THE LICKING COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Camp Falling Rock
by Dwight Johnson
Licking County Boy Scouts have long enjoyed one of the finest camping facilities in the United States. Camp
Falling Rock is located twelve miles northeast of Newark, Ohio inMary Ann and Eden Townships. Today it consists of nearly
five hundred fifty acres.It has been a Boy Scout Camp since 1926. Before it was a Boy Scout Camp, it was a church camp in
Earlier still, it was a Native American camp on the north extension of the Shawnee Trace. This important route
led to and from the Flint Ridge area.Five hundred years ago the land was covered with high canopy trees and the forest floor
was relatively uncluttered. The Native American traveled the ridges, avoiding the brush and brambles in thevalleys. Two “trail
marker” trees existed on the ridge untilthe 1980’s. These were red oaks, tied in position as pointers when very
young. They grew in a strained and distinctive manner and were readily recognized. There was also a fire circle on the north
end of the camp. The markers are gone, but old timers remember them.
The camp is located in the U.S. Military Lands, which were set aside by Congress in 1786 to pay Revolutionary
War soldiers for their service to country. The lands were roughly surveyed and characteristic monuments set at important section
corners. The Military Lands Act was modified and clarified twenty-three times between 1786 and 1803. During a 1958 physical
survey of the lands, three of these original marker stones were “found” on the perimeter. These stones were set
prior to 1803, the last year Congress authorized payments for surveys!
The name “Falling Rock” comes from the original road into the camp. A rock overhung the road, and
appeared ready to fall onto the road. That portion of Rocky Fork Road is now closed, but the hanging rock is still in place.
Licking County Boy Scouts were first organized in 1919 with the forming of Licking County Council. The first
land purchase at Falling Rock was in 1926. During that and the following year, incidental camping happened at the site.
There was also an active program to construct a dining hall and barracks buildings. The camp was opened in 1928
for two sessions of two weeks each. Cost was $10.00 for the session. It is interesting to note that camping was over before
the August “polio danger.” Later on in its history, local Girl Scouts used the camp during August. Apparently,
girls were less susceptible to polio than boys.
The original camp was located on thirty-four acres now called “Lower Camp, or “Winter Camp.”
Access was via a ford of Rocky Fork Creek. The Scouts’ first structure was a “Monkey” bridge. This was replaced
with a swinging footbridge that accommodated visitors. In 1931, the Licking County Commissioners built a bridge across Rocky
Fork to provide traffic access.
The bridge had a checkered past, but is of historic significance. The bridge, known as Bridge 411, Doc Brown’s
Bridge, also bears the designation of Historic American Engineering Record (HAER)
OH-89. It is one of three surviving cast iron post truss bridges in the United States. The other two are located in Lowell,
Mass. Cleveland Bridge Company was the probable builder, circa 1872. It is presently closed to traffic, and it needs major
repairs before returning to service. Funding is the common deterrent.
Another significant bridge exists on the camp. The covered bridge that formerly spanned Rocky Fork Creek near
Houdeshell Road was replaced in the 1970’s with the current model. The covered bridge was moved to Camp Falling Rock.
Necessary timbers were replaced, and the bridge was erected as a memorial to Harold G. Hayes, longtime Scout Executive. The
work was completed and the bridge stands today as it was built in 1872!
Boy Scouts have an affinity for all water except bath water. The original “swimming hole” at Falling
Rock was upstream of Mr. Sam Hilleary’s millpond dam on Rocky Fork Creek. Each year the boys would add ties to the top
of the dam to deepen Rocky Fork for aquatics. Unfortunately, the dam washed out in 1935 and aquatics took a hiatus.
A swimming pool was built at the camp in time for the 1938 camping season. It was intended for stouthearted
lads that knew how to swim. It was spring-fed and shaded. The water was cold and murky! The shallow end was five feet deep
and the deep end was eleven feet deep, but a lot of boys learned to swim in this facility. By 1950 the pool was inadequate.
It took thirty years to replace the original pool, but through the efforts of the community and the generosity of a Scouting
family, the Willard E. Shrider Memorial Pool was built on upper camp. It was dedicated in 1980 as one of the finest facilities
of its type in the country. An adjunct aquatics program was the Sea Scout Ship started in the 1930’s under the tutelage
of Mr. Max Slaughter. The Sea Scouts received used power poles from Ohio Power, formed them into a raft and floated and swam
them to Scout Island (also known as Charleston Island) at Buckeye Lake. A cabin and two Adirondack shelters were built on
the island. The Sea Scout Ship disbanded in 1950 and the State of Ohio declared primacy over Ohio Canal lands in the 1960’s.
