About Us

Find Out More About Camp: Slide Shows

Slide show presentations offered in the San Francisco Bay Area for the 2018 season:

Day Date Time
Thursday January 25, 2018 7:30-8:30 PM Redwood City, CA
Monday February 12, 2018 7:30-8:30 PM Redwood City, CA
Wednesday March 14, 2018 7:30-8:30 PM Redwood City, CA
Tuesday April 17, 2018 7:30-8:30 PM Redwood City, CA
Monday May 7, 2018 7:30-8:30 PM Redwood City, CA
Tuesday May 22, 2018 7:30-8:30 PM Redwood City, CA

There is limited seating at slide shows, so please call 650-369-4382 or email mail@deercrossingcamp.com to reserve seats and get the location address.

  • Contact the camp's Bay Area Office at:

Bay Area Office
690 Emerald Hill Road
Redwood City, CA 94061

Phone & Fax: (650) 369-4382

About the Director . . .

  • Arrange a phone interview
  • Read his motivational books No More Nagging, Nitpicking, and Nudging, Goal Express, or Memory Smart.
  • Attend a parenting seminar or a presentation from his lecture series. Find out more at his website: www.jimwiltens.com

About attending camp . . .

  • Read the Director's published articles.
  • Browse the website of the American Camp Association at acacamps.org.

What Makes Deer Crossing Camp Unique?

A great summer camp experience means that you get a good match between a camper's needs and what a camp has to offer. Here are some unique benefits of a Deer Crossing experience:

1. Deer Crossing's size means lots of personal attention.

Deer Crossing limits enrollment to a maximum of 50 campers per session. Our size means we get to know you. The director and instructors know every camper by name. Our activity offerings are designed daily, based on the interests and needs of each camper.

2. One of the best safety records of any summer camp in the United States.

Our outstanding safety record is due to training and awareness. Instructors exceed the American Camping Assocation requirements for safety training. They are certified in Standard as well as Wilderness First Aid. Most of our staff are certified American Red Cross Lifeguards with advanced open water training. Professional Rescuer CPR certification is standard. Deer Crossing also conducts hands-on safety scenario training for all staff.

It's not only our instructors who are concerned about safety. In our core program, first time campers learn artificial respiration, canoe rescues, and other safety skills. Working with both staff and campers results in a safety awareness that filters into all our programs.

3. Deer Crossing builds character.

Deer Crossing campers are well adjusted youth who thrive on challenge. One of those challenges is leadership. Deer Crossing campers learn that true leaders first learn to lead themselves. Our program is designed to promote character traits associated with leadership: positive attitude, empathy, courage, persistence, and responsibility.

4. Instructional depth.

Utilizing a time-tested system of reinforcing feedback and working with multiple learning styles, instructors at Deer Crossing bring out the best in campers. A camper can start, never having seen a windsurfer, and progress to full lake hot-dogging racer. This goes for climbing, sailing, kayaking, canoeing...Our depth of instruction allows campers to return year after year and progress in their chosen skills.

5. A true wilderness camp.

Deer Crossing is the only lodge-based roadless wilderness summer camp in California. The camp is accessible by boat or 45-minute hike from the nearest trailhead, a lake at our front door, peaks rising to over 9,000 feet at our back door, and surrounded by 100 square miles of national forest.

6. Deer Crossing is family.

Deer Crossing is a second family for many campers. Those who first come for two weeks find themselves returning year after year. Lifetime friendships are made. Many of our instructors are former campers. Even when campers grow into adults and start their own careers, they often return to Deer Crossing to visit and recharge their great memories.

Deer Crossing is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my life. This is my fourth year. After my third year here, I noticed a significant change in my health and lifestyle....definitely one of the friendliest, healthiest, and best all around camps I’ve ever been to.

Ross Boles, California

Location and Facilities

Deer Crossing Camp is located on the shore of Loon Lake in California's El Dorado National Forest. We're west of Lake Tahoe, in the heart of the Sierra mountain range.


