Camp Layout


Camp Woodlee exists to provide the youth of Tennessee an experience that instills a love of nature,
builds lifetime relationships and creates lifelong memories. This mission is achieved by utilizing three distinct methods:

  1. Connection with nature. Every activity at Camp Woodlee occurs in natural surroundings.
    Kids play in the spring and creeks, they swim in the river, they trek through the woods (not on groomed paths)
    and they explore the cave. Even educational activities that are not focused take place in natural surroundings—
    on a bluff at the river, in a clearing on the hill, or in the shade of a pine grove.
    There are no classrooms, lecture halls, or amphitheaters at Camp.

  2. Experiential learning. Educational activities at Camp Woodlee are always hands-on.
    Whether learning to barbeque chicken, make rope, or play the ukulele, the only educational method at Camp is doing.

  3. Relationship building. The method of relationship building at Camp is Experience, Exchange, and Reflect.
    Campers experience many things at Camp Woodlee and create great memories. Structured leisure, as described below,
    is where they share those experiences with other campers (for example, lounging on the front porch each evening after dinner). Intentional reflection each evening-in the form of a Vespers Service- then creates a strong sense of connection with all their daily activities, both their own and their shared experiences with others. Many campers report that their most memorable time at Camp Woodlee was Vespers, likely because of the strong feeling of connection with the other campers. 


  1. Kids deserve the chance to be kids.
    Youth want to explore, get dirty, run amuck, climb trees, and create mudslides.
    They find this at Camp Woodlee.

  2. Shared responsibility is central for success of an experience.
    There is no cleaning crew at Camp Woodlee. Under the guidance of leaders, kids are responsible
    for taking care of the facility—from washing dishes to sweeping floors. And, at the end of each camp,
    kids are reminded that the motto at Camp Woodlee is to leave it better than you found it. 

  3. Minimizing amenities maximizes relationship experiences.
    Camp Woodlee is not a location for summer camp activities, it is a style of summer camping.
    Everything is done in groups. One mentality at Camp Woodlee is structured leisure.
    When youth are together (such as on the front porch or lounging by the river) with an intentional lack
    of a structured agenda, conversation occurs. When conversation occurs with the same group on a regular basis,
    relationships are formed. Everything about Camp Woodlee, from the physical layout to structured leisure,
    fosters relationship development.




Camp Woodlee was founded in 1951 by Fred Colby, the Tennessee 4-H Camping Specialist and also known as
the “Father of Camp Woodlee.” Mr. Colby was instrumental in locating and selecting the current location of state camp in 1949.
The campsite itself was given to the 4-H and Young Farmers and Homemakers (now Young Farmers and Ranchers) of Tennessee
by the heirs of Mr. E.K. Woodlee.

         Mr. Woodlee, a personal friend of Colby’s, originally offered the land during the Great Depression but Mr. Colby
felt as if the task of building a camp could not be taken on at that time and postponed action. When the idea of a state YF&H
and district 4-H camp came up again several years later, Mr. Colby remembered the Woodlee offer.
E.K. Woodlee had passed away, but Mr. Colby approached Woodlee’s son, O.C. Woodlee, Sr., to see if the offer still stood.
It did, and the land was donated. Appropriately, the camp became known as “ Camp Woodlee.”

         Cabins were constructed with the tremendous help of eleven different county 4-H and YF&H clubs. By August 1951,
seven cabins had been built and the first YF&H camp was held August 6-11. Camp Woodlee served as District III
4-H camp from 1951 until 1964, until campers were asked to share facilities with District IV 4-H’ers at the
Clyde M. York 4-H Training Center in Crossville, Tennessee.

         By 1986, the original kitchen building, which doubled as an army surplus center in World War II,
was on the verge of condemnation and the Camp Woodlee was asked to either close the camp or replace the kitchen.
The Tennessee National Guard agreed to construct a kitchen building for Woodlee as a training exercise.
Volunteers raised money for the materials and the soldiers did the labor. Members of the National Guard saved the camp.
Not only did they build the kitchen, they also put all utilities underground and built decks for the cabins.

         Weeklong camps at Camp Woodlee continued until 1979. Today, the camp is used by more than1,000 visitors a year,
including 4-H and Young Farmer & Rancher groups. Campers still convene together for Memorial Day & Labor Day
weekend camps annually, as well as group retreats and family gatherings.

         Mr. Colby had very strong views about summer camping methods. While some practices have certainly changed
at Camp Woodlee (i.e., outhouses for the call of nature, and bars of soap and the river for girls’ hair washing),
the basic camping practices he instilled are still utilized. Activities at Camp Woodlee include but are not limited to,
cookouts, floating the Collins River, fishing, frog gigging, exploring Hubbard’s cave, dancing, singing, storytelling,
board games, nature studies, and crafts.




32 Clendenon Lane, McMinnville, TN - (931) 692-3695