Camp Tamarack has been around Sisters Country since 1935, when Donna Gill and Lucile Murphy leased land from the Forest Service and built a little lodge, a few cabins and set up a horse camp for girls on the shore of Dark Lake, about 15 miles northwest of Sisters.

Since that time, the camp has changed hands a number of times. Betty Roberts, one-time Oregon Secretary of State, owned it for a while. One of the owners, Sue Sherman, was a camper, counselor and then owner, and sold it to Edie and Ted Jones in 1990, and it is now owned by Charlie Anderson, a teacher in Bend.

Ray Hatton, in his book, "Oregon's Sisters Country" talks about the beginning of Camp Tamarack, quoting the Bend Bulletin of August 20, 1952:

"The two young women hiked hills, with packs on their backs, looking for just the right place. Some (places) were too 'civilized,' and others were too remote. Some of the lakes were too cold for swimming, and some were too hazardous. Some were ideal as undeveloped recreation spots, but didn't lend themselves to building programs. And so it went..."

And then Donna Gill and Lucille Murphy found Dark Lake.

Camp Tamarack will again come alive to the shouts and laughter of children learning about life in the outdoors.

Today, there's a majestic main lodge with full dining accommodations, a range of wood cabins that can house up to 90 students, an arts and crafts studio, stables, and a floating dock with a variety of watercraft for swimming or exploring the lake. Since Camp Tamarack is located close to the Three Sisters and Mount Jefferson Wilderness areas, it's an ideal location for base camp to go hiking, horseback riding, learning and enjoying an outdoor adventure.

If Charlie Anderson, the present owner, can put it together, the camp will be co-ed, and will become a center for outdoor education for fifth- and sixth-graders from schools in the Sisters, Bend and Redmond areas.

The non-profit organization, On Belay TY, which Anderson and his family and friends established, will be the main driver. On Belay was named in honor of Charlie's brother, Tyler, who died in a climbing accident in Peru, (visit onbelayty.org).

Carly's Kids will also be on board. This too is a non-profit started by Kevin, Sandy and Michele Phillips in honor of Carly Phillips, who passed away three years back. According to Anderson, Carly's Kids helped to send 90 students to outdoor education last year (visit carlyskids.org).

Deschutes Children's Forest (DCF) has also joined in with Charlie's dream of making Tamarack an outdoor school center for Central Oregon. As the first nationally recognized children's forest in the Pacific Northwest, DCF is a coalition of committed and diverse partners. In a unique twist, the health care industry has joined together with educators, natural resource and recreation professionals working with conservationists to develop the Deschutes Children's Forest for the benefit of healthy minds, healthy bodies, and healthy forests.

George Hegarty, of Redmond Proficiency Academy (RPA), is really excited about the possibility of helping Camp Tamarack offer outdoor school.

Hegarty said, "The environment and facilities at Camp Tamarack create an ideal outdoor learning space for experiential education. By giving RPA students the ability to be a part of this amazing place as high school assistants, the sense of community and students 'owning their educations' that is a large part of our educational mission will be a powerful part of the learning experience for everyone next spring.

"Also, as our PE program is based on pastimes that are key parts of Central Oregon culture, like rock climbing, mountain biking and yoga, working with Camp Tamarack to provide meaningful outdoor school experiences for younger students is a great partnership."

Charlie Anderson sees the dream he and his partners are aiming at this way: "There are countless benefits to exposing children to the environment in the elementary and secondary years, including an increased focus, a more vivid imagination, better test scores, and a friendlier disposition. Camp Tamarack wants to bring these opportunities and growth to as many children as possible."