Driving Directions

Loon Lake, at an elevation of 6,400 feet, is surrounded by spectacular scenery. Our back door borders Desolation Wilderness, a designated preserve of towering peaks, wildflower meadows, waterfalls, and over 120 lakes.

This is a wilderness camp. There is no road access. Campers arrive by trail, supplies are delivered by boat, and we generate our own electricity, pump our own water, and maintain our section of forest. We are not without amenities, but campers should expect to leave behind their computers, make their own music, and dry their hair in the breeze.

It is the end of my 4th year at Deer Crossing. My tent is cleaned and I’m sitting in the craft room window listening to an instructor singing. After four years, DCC is like a second home to me. And all I want to say is, “Thank you.”

Ryan Brennan, California

The main lodge has been described as a cross between an upside down ark and a small cathedral. Built on a granite knoll overlooking Loon Lake, it includes the kitchen and dining hall, boys' and girls' restrooms with hot showers and flush toilets, kitchen staff rooms, first aid room, workshop, storage rooms, and trading post.

Campers and instructors are housed near the lodge in tents on raised platforms. Tents house 2-5 campers and are furnished with mattresses. The tents progress from younger campers closer to the lodge, while older campers are set farther back in the forest. Boys' and girls' tent areas are separate and supervised. Friends may request to share the same tent. Instructors are housed in their own tents, spaced throughout the campers' tenting areas.


Deer Crossing is an active adventure. We catch our sun under full sail, filtered through forest green on bobbing backpacks, and glinting from a canoe paddle. This is a "doing" camp for active well-adjusted youth.

Deer Crossing appeals to the young person who enjoys outdoor living (with some basic comforts) and vigorous activities...sailing, windsurfing, backpacking, canoeing, hiking, orienteering, whitewater rafting, rock climbing...as well as less vigorous activities...arts and crafts, weaving, painting, clay modeling, cartooning, guitar, improv theater, fishing, and campfire programs.

Here at Deer Crossing your life changes. You learn about yourself and about other people. It creates a positive attitude. I first came here when I was 9. I am now 11 and think I will be coming here for the rest of my life.

Hannah Hall, Arizona

Because we strive to maintain a comfortable and uplifting experience for all of our camper family, Deer Crossing is a place for children who want a wilderness experience. They can tolerate being away from their computers or iPods, and don't have emotional problems that should be dealt with by specialists. Part of our wilderness lifestyle includes daily chores that can range from doing dishes, maintaining the forest, working with the camp carpenter, repairing sailboats, and helping to carry in supplies.

Deer Crossing has attracted campers, counselors, instructors, and staff from around the world since 1983. We're proud to offer a place where so many different talents come together each summer. We have a unique atmosphere that encourages leadership qualities in all campers–not only to lead others, but to lead themselves. Our hope is that campers will eventually aspire to enter our formal Counselor-in-Training (CIT) and Leader-in-Training (LIT) courses which offer more focused and intensive practice of leadership skills.

Deer Crossing promotes depths of understanding and friendship that could take years to develop elsewhere. People sense, like common sense, needs an environment rich in interaction. Deer Crossing is that environment!

Camp director, Jim Wiltens, has written several articles that reflect our philosophy.


Three years ago I stepped out from the bus, looked around and shrugged, “How will I ever survive here?” DCC has pushed me. Things that scared me became my friends. The people, the atmosphere is the most unique that I have ever been in. Never give up. Always have a smile. So how am I doing today? “Super good and getting better.” DCC has changed me in ways I would never have imagined.

Dasha Yudin, California

Photo Galleries


Photos from all camp sessions will be available here at the end of the summer season, so please check back for this year's photos after the camp season. We are unable to catch each camper as they are doing an activity, so we encourage campers to bring their own cameras to take some of their own pictures.

Deer Crossing Staff

Each year, Deer Crossing assembles and trains enthusiastic young adults who possess unique skills and talents that enhance our wilderness experience. Some come from colleges and universities throughout California and the U.S., and others from overseas, including Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. All have something special to offer the campers at Deer Crossing, and they're dedicated to bringing the best out of campers and themselves.

