Hidden Adventures: Camp Fresno

The City of Fresno is investing millions of dollars to restore the retreat to its former glory.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Take a drive about an hour northeast of Fresno and into the mountains, and you'll find a truly hidden treasure.

Tucked deep in the woods near Dinkey Creek is a camp about 100 years old.

Central Valley families have been making the trek to Camp Fresno for generations - to experience the rustic cabins and reconnect with the great outdoors.

The City of Fresno has owned the camp since the 1920s. Now it's investing millions of dollars to restore the retreat to its former glory.

James Hutchins has been coming to Camp Fresno since he was a kid in the 90s. He's been bringing his wife since they met in 2007 and now James is introducing his daughters to the joy of camping.

"It's almost exactly like it was when I was a kid and to be able to show my kids that now, it's kind of a cool thing," he says. "Certain smells like the campfire or smells of the trees and the woods, it brings back really good memories for me."

The campground sits on nearly 40 acres of land, with more than 70 structures, many of them dating back to the 1930s and 40s.

Some cabins need a little more work than others, but it's all part of the unique charm.

"It needs a little TLC. So last year, we rallied volunteers, skilled and unskilled, and we basically spent a lot of time restoring camp a little bit at a time. We're still not there, but that rustic experience is really important," says Fresno deputy mayor Matthew Grundy.

Mayor Jerry Dyer and his administration set a goal last year to reinvest in the old camp - about $5 million to upgrade, rebuild, and refurbish dilapidated parts of the grounds.

Some of the improvements have already been made - including these new water tanks, ready to serve campers this summer.

The cabins at Camp Fresno offer some modern conveniences like electricity, stoves, and some have bathrooms. One thing you won't find, though - cell service, offering families a way to truly unwind.

That's exactly what keeps this family coming back to Camp Fresno - the chance to disconnect from the tech world.

And speaking of school - now that it's out for summer, it's the perfect opportunity for kids to go camping.

That's part of the Mayor's initiative - to send 1,000 young people, ages 8 to 17 up to the camp for a potentially life-altering experience.

Just across the creek sits Camp Fresno Jr. - equipped with a commercial kitchen, a large bunk space, and places for s'mores and stories around the camp fire.

"This program, this summer and last, are really focused on inviting young people who are marginalized and often times disadvantaged and have never experienced anything like this," says Grundy.

Through donations and sponsorships, the city is sending each child to either day camp or a 3-day camp for free.

For families looking to stay at Camp Fresno - the options are affordable.

Camp Fresno offers a full circle experience to families for decades, and hopefully for decades to come.

And if you haven't taken in the majestic wonders of the camp - you have through October to do so.

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