With that, the Scout Island chapter was closed.
Spectacular rock formations and waterfalls are part of the natural beauty of Camp Falling Rock. The woods have
been impacted by the chestnut blight (1904), Dutch elm disease (1930’s to present), a tornado (1996), gypsy moths (2000)
and a severe ice storm (2004). We are holding our collective breath that a control measure for emerald ash borer will be found
before it reaches our camp.
Whitetail deer returned to the area in the 1950’s. There are bobcats on the premises. Wild turkeys abound.
An ardent “birder” can see more than one hundred species of birds on the camp in a season. The oldest building
on camp is called the Assistant Rangers Cabin. It is located on lower camp, and the core building is a log cabin built of
chestnut logs. The hand-hewn joists are fitted with mortise and tenon joints. The cabin has been added to and modernized,
but the core building dates from about 1840.
The next oldest building is the kitchen wing of Scoutmaster’s Cabin. This was the headquarters for the
Mt. Vernon church group that conducted camp meetings at “Camp Whip-Poor-Will” during the 1880’s. We believe
this building was built in 1883. It is in very poor condition, having been twice moved. It is slated for replacement.
The first buildings of the Boy Scouts were erected in 1927. These consisted of five barracks buildings and a
dining hall. Generally, they followed the layout of First World War training center facilities. The dining hall was replaced
by Franklin Lodge in 1937. Four of the barracks buildings were torn down or moved and subsequently fell down. One of them
remains in place. For many years it was the camp first aid station. Today it serves as the “Boat House.”
Franklin Lodge was the dining hall and center of camp from 1937 until the new dining hall was built in 1957.Franklin Lodge is named for Rev. L.P. Franklin, first Scoutmaster and first Commissioner of
the Licking County Council, Boy Scouts of America. Rev. Franklin was the Rector of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Newark
The period 1949 to 1973 was characterized by expansion of acreage and facilities at Camp Falling Rock. Licking
County Scouts enjoyed a vigorous camping experience at Falling Rock, as well as active participation in Scout Jamborees and
trips to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
The local Kiwanis Club donated a building that became the new trading post and craft center. The Krebs family
donated a rifle range facility and a cabin in memory of Betty (Mrs. Al) Krebs.
Scouting suffered a downturn in the late 1970’s in an experiment to “modernize” the program.
After a very few years, the core values were restored, the program reinvigorated, and Scouting started on a path of growth
In the interim, much of the local support was lost, and the camp became an expensive, under-used facility.
In 1987, Licking County Council was absorbed into Central Ohio Council. This lasted a few years until Central
Ohio Council became the core of Simon Kenton Council, serving south central Ohio and northern Kentucky.
With this expansion, the dining hall was updated to handle four hundred boys per week. A year-round cabin in
memory of Herman Bauman, long-time Scout Executive, was built. A new maintenance facility and storage building were built
adjacent to a new ranger’s lodge. Lake Pee Wee was expanded to its present size. Generous gifts from the Licking County
Foundation and American Electric Power made a climbing tower and COPE course a reality in 2002. A new Nature Center was added
Current projects for the camp include the replacement of Sequoia Lodge winter cabin by the Eagle Scouts of Licking
County. The new lodge will be called Sequoia Eagle Lodge, and is presently in the final stages of obtaining permits. A year-round
shower house is in the planning stage. Relocation and updating of the utility grid and development of two remote camps (outposts)
on the acreage are underway.
For nearly eighty years Camp Falling Rock has served the youth of the area. Plans to enhance, preserve and expand
the facility are constantly evolving. A core of dedicated volunteers spends hundreds of hours, and many of their own dollars,
constructing and maintaining the infrastructure. Recently, they created The Rock Foundation, an IRS-listed charitable foundation
to fund the emergency repair and planned construction projects for Camp Falling Rock.
Mr. Johnson of Nashport, a geologist and oil well producer, has made scouting his lifelong hobby. He is on the
Falling Rock Camp Council and is a 50-year “scouter.”