Our instructors are qualified beyond the standards set by the State of California and the American Camp Association. They complete an intensive nine day training course prior to camp and are certified in CPR, Standard First Aid, and Wilderness First Aid. Many of our staff are American Red Cross lifeguards with advanced open water training. In addition, some staff are certified EMTs. Each instructor is responsible for the 24-hour-a-day safety, well-being, and happiness of the campers.

Deer Crossing Camp, Inc., has been owned and operated by the Wiltens family since 1983. Gwen Wiltens co-founded the camp with her two sons, Jim and Roy, and ran the camp office for 30 years, until her death in late 2012. Deer Crossing is now owned by her eldest son, Jim Wiltens, who has directed camp since its beginning, his wife, Ellen McNeil, who now runs the camp's Bay Area office, and their son Griffin Wiltens. For many years, Roy assisted with building projects, technical solutions, and support. Jim and Roy's sister, Diane Birkeness was one of the original instructors at camp, but now has her own campers, Quinn and Dane.

About the Director

"I was introduced to adventure at a young age," says Jim Wiltens. "I remember camping at 'secret' places on the Feather River, roping down vertical cliffs to visit sea lions, saddling my horse in the early morning on a working ranch, and backpacking trips through the Sierra. Each experience increased my confidence, responsibility, and self-esteem. At the time, I wouldn't have used those words, I just knew that I felt a foot taller."

When the Wiltens' family started discussing the idea for an adventure facility, Jim was hooked. It would be a place that would bring out the best qualities in young people with the help of Mother Nature.

Jim with his wife, Ellen McNeil, and their son, Griffin

During the non-camp season, Jim shares his discoveries in the area of human performance enhancement through lectures, workshops, and writing. He makes 120 presentations a year to K-12 schools, PTAs, teacher-in-services, corporations, and universities and works as a consultant for Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs for three school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area. His syndicated column on how to bring out the best in children appeared in parenting publications across the United States and internationally for over a decade. Three times he was honored by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism award for best column in a parenting publication. He's also the recipient of awards from the American Camping Association for articles on the benefits of summer camp. He's authored six books, including No More Nagging, Nit-picking, and Nudging: How to motivate inspire and influence kids aged 10-18, Goal Express: The 5 secrets of goal-setting success and Memory Smart: 9 memory skills every gradeschooler needs.

To view some of the articles Jim has written, visit the articles page.

Jim has a BA from UC Berkeley and an MSc from Simon Frasier University in Canada. He competed at national and international levels in swimming and water polo, and went on to coach a championship university water polo team. Jim holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, as well as instructor certifications or expert ratings in many activities taught at Deer Crossing.

"Deer Crossing is a wonderful adventure for me every summer," says Jim. "I also seek out new adventures during the rest of the year." He has been marooned on a desert island, paraglided off volcanoes in Mexico, worked as a rescue ranger, climbed some of the world's big mountains, kayaked through head-hunter territory in South America, tracked big game animals in Africa, explored underwater caves in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, purchased strings of camels to ride across India's Thar Desert and Mongolia's Gobi Desert, and slept in trees in the Guatemalan rainforest.

Jim's Website

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How will I know if my child is ready for the Deer Crossing Experience?

Here are several questions we ask parents to help determine if their child is ready for Deer Crossing:

  • Has your child been away from home, happily, for an extended period of time?
  • Is your child active physically on a daily basis?
  • Does your child get along well with his or her peers?
  • Does your child feel comfortable sleeping in the outdoors?
  • Can your child swim well, i.e., 100 yards without stopping?
  • Is your child comfortable eating a variety of wholesome foods?
  • Does your child want to come to Deer Crossing?

What are the accommodations?

