Scandia Camp Mendocino
History of the Mendocino Woodlands

The Mendocino Woodlands is a 720-acre unit of the California State Park System, located in the Jackson State Forest, nine miles inland from the town of Mendocino. It is comprised of three separate group-camping facilities. In 1997 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. This honor was bestowed because its buildings are of exceptional architectural value and significant importance to the history of the United States.

The facility is a wood-and-stone work of art built by the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, called the Mendocino Woodlands Recreation Demonstration Area. It was one of forty-six campgrounds (including Camp David) created during that time, conceived to provide a setting for activities that would introduce the public to the wonders of nature. The Mendocino Woodlands is the only one of these camps that has maintained its historic integrity and has been continuously used for its original purpose. It was given to the people of California with the mandate that the facility be used for group and family recreation and environmental education.

Originally, the Woodlands consisted of 5,425 acres. In 1976, Senate Bill 1063 split that parcel of land, reducing the camp to approximately 700 acres in a narrow corridor along the river, and transferred it to the State Department of Parks and Recreation. Also, the law designated a 2,550-acre Special Treatment Area (STA) to create a buffer around the project. This STA was given to the California Department of Forestry (CDF) to manage. The remaining acreage, approximately 2,155 acres, was left under the control of the CDF and has little impact on the Woodlands.

In 1949, a nonprofit corporation, the Mendocino Woodlands Camp Association (MWCA), was founded to manage and maintain the facility, and in 1976, the Woodlands became a State Park. The MWCA leases the three camps from the state; they in turn rent the camps to groups from all over the country. These renters include schools, colleges, state universities, youth and spiritual seminars and retreats, and a wide range of organizations specializing in the study and enjoyment of American and foreign folk cultures, dance and music. In fact, the MWCA has become the location of choice for many groups interested in the study of international folklore.

Despite this broad appeal to all kinds of people, MWCA does have a more specific function -- as a center for outdoor education. The unique forest location of the camps provides a wide variety of learning experiences for any level of student, from primary grades to university graduates. The year-round stream and ponds at the site help sustain an unusually diverse collection of wildlife. The resident naturalists report that at least six species of fish, two dozen reptiles and amphibians, 67 bird species and more than two dozen mammal species inhabit the park and surrounding state forest. Some of the more interesting animals frequently encountered by visitors to the Woodlands include river otters, beavers, deer, raccoons, steelhead trout, wood ducks, osprey, Virginia rails and screech owls. The unmanaged, second growth forest provides an excellent look at the ecology of a redwood community, with all its typical associates and a few atypical ones as well, such as the California Nutmeg and Pygmy Cypress. In the fall and winter the area supports an incredible diversity and abundance of fungi.

Since 1976, the Mendocino Woodlands Camp Association has offered youth outdoor environmental education to schools and groups throughout Northern California. Qualified staff guide campers and students in exploring and learning about wildlife and plant communities so they can better understand and respect our natural world. Hands-on activities focus on investigating the redwood forest, fresh water stream, rocky shore tide pools, and estuary. A program of five day residential learning experiences was originally offered through the Residential Outdoor Science School (ROSS) program which has been renamed the Mendocino Outdoor Science School (MOSS). These residential programs have been curtailed for now because of the pandemic. Through it’s website, the Mendocino Woodlands offers alternatve learning experiences: Learn from Home and Fun Fact Friday pages.