Pouch Camp

April 28, 2011 -

There are many strange things in the Blood Root Valley. There is the half-abandoned tuberculosis hospital. There is a 260-foot mountain made by Robert Moses. And there is Pouch Camp, a hidden 143-acre oasis with a 68-year-old lake, mountain ponds, rustic cabins and 55 lean-tos. For over 60 years, Pouch Camp has been a secret haven for New York City's boy scouts. Each year, thousands of scouts learn to swim and camp within the boundaries this vast idyllic refuge. Located in the heart of Staten Island, Pouch Camp is so large it even has its own private island, which is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the camp is situated inside the most populous city in the United States. Located just 10 miles from Wall Street, Pouch Camp has somehow remained largely anonymous. "Few New Yorkers know of it," according to the NY Times, and it is instead "a habitat for deer, owls, snakes, turtles and herons."

In the off season, William H. Pouch Scout Camp is peaceful and largely deserted. Winding trails snake through hills dotted with ponds. Lean-tos sit quietly in the woods, waiting for summer. Small streams flow down from the hills into Ohrbach Lake, the man-made lake at the heart of Pouch Camp. Its beaches are closed, the boats stowed, and park rangers are busy replanting trees and cleaning roads around its edges in preparation for another busy summer season. Aside from the scouts, Pouch Camp also hosts a day camp each summer for boys and girls from around New York City, with fishing, swimming, boating, rock climbing and archery.

Ohrbach Lake


However, a "black cloud" hangs over the preparations for this summer, and "the future of the property is very much uncertain," according the most recent news from the Staten Island Advance. Back in November 2009, "citing financial stress," the Greater New York Councils of Boy Scouts announced that they planned to market and sell Pouch Camp (PDF document). The boyscouts had been "hit hard by the recession," according to the NY Times, and had lost $5 million in donations. Almost immediately, thousands of Pouch Camp supporters organized in response, according to the Staten Island Advance, amidst fears that the property would be sold to developers. Members of the community have marched on City Hall, organized a website (www.savepouch.com) and have a 6,000+ member facebook group (Save the William H. Pouch Scout Camp). Despite their efforts, the camp may still be closed down and sold off.

For many of Pouch Camp's supporters, the heart of the issue is not just supporting the camp's activities, but trying to preserve a vital link in Staten Island's Greenbelt, a 2,800 acre wilderness that is "New York City’s largest remaining forest preserve," according to the Greenbelt Conservancy. "Even if you don't have any first-hand caring about the Scout program or the habitat for critters there, the economic benefit throughout the world, the country and the region is proven," the president of the Greenbelt Conservancy told the Staten Island Advance. "Something like this just makes your home livable."

Down in the Valley

Scout Skills

Black Oak Lean-Tos

Yellow Pine Cabin

Dark Shadows

Pouch Amphitheater

Not For Sale


Hill Pond Lean-tos

On The Trail


Scout Knot

Ropes Course


Lumberjack Director

Island Bridge

On Lee A. Ellison Island

South of the Border


  1. Wow, it's almost hard to believe this is so close to Manhattan and technically apart of New York City. From the pictures I would have thought it was upstate. I am interested in seeing this... is it off limits for the public during the summer?

  2. Zalex - I know - hard to believe that this is in NYC! There are hiking trails that lead through the Boy Scouts property, however, its probably pretty busy there in the summertime with camps and scouts...

  3. They can't expect to save it when it's not open to the public. That's the only way to make people (who aren't scouts and campers) WANT to protect it.

  4. hi anonymous - I agree that more people should be aware of Pouch Camp's existence, and that would help in the struggle to preserve it, but keeping the camp private is probably what has preserved it - as a camp - for all these decades. And if it was just an public park, not a camp, it would not be the same unique place. It would be another part of the Greenbelt. Also, in a sense, the camp is open to the public, not just scouts, since there is a daycamp in the summer for boys and girls to attend...

  5. Ah...Camp Pouch. Went here when I was a little Cub Scout. Should go back sometime.

  6. Wonderful photos! I am sending to all my Scout Leaders. We utilize Pouch all year long. It is amazing when you are camping at night and realize, "Am I still in Staten Island?" The Boy Scouts would be lost without it.

  7. Great photos. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  8. I love that camp my dad camp there when he was a kid and i still camp there. on Lee A. Ellison Island i remulched tge whole trail going to OA Island i love that camp when ever i am in a bad mood i go there and hike its trails. The camp is also a cheaper alternative to central park so lots of movies and tv shows are filmed there especially Law and Order. Also during 9/11 when cell towers were down the camp pouch ham radio tower was used by the red cross to coordinate work efforts