Campers stay in tents in the forest next to the lodge. There is a boys tenting area and a girls tenting area. The tents are walk-in style tents on a raised earth or wooden platforms. There are mattresses in the tents and plenty of room for campers' gear. Older campers share a tent with one or two friends, while younger campers are housed in larger tents that can accommodate up to five. Instructors/counselors stay in separate tents from the campers. The male instructor tents are spaced throughout the boys area. The female instructor tents are spaced through the girls area.

Who do I share a tent with?

You can choose to tent with a friend that you've come up with, a past friend from Deer Crossing, maybe someone you've met on the bus and who would like to share a tent with you, or we will match you up. If your tent mate makes you crazy (i.e. they snore, etc.) we have the flexibility to move you to another tent.

Where do we go to the bathroom?

In the main lodge we have the boy's bathroom, girls bathroom, and instructor/staff bathroom. All bathrooms have flush toilets, sinks, and hot showers.

What do we eat?

Meals are served family style. We have a rotating menu with different foods served each day of the week. Some items on the menu include cereal, milk, fruit juices, pancakes, French toast, hash browns, sandwiches, salads, soups, mac and cheese, chicken, spaghetti, burrito night, ham, potatoes, a variety of vegetables and fresh fruit, hamburgers (both vegetarian and carnivore), lasagna, pizza, pies, pudding, cakes, and cookies.

We also serve vegetarian meals in which the meat products have been removed.

What is the temperature of the lake?

The average temperature is in the low 70's. Once campers have adjusted, our waterfront is usually packed with campers swimming and enjoying the lake. For sports that spend a prolonged amount of time in the water, such as beginning windsurfing, we have a rack of wetsuits available.

What's the weather like?

Around the lake, daytime temperatures in the upper 70's to 80's. Cool nights in the 60's to low 70's. We average two days of rain per season. In 25 years, the most rain we've had for the season has been six days (that was during an El Nino weather phenomenon). Some years we have no rain during camp.

What is the instructor ratio to campers?

The ratio is 1:4. Note that we said instructor ratio. Instructors are certified in first aid, professional rescuer CPR, Wilderness First Aid, and most are American Red Cross Lifeguards. They are also experts in one or more skill areas taught at Deer Crossing. In addition, they are trained in techniques that bring out the best in the young people they work with.

How do you choose instructors?

After receiving an application, we conduct interviews, reference checks, and a background check. Instructors then go through nine days of pre-camp training. It is during this intensive training that we find out the most about instructor candidates and make a decision as to whether the candidate is appropriate for working at Deer Crossing. A number of our candidates have been previous Deer Crossing campers who over the years have worked their way through our Counselor-In-Training program, then the Leader-in-Training program, followed by the Guide-in-Training program.

How long has Deer Crossing camp been in operation?

Since 1983.


Here are a few comments from past DCC campers. Please browse the website to find more quotes from campers and staff.

Every once in a while, my parents receive a phone call from an inquiring parent, asking for information about Deer Crossing. My father usually answers the phone and simply tells them: “My daughter is going back for her 10th year.”

Everything I need to know to succeed in life, I learned at Deer Crossing: “Success is 90% attitude and 10% experience – True leaders first learn to lead themselves – Be specific – Constant and never-ending improvement – Be proactive – The message is the response you get – We must be the change we wish to see in the world...I’ve got a list of 135 more at home. Thank you for the best, most fulfilling ten consecutive summers of my life.

Silvia Killingsworth, California


Deer Crossing rocks! I like it because it’s a place where you can hang out with lots of interesting friends and be yourself. DCC has made me do things I’ve always seen other people do but never imagined I could do. This place is magic. There's something in Loon Lake that makes us campers ambitious.

Lauren Mattick, California


After going to DCC for four years, I can honestly say that it has made a huge impact on my life. The community of campers and instructors, on top of the great setting and activities, give me the best times of my life. My accomplishments here are ones I will remember for a lifetime. DCC is quite possibly the best experience of my life.

Bryan Thomas, Canada

Contact Us

Bay Area Office
690 Emerald Hill Road
Redwood City, CA 94061

Phone & Fax: (650) 369-4382

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