Each summer, Transylvania County hosts thousands of young people from all over the nation and around the world who flock to the many summer camps that surround Brevard. Ranging from the traditional backpack and bug juice experience to internationally renowned summer music programs, Brevard’s summer camps are a treasured part of our history and part of what has made this community so special and beloved for generations.
The product of an increasingly urban, post-Civil War landscape, the American summer camp was initially introduced in the 1870s as a way for city children to play and learn outdoors. While the first summer camps were located primarily in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, the growth of the South and the extension of the railroad into the Appalachian Mountains in the late 1900s brought attention to the incredible natural resources and recreational opportunities there.
As it happened, Transylvania County’s first “campers” weren’t so much kids as affluent adults seeking adventure and respite in the high mountains at resorts such as the grand old Toxaway Inn on Lake Toxaway. But the popularity of camps and summer opportunities was growing. By the turn of the 20th century, there were no more than 100 summer camps nationally, but in scarcely more than a decade that number had increased to more than 1,000.
With its lush forests, 250 waterfalls, beautiful mountains, and easy accessibility from many cities in the South and beyond, Brevard was a perfect fit for the summer camp experience. The first two, Camp French Broad and Camp Sapphire, opened in Transylvania County in 1913 and 1914, respectively. Just a few years later, Keystone Camp, which is still welcoming enthusiastic campers, would become the area’s first summer camp just for girls.