Why Choose Thunderbird?
Choosing Thunderbird means becoming part of our family, rich in tradition and the spirit of friendship. When you join us, your camper will find a sense of belonging and forever have a home away from home.
A personal adventure
Northern Minnesota, the perfect jumping off point to stretch those wings.
Nature is our playground. Situated in the Northwoods of Minnesota not far from the Headwaters of the Mississippi, Thunderbird’s 700 acres and over two miles of pristine shoreline provide a prime location for adventure and growth.
Campers (with guidance and support from counselors) choose daily from over 30 activities. Our campers create their own adventure fueled by their personal interests and passions. And, whether your camper is an athlete or a performer, an adventurer or an artist, each day, they choose to focus on a favorite activity or try something completely new and exciting.
If it’s a bigger adventure your camper wants, we’ve got that too. Never pitched a tent or made a campfire before, we’ll teach your camper how. Go from kicking a soccer ball to kicking it in the Cascade Mountains, from a first canoe ride around Lake Plantagenet to paddling the Boundary waters, from passing that swim test to whitewater rafting in Northern Oregon. Our campers have many overnight to multiple day/week opportunities available to them. The offerings are truly exceptional and have something for the hesitant to adventure seeking camper.
And, while each adventure is unique, what makes Thunderbird special for many families is our shared experience for both boys and girls in the context of a single-gender camp environment. Many of our camp families have both sons and daughters at Thunderbird. Our programs are mirror images of one another, allowing siblings to have a shared camp experience, while still carving out their own adventure.
Beyond getting their hands dirty
While camp is about adventure, at the heart of the experience are the life skills of collaboration, perseverance, problem-solving, and self-reliance. We know that sending campers off to Thunderbird might seem challenging as a parent, but the gift of camp provides an opportunity for growth, increased autonomy, and the development of leadership and social-emotional skills. Being away from home means that when children face challenges and overcome obstacles, they own the experience. Campers can confront preconceived ideas of who they are and reinvent themselves, while further developing passions and interests they might never have explored.
Allowing each camper to choose their activities daily, gives them the freedom to select areas of interest they will focus on and set goals to achieve over the course of the summer. The consistent practice, dedication, and commitment to specific goals leads to tangible growth and, in turn, greater self-confidence. In addition, wilderness adventures foster unparalleled personal growth and challenges kids to be their best selves.
At Camp Thunderbird we believe summer camp is not a sprint, but a journey along a path lined with celebrations, challenges, and success. A single session or full season allows campers to become immersed in the camp experience and routines, develop profound and real friendships, try a variety of new activities, and work toward and attain goals outside of their comfort zone. We want campers to feel at home at Thunderbird and to do that they need to truly experience the Thunderbird way of life.
“I think camp is the best emotional preparation for a successful college experience, because you practice being on your own, keeping track of your clothes; you practice living in a community and getting along with roommates [. . .] — all of the skills you need for true independence. . . . It’s very helpful to start the process of learning to live independently and also in community earlier.”
Where friends become family
Once a Thunderbird camper, always a Thunderbird camper
They just keep coming back. The strong bond that alumni feel is a testament to their sense of belonging. Friendships built here last a lifetime, rooted in encouragement and collaboration. In the single-gender camp environment, Thunderbird campers are celebrated for taking risks, working together, showing kindness, accomplishing goals, and being uniquely oneself. Campers are able to forge deep social connections without the pressures of the boy-girl dynamic that they face during the school year and the focus remains on the core values of growth, friendship, fun and adventure. Intense and deep bonds form when the emphasis is on brotherhood or sisterhood.
Thunderbird provides a safe and supportive environment for healthy competition that fosters positive sportsmanship and community building. Campers will find a place where they can genuinely bond with peers, be free from materialism, and unplug. Our strong stance that technology has its place outside the camp community, is rooted in the belief that kids need a place to reconnect with one another, to nature and to their true selves.
Pure fun in a safe environment
While campers are busy having fun, we’re working hard to ensure camp is safe, both physically and emotionally. We begin our focus on social-emotional growth with our foundation of a single-gendered environment. By bringing campers from all corners of the US and abroad, we thoughtfully create a cabin group that is free from school dynamics campers experience at home.
From a physical safety standpoint, our staff is a qualified group. With an average age of 21, our staff consists of around 30 certified lifeguards at each camp and the majority of our staff that work directly with children are First Aid/CPR trained. All wilderness leaders have Wilderness First Aid or Responder Certification. Our health staff consists of two full-time nurses at each camp and an on-call physician. Approximately twelve miles away, the town of Bemidji has a large regional hospital and specialists such as orthodontists and orthopedists. At the waterfront, our lifeguard-to-camper ratio is 1 to 6 for all lake activities and PFD are worn for all boating and recreational water activities. Our buddy board system ensures that all campers are accounted for the entire time they are at the waterfront. Safety is our number one priority.