Tapawingo is a Christian camp for girls ages 9-17. It is located on an island in the middle of Lake Pleasant in Speculator, New York, which is inside the "blue line" of the 6 million-acre Adirondack State Park. The word "Tapawingo" is a Mohawk Indian term meaning "Place of Joy," or “House of Joy.”
George (“Pop”) and Etta Tibbitts had a dream about having a summer place open to all Christians seeking beautiful surroundings and spiritual nourishment. In 1900, George Tibbitts purchased a larger piece of land in Lake George to build a place for people to come and vacation. The number of interested guests soon outgrew the property. Land with more acreage was purchased in Speculator, New York in 1914. It was named CAMP-of-the-WOODS (COTW). Today COTW exists in the same beautiful location with the goal of seeing families and people of all ages find Christ and grow up in Him.
Up until 1947, families that stayed at COTW would canoe or swim the one-mile of water to the beautiful little island in the middle of Lake Pleasant. Most everyone assumed the island was owned by the state of New York, since it had never been developed.
Our Important Roots
In 1947, COTW Board member, Richard Woike, was at a business luncheon with a lawyer from New York City. During their conversation, the lawyer shared how he was having difficulty settling the affairs of one of his clients. “She even owns an island in the middle of Lake Pleasant!” his friend explained.
Immediately Mr. Woike inquired how he could buy the island, and at that same luncheon he purchased it for $5,000. He built a summer residence there for his wife and son including a large house, a pump house and a small one-room cabin for their son. Apparently, Mr. Woike and his family arrived at and departed from the island via seaplane!
A Coincidental Meeting?
In 1950 a violent windstorm or downburst struck the middle of the island and cleared out an area of trees about the size of a baseball infield. Miraculously the windstorm only removed trees and never touched any of the buildings nor caused any injuries. Today we gather in this clearing for flag raising, morning exercises, event hour and cabin prayer. It is our only playing field on this heavily wooded island!
In 1958 Mr. Woike moved to California, and wanted to determine whether or not a girls’ camp could be built on the island before selling it to COTW. The major needs included a large amount of gravel for sewage and water purification, and some renovations to the home. Once it was determined the changes were possible, the board of directors agreed to purchase the island for a summer camp!
An Adirondack downburst
in just the right place!
The first step toward creating Tapawingo was to bring 400 truckloads of gravel to the island. The only feasible plan for that much material was to bring it over the ice when the lake was frozen. It was difficult to find a company to take the job, since many truck drivers were afraid the ice would break beneath them. One company finally accepted the job and spent a week strengthening the ice by driving a car back and forth from the island to the mainland and pouring water over the path to make the ice thicker. All loads were successfully brought over without injury and construction of the sewage system and water purification began.
The Woike home was converted into the main lodge for the camp and continues to be where our dining hall and offices are located. The small cabin, “Wikiup,” is where the Woike’s son originally stayed. The cabin still stands today and houses staff.
A Scary Beginning...
Tapawingo opened in 1959 with Vida Wood from Taylor University as Director. In 1960 the Director was Jean Schabinger from Taylor as well. Then in 1961 Carolyn Ray (“Miss Carolyn”) from Columbia Bible College assumed the role. During the fall and winter Carolyn taught Bible as history in the public schools of Reidsville, North Carolina. She continued the dual ministry of directing Tapawingo and teaching Bible until her retirement in 1997. Miss Carolyn served Tapawingo for 37 summers! Her legacy of lives reached and changed for the cause of Christ is truly remarkable.
Our Grand Opening!
- Miss Kim Winters became the Director in 1998 and served Tapawingo until 2004. Miss Kim is a gifted Bible teacher whose prayers and faithful service to proclaim truth greatly blessed the ministry of Tapawingo.
- Miss Angie (Willis) Armstrong served faithfully in counseling and administrative staff roles before taking on the role of Tapawingo Director from 2005-2007. Her heart for Christ is evident to all.
- Miss Kim (Grubb) Clark began working as Miss Angie’s assistant in the fall of 2006 and stepped into the role of Director for summer 2008. Tapawingo greatly benefited from her many years of experience in children’s camp ministry.
- Our current director, Miss Joy Huseland, became the Director in the fall of 2008.
A Line of Directors
Tapawingo has had 60 summers of providing Christ-centered ministry to girls ages 9-17! Our total capacity for campers is 72 per week and 12 Counselors-in-Training. We enjoy a program of 15 activity areas including hiking and camping in the beautiful Adirondack Park. Our program has always been centered on Christ and His message of hope for women of all ages. We have a Counselor in Training (CIT) Program, for young women ages 16 and 17. There are two CIT sessions which run four weeks in length. The program has been designed for those with a desire to grow in their leadership ability.
Tapawingo expanded the CIT Program in 2021. A new building named Grace Peak was built at CAMP-of-the-WOODS in order to double the size of the program. CITs will continue to experience the same program and continue to be integrated on the island. This move allowed 48 additional campers to be enrolled per summer on the island.
We also launched the Tapawingo Adventure Program. This program was designed to give girls ages 14-15 a different Tapawingo experience. The program consists of daily adventures such as: climbing and rappelling, caving, hiking, canoeing, and camping. Girls will begin and end their week involved in normal Tapawingo traditions.
The former CIT cabin on the island has become the "Marcy" cabin for our oldest campers, thus increasing the number of campers per week on the island to 78.