An abandoned Girl Scout camp deep in the woods is something from a horror movie, and you can experience it yourself in Upstate New York. Though it feels like you’re trespassing through these eerie ruins, they’re actually part of a public park enjoyed by thousands of visitors a year. Beechwood State Park, along the shore of Lake Ontario, is located about 20 miles east of Rochester, New York near the small town of Sodus.
In 1929 the Girl Scouts of America purchased 150-acres between Maxwell Bay and Sill Creek for use as a summer camp. A bluff overlooking Lake Ontario, called Sprong Bluff, was an attractive focal point for gatherings. The camp had an in-ground pool, enclosed dining hall, sleeping cabins, and other amenities. Unfortunately, rising tax rates, declining membership, and environmental factors led to the camp’s closure and sale in 1996.
New York State bought the land but budget cuts forced it to designate the site as a preserve. The buildings were left to rot. In 2010 a partial solution was found when the Town of Sodus took over management and operation of the park. It now has several miles of trails and is popular with hikers and fishermen, and of course the curious who come to see the camp ruins.
There are two parking lots off Lake Road: one leads to a camping and fishing access site adjacent to Salmon (Maxwell) Creek. The other is located about 200 yards west near the ruins of the old caretaker’s house. A former road, now a trail, leads straight back to the Girl Scout camp’s remains.
The camp is remarkably well preserved for having been abandoned and accessible to the public for over two decades. I think the presence of other visitors, often heard but not seen, added to the eeriness of this place. It’s certainly worth a detour if you ever find yourself near Rochester.