By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
Wild and beautiful, rich with unspoiled nature, bordered by the ocean beaches on one side and the ancient redwood forest on the other, Mendocino County is an ultimate getaway destination in Northern California, especially desirable for city dwellers.
Meeting the ever-growing demand, Camp Navarro in the wine country’s Anderson Valley opens its gates for corporate retreats, weddings, festivals, family reunions, educational and recreational activities, and all kinds of group events enhanced by the idyllic setting of a nostalgic summer camp.
“I was deeply influenced by my fifteen years at a summer camp near Yosemite. Camp Navarro is the dream—a legacy campsite that is blessed with an extraordinary setting in an ancient forest on a river. Guests tell me that sleeping in this expansive yet intimate piece of nature has transformed them forever,” says owner Dan Braun, a hospitality industry veteran and an adventure travel enthusiast.
Camp Navarro has a long history that stretches over a century. It began as a lumber camp of the Albion Lumber Company in the early 1900’s; then a railroad was built to haul the timber to San Francisco after the catastrophic 1906 San Francisco earthquake that destroyed 30,000 buildings. The railroad ran through the camp and up Neefus Creek. (A piece of the original rail is displayed in front of the Main Lodge). Later on, the camp was used as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp during the Great Depression, and then as an army camp during World War II.
In 1956, the Masonite Corporation sold Camp Navarro to the Sonoma-Mendocino Area Boy Scout Council, and it was renamed Camp Masonite Navarro. It was a private Boy Scout camp and the ’crown jewel’ property used by the Scouts as well as other youth groups for over 60 years.
In 2012, Camp Navarro Stewards completed the purchase of the camp from the Boy Scouts and made it available to the public for the first time in its long history, and so the Northern California’s premier “back to nature” event facility started offering its 200-acre property in Mendocino forest for the use of various groups and organizations.
The camp operates year round and offers plenty of indoor and outdoor space for educational, recreational, and work-related activities; gourmet cuisine; a staff that caters to guests’ every need, and a selection of accommodations— Teepee Tents, Cabins, Adirondacks, and a Honeymooners’ Cabin— a special hideaway for two with a plush four-post bed, desk, heater, back deck with a swing bench, and enclosed shower cabin and restroom. It is the oldest building on the property (120 years old!).
Camp Navarro is nestled in the old growth forest along the north fork of the Navarro River. The facilities have been upgraded to offer the most complete group camp experience, and now include a 10,000 square foot Main Lodge for indoor events, with a restaurant-quality kitchen that can provide up to 500 dinners at a time. Among the recent additions to the lodge are a new redwood floor, bathrooms with hand-carved wood sinks, reclaimed redwood railings, a professional sound system and enhanced lighting inside and out. A new main door to the Lodge and a new stairwell were both hand-carved by the internationally renowned Polynesian-American eco-artist Tonu Shane.
For outdoor gatherings, there’s an amphitheater with a stage and benches, and many cozy clearings in the redwoods, as well as riverfront meadows and oak-studded grasslands. Electric power, Wi-Fi, and event infrastructure are provided throughout the property.
Up to 400 people can sleep in beds (equipped with upscale memory-foam mattresses, no less!) and event attendees can also use their own tents, bringing the capacity of the camp up to 1,500 people, like during music festivals and other large events. There are 10 new outdoor showers built from repurposed redwood from the property, and plentiful restrooms throughout the territory.
All kinds of outdoor activities are available at Camp Navarro – from bonfires, volleyball and swimming in cold, crystal-clear “holes” of Navarro River to private yoga and mediation sessions, spirit pole carving, outdoor movie screenings, foraging hikes and others. The staff custom-designs perfect experiences for each group, whether the goal is team building or just having a good time. Self-guided hikes along the wooded trails are one of the many perks of this magnificent property.
Dan Braun’s business partner and Property Manager Skip Bell lives onsite. He is the one who greets the guests and ensures that everything is being taken care of.
“Camp Navarro is like blank canvas,” says Skip. “We can put anything on it – whatever is your group’s desire. We have events practically every week; some weeks up to three, but never at the same time. The entire territory is for just one group during their event. We have welcomed Google and LinkedIn events, Deep End and Redwood Ramble music festivals, and we are the original home of Camp Grounded, the tech-free summer camp that started the Digital Detox movement. We provide site, accommodations, and catering – all for a care-free getaway.”
|Chef Mitch in the Greenhouse|
Speaking of catering, Camp Navarro chefs Mitchell Mount and Patrick Meany are both veterans of Michelin-starred restaurants. The freshest produce they work with is supplied by the camp’s own greenhouse that yields vegetables, herbs and flowers. The 1,800 square foot professional kitchen, a large portable BBQ and a convection oven, plus an outdoor Mugnaini wood-fired pizza oven are sure to provide any kind of cuisine to meet any group’s request. The Trading Post Café provides light meals, snacks, soft drinks, and high-quality artisanal coffee.
Anne-Marie Fergusson, who among her many chores helps the chefs to pick veggies from the greenhouse, is also a talented florist providing flower arrangements for the guests right from the abundant flower bed populated by dozens of native species.
In a few minutes’ drive from the camp there’s all that Mendocino County has to offer, from charming boutiques and restaurants, art galleries and wineries to stunning coastline with wind-swept beaches filled with whimsical, sun-bleached driftwood.
The rate for a buyout of Camp Navarro differs based upon the time of year. During the low season (December – April), rates run from $5,000 to $20,000 . During the high season (May – November), rates run from $15,000 to $75,000 .