Big Lake Youth Camp's Lodge Gets New Life

The 116 mph winds were far stronger than anyone had expected, sprinting down the Clackamas River through Portland, Oregon, tipping over trash cans and snapping off giant trees as if they were stalks of wheat. When calm finally came, Gladstone Park Campground looked like giants had been playing pick-up sticks with the largest trees.

When the conference leaders toured the grounds, their words whispered despair until one — tradition says it was the youth ministries leader — began to praise God for His special gift.

“Gift?” the others questioned.

“Yes, we all know that Big Lake Youth Camp needs to finish the lodge, a large homey building where we will hold assemblies, teach crafts, eat meals and hold campfires indoors when the weather is bad. It looks like God agrees and has just logged the biggest trees on the campground to finish out the new lodge.”

Everyone laughed at the absurdity of the idea. Then the treasurer and president began talking about how they could get the newly fallen logs to the camp.

“Usually we log trees in the mountains and haul 'em down to the city,” someone said. “Looks like we’ll be doing the opposite yet again.”

Before long the logs, enough to finish out the new lodge, were on huge trucks heading out through Estacada and up the road to Big Lake Youth Camp to join the other logs from Gladstone in supplying the camp with the wood necessary to finish the lodge.

However, the same challenge faced these logs as had previous logs from Gladstone that had been felled just a few months previous. The road to camp had not been finished, and the trucks could only get to the west side of the lake. “No problem,” the loggers said as they dumped the giant logs into the lake, formed them into a raft and floated them across the lake to the camp.

This is a true story from way back in 1962!

The BLYC lodge has served through 58 winters of 10 to 25 feet of snow, hosting thousands of campers and their snow machines. It has also served through 58 summers, with thousands of campers eating, running, singing “Happy Birthday” and making decisions for Jesus around indoor “campfires.”

The bones of the lodge, nearly 60 years old, are now failing under the weight of winter snows. The rest of the old building has developed wrinkles, no longer meeting the required safety codes for a mountain lodge and leaving camp leaders in a quandary. When were they going to have time to tear the lodge down and build a new one?

Then a new storm, COVID-19, hit, forcing the camp to close this summer. Another disaster? No, another opportunity!

The plans for a new lodge have been drawn. Archeologists, architects and Forest Service planners are reviewing the details. And more than $1 million of the required $2.5 million dollars has been raised. Construction should be completed in time for hundreds of campers to come to camp in 2021. And, neatly designed into the new lodge, the old Gladstone timbers will be there, serving in a new way and reminding everyone of how God triumphs through storms.

Big Lake needs your help this summer too. Help this ministry by donating towards the construction of the new lodge. This project can only be completed with people who once again see potential in challenging times and then provide the urgently needed donations. You can be part of this effort by going online to

Featured in: July/August 2020


Randy Hill

Oregon Conference Youth Ministries Associate director, Pathfinder director