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Camp History

In the autumn of 1965, Jim Westby, YMCA Associate General Secretary, after attending a national YMCA conference, sold the idea of starting a day camp to the Sioux Falls YMCA Youth Committee, chaired by Al Norlin.  In April of 1966, Al and his brothers Merle, Art, and Floyd, donated the use of the present camp site along the Big Sioux River for a $1 payment from the YMCA. Thus Leif Ericson Camp was born.

Leif Ericson Camp Directors through the ages

  1. 1966- Rus Eng
  2. 1967-1979- Tom Lemonds (Big Chief)
  3. 1980-1982- Bill Olson (Big Ole)
  4. 1983-1996- Paul Gausmann (Big Guy)
  5. 1997-2002-Phil Olson (Big Shot)
  6. 2003-2006- Gordon Brown (Big Red)
  7. 2007-2009- Chuck Bennis (Woodchuck)
  8. 2010- Greg Koch (Pepsi)
  9. 2011- Interim Directors- Dane Hortness/Rob Cunningham 
  10. 2012- Pat Walsh
  11. 2013-2015- Mike Murphy (Murph)
  12. 2016-            Don Schmidt

Assistant Camp Directors who served extended years:

 John Norberg (Big Trout), Mick Zerr (Big Cheese), Terry Hofer (Big Deal)

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Terry Hofer (Big Deal)

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Left to right: 

Mick Zerr (Big Cheese), Paul Gausmann (Big Guy), John Norberg (Big Trout)


In 1999, Camp was honored with a full day visit by the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Senator Tom Daschle 

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Leif Ericson Camp was named after the famous Viking explorer, Leif Eriksson partially because of the great Scandinavian influence in the Sioux Falls area. The Norse Sagas, one of the greatest sources of Viking history, tell of Leif's adventures an explorer and spreader of early Christianity.   

According to the Greenland Saga, generally believed to be trustworthy, Eriksson's discovery of North America was not mere chance. The saga tells the he fitted out an expedition and sailed west in an attempt to gather proof of the claims made by the Icelandic trader Bjarni Herjulfsson. in 986, Herjulfsson, driven far off course by a fierce storm between Iceland and Greenland, had reported sighting hilly, heavily forested land  far to the west. Herjulfsson, probably the first European to see the continent of North America, never set foot on its shores. Around the year 1000, Leif , encouraged by the current talk of potential discoveries of new shores with good wood (as wood was scarce in Greenland) and land to farm, bought Bjarni's ship and set off on his quest of discovery.He appears to have followed Bjarni's route in reverse, making three landfalls, the first probably Baffin Island, which he named Helluland, or Flat-stone land, the second was named Markland, or Wood Land,  probably Newfoundland, and and the last on the east coast of Newfoundland, named Vineland or Pasture land., at a place they named Leifsbud-ir.  The Vikings spent the winter there. It is generally believed that the settlement was at  L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. The sagas indicate that there were at least two other settlements, one much farther south. This was during the Medieval Warming Period, (950-1250 ), an interglacial period before the disastrous Little Ice Age (1650-1850). Greenland and the NE coast of Canada had warmed enough to grow crops and raise cattle, both important to Viking culture. For more information, go the Iceland Saga site at: http://sagadb.org/

There are those who believe the Vikings made some excursions into Minnesota in the fourteenth century, but it has not been proven yet.

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