Helpful. Loyal. Brave. These are three of the twelve core values that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) strive to possess. If you ever get the chance to check out the BSA Base Camp Ottari located right here at Claytor Lake, you will see these values posted on signs leading your path down to camp headquarters.

Right next door to BSA Base Camp Ottari is the newest camp on the 17,500-acre Blue Ridge Scout Reservation, the Claytor Lake Aquatics Base. This camp is one of 12 programs offered by the Blue Ridge Mountains Council. For seven weeks each summer, this reservation is home to more than 10,000 youth and adults participating in Base Camp and High Adventure programs. The programs are each a week long and offer amazing experiences for scouts to become true “Mountain Men,” as well as certified SCUBA divers, all-weather rock climbers, white-water rafters and expert fishermen. There are camps for kids who are new to the scouts as well as camps for older scouts and scout leaders.

Program specialist, Mark Vitello, says that the special blend of education and adventure offered by these programs allows many scouts to “find their calling in life” and that scouts have transferred their passion into promising careers in meteorology, aerospace and even medicine. Vitello also highlights: “There is zero loss during summer, because these programs bridge the gap between the classroom and the outdoors by integrating STEM-based activities and engaging the mind, body and soul.”

If you are looking for just the right camp to keep your idle teenager engaged and exhausted this summer, the new Claytor Lake Aquatics Base camp is guaranteed to make some waves. This exhilarating camp allows scouts to earn their watercraft licensure and learn safe boating techniques that will give them confidence to operate a motorboat, sailboat, kayak, row boat, jet-ski, wakeboard, you name it.

The personal watercraft program is the first of its kind in the United States, and the camp boasts a fleet of 13 Sea-Doos that offer scouts a chance to learn the maintenance involved in operating a personal watercraft, along with the chance to put the “trustworthy” value into practice by proving that they are both responsible and safe on the water.
Though the BSA has had a presence on the Ottari base since the mid-80s, this brand new aquatics base facility marks the first time the scouts have integrated personal watercraft safety as a merit-based BSA pilot program.

At camp, you can forget about cell-service and wi-fi. And you can certainly kiss your screen-time goodbye. But in exchange, you will be sitting down to a veritable buffet of options that will expand your world far greater than any broadband or 4-G network ever could. By spending days on the lake learning how to master the water and mind the weather, or on the pond or stream with nationally-recognized anglers teaching how to cast and catch (and fillet and cook) fish from nearly every freshwater habitat, a camper will rest easy at night, too tired to do anything but count blessings ~ and merit badges!

Text and photography by Emily Kathleen Alberts

Emily Kathleen Alberts is a Blacksburg-based freelance and science and technology writer who contributes regularly to New River Valley Magazine.