Lou and Ella Plush and their homestead where they raised turkeys and grew apples. In 1932 the Plush family donated 10 acres to the Boy Scouts. Those 10 acres were to become the beginning of Camp Three Falls. The original camp is the area around the dining hall and up to the first canyon where Aztec and Paiute campsites are located.
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 first winter camp was held in 1935. The following season over 300 trees were planted to provide shade and add to the beauty of the area. A gold prospector came and showed the Scouts how to pan for gold in the creek running through the camp. The next building constructed was the dining hall and kitchen. The following season another 175 trees were planted. In 1937 R. A. Fremlin donated a building that had been used as a dorm for lemon pickers. Legend has it that Fremlin Hall as we know it today was brought up by two mule driven wagons, and that the Scoutcraft corral was originally built to house those mules. In 1937 a rule was made of “no digging around the trees” to help protect the seedlings. An additional 40 acres was leased from the U.S. Forest Service to provide camp with the campgrounds of Dakota, Chawanakee, Chumash, Sioux and Shawnee.
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.