Little evidence remains of the early settlers of Camp Tahosa. Frances Edmondson is recorded to be the first owner of the property back in 1899. In the same year, Silas Tumbleson (note the current name of Tumbleson Lake) came along and bought 160 acres for $400 and named the lake after himself. For some reason Silas sold the property for $300, probably never expecting to return. But in 1912, he did return and reassumed ownership of the 160 acres for $454 plus an additional 160 acres, establishing the 320 acres we know today as Camp Tahosa. From 1912 to 1917, Silas Tumbleson ran a fishing resort at the lake. During these years, the region was a popular tourist attraction and many came by automobile and train to enjoy the outdoors.
In 1917 Tom Hussie bought the property from Martha Tumbleson for one dollar plus “other goods and valuable considerations.” Except for a four year period the property remained in the Hussie family until 1938. During that four year period, the property was owned and operated as a fishing resort by Mel Gelwick. It was during this time that all of the stone buildings were erected.
In 1938, the Denver Area Council needed a new camp. They searched for one that was near a wilderness area and high mountain peaks, a lake surrounded by lush forest and in terrain with abundant wildlife and few traces of man. Our property, four miles north of Ward, Colorado on the Peak-to-Peak Highway seemed to hold the most promise. For a $1500 lease and an option to buy for $20,750, the deal was closed. Eight hundred Scouts enjoyed the first season at the new camp known as “Denver’s Rocky Mountain Scout Camp”. In 1942, a contest was held to rename the camp. Out of 5,000 entries, John Bush of Troop 83 submitted the winning name – Camp Tahosa.
For the first years, there were no designated outdoor campsites. The summer was divided into four two-week periods with 200 campers attending each period. Outdoor camping could only be done if troops provided their own tents, food and cooking equipment. The camp fee for 1938 was $7 per week per boy.
The initial plan was to provide indoor shelter and dining facilities for all campers. All campers and staff were housed in the stone buildings. It soon became apparent that the best use of Camp Tahosa was to provide outdoor camping and use the buildings for program activities. By 1946, there were six campsites– Camp Tahosa was growing.
The early program at Camp Tahosa offered a top quality Scouting experience. The daily experience included an instructional period, exploration trips, special programs, free time, organized games and campfires. In 1946, merit badge classes were added; this greatly expanded the program for campers. At that time staff were assigned to Nature Lodge, Hiking, Pioneering and Camping, Handicraft Lodge, Waterfront, Icebox, Canteen, Bugler, Kitchen & Dining Room, Librarian, Rifle Range, Archery and Hospital.
About the same time, the Tahosa Legend was written by Bob Fullerton. This was an early literary contribution to the Indian tradition at Camp Tahosa.
Beginning in 1938, the Camp closed for two days while everyone went on an overnight hike. The program developed into a horseback trip, peak hike or meadow hike. On the trail, difficult challenges developed the rugged individual. Equipped with tennis shoes, army blankets and tents, each boy endured long hikes as the order of the day. Through rain, hail or sleet, young men accomplished their appointed rounds, dwelling among the mountain tops. The camping experience meant more than just staying away from camp, it was the pride of accomplishment of an overnight hike in the meadows or a courtship with lightning on the highest pinnacles of the Divide.
Camp Tahosa prospered and succeeded as an effective summer camp until 1981. The needs of Scouting changed over the years and a larger facility was needed to accommodate the many needs of Scouting. Camp Tahosa was small and a bit ragged & worn. Summer camp shifted to Camp Cris Dobbins at Peaceful Valley and Camp Tahosa was very nearly closed permanently. With the efforts of the Tahosa Alumni Association and many dedicated volunteers, the beloved camp was saved and has been transformed into a High Adventure Base and Training Facility.
This is a very brief outline of the early years of Camp Tahosa. No mention is made of the many highly dedicated Scouting professionals and volunteers who dedicated significant portions of their lives to seeing a successful Camp Tahosa take shape