The Skylake Tradition


Three Generations of Skylake Magic

TRADITION -- "Handed down from generation to generation, established, acknowledged, and customary."

Skylake Yosemite Camp, a co-ed sleep away camp for ages 7 to 15, was founded in 1945. A founding member of the Western Association of Independent Camps (WAIC), Skylake has also been a member of the American Camp Association (ACA), the largest and most representative body for 12,000 youth camps nationally, for over 50 years.

Originally founded by John Wendell Howe and Ruth T. Howe, Skylake began as a boy’s camp in Lake Tahoe just before the end of World War II. In 1954, Skylake opened its doors to female campers. In 1960, the camp moved to its current location on Bass Lake, 45 minutes from the south gate of Yosemite National Park, and became known as Skylake Yosemite Camp. John and Ruth’s son John T. Howe became a full time director in 1958 and assumed full ownership in 1970. John served as President of ACA for three years and was a very active member in both ACA and WAIC organizations.

In 1994, John Howe transferred ownership to Jeffrey Portnoy and Chuck Gould. Jeff assumed the position of Director and continues in that role today. Before they became owners, both Jeff and Chuck’s children, now married and with children of their own, enjoyed many summers of Skylake Magic during the 1980’s and 90’s. Skylake has had only three Directors since 1945. This continuity and dedication has become a hallmark of Skylake Yosemite Camp, contributing to the much-heralded long term traditions.  Jeff Portnoy's daughter's Adrienne and Jessica are now also full time Directors at Skylake, bringing the love and magic they experienced as campers to life for campers every summer. 

Skylake is a traditional summer camp which allows children to slow down and just be kids—low tech, low key, and high fun. A world away from the fast paced pressures children experience today, campers live in a beautiful, natural setting where they can work off their natural exuberance and discover their own identity; under the banner of FUN and CHALLENGE. Children, just like plants and animals need their dormant periods. We say, “yes!” to swimming, horseback riding, kayaking, campfires, soccer, archery, stand up paddle boarding, sports, friendships, great counselors, small cabin groups, loud songs, core values, family meals and a caring and supportive community! And we say “no” to cell phones, computers, homework, and the fast pace that our children are accustomed to today.

Today, many Skylakers of yesteryear send their children (and even grandchildren) to the same camp they treasured as a child. They glow with delight as they witness another generation consumed with the Skylake Magic.

That's what we mean when we say...

Kids have the opportunity to become part of a three-generation camp tradition of "Skylake Magic."