Missouri camp features a rich history beyond its time as a BSA haven

One of the many arrowheads that have been found at Camp Arrowhead in Missouri.

Before Camp Arrowhead became a favorite spot for Scouts to have summertime adventures, Native Americans hunted the land in southwest Missouri for at least 8,000 years.

Scouts don’t even have to take the Archaeology merit badge to see evidence of this history. The camp, which was founded in 1924, has an expansive display of Native American arrowheads, knives, spearheads and tools – all of which have been discovered on the nearly 600-acre property.

It’s hard to quantify how many artifacts have been found at camp over the years, but the camp’s display showcases more than 300 tools.

“I was reading about the history of the camp and the very first story I read was of Scouts camping in 1926,” says John Feick, Ozark Trails Council’s Scout executive. “When a Scout cleared leaves away to set up a tent, he found a ‘perfectly formed arrowhead.’”

Taking the Archaeology merit badge can help a Scout develop an eye for what to look for. That technique is what Troop 999 of Plano, Texas, learned this summer.

Lessons in archaeology

Scouts with Troop 999 of Plano, Texas, in the camp’s archaeological display room.

The Texas troop decided to go out of state for summer camp this year to Missouri’s longest-running Scout camp. Along the way, the Scouts stopped by a nearly 30,000-square-foot restaurant spanning the Will Rogers Turnpike in Vinita, Okla., and the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Mo.

But the biggest highlight was a week at Camp Arrowhead in the Ozark Mountains. There, the Scouts cumulatively worked on nearly two dozen merit badges, enjoyed a pool party and watched their assistant Scoutmaster win the Scoutmaster belly-flop contest.

On the last day of camp, some of the Scouts met with the camp’s archaeologist, Steve Volz, who led them around the grounds and to a dig site, looking for artifacts. After a couple hours of looking, they found several Native American tools, including a knife. The dig site is near a cave and a creek: water and shelter – a prime location for hunting back in the day, and a prime location for seeking artifacts now.

“The great thing is that when something is found, our archaeologist can tell us what the item is, how it was used, who likely made it and the approximate range in years of when it was made,” Feick says.

Scouts at a dig site at Camp Arrowhead.

Charting history

Camp Arrowhead was named after an arrowhead found on the property, although it wasn’t actually an arrowhead.

A tool Scouts with Troop 999 discovered at camp this past summer.

“The arrowhead was really a knife, which is still displayed at camp, but at the time, the council leaders who found it did not know what they found,” Feick says.

Properly collecting and displaying the artifacts has been part of the camp’s archaeology project for the past couple of decades. Studying and showcasing them helps Scouts and Scouters learn more about the area and the people who previously lived there, which include those from the Osage Nation.

To look up the updated requirements for the Archaeology merit badge (or any merit badge), check out this page.

The BSA recommends that Scouts do not dig for artifacts unless they are working under the direction of a trained archaeologist who has proper permits. If you’re on an outing without an archaeologist and you find what you think is an artifact, leave it alone. Report your find to a park ranger, if appropriate, or state historic preservation officer, so they can properly evaluate the discovery.

When you “Leave No Trace,” that means cultural artifacts, too. It’s illegal to disturb or remove archaeological digs or items on public lands.

A display of artifacts found on the camp’s property.
About Michael Freeman 361 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.