Amantacha – a unit and a bridge!

Amantacha – a unit and a bridge!

By Pati Egan

What came first, the unit or the bridge?  I suppose that depends on your definition of the bridge.  Amantacha was the first tree house unit and it was reached by using the Swinging Bridge. The current Amantacha was rebuilt in 1997.  The current bridge was rebuilt in 1977.  The first campers to live in Amantacha were not aware that they were the inhabitants of a unit that would be the model for all future rebuilds of the units.  I’m not sure if they were aware of what they signed up for at registration – they just knew that it was tree houses; maybe literally built in a tree – who knew what was in store for them.  The unit was a huge hit with the campers.  It was also the first unit cabins that were three sided.  It’s not noted in the 50th Anniversary book when it was built but it was around 1968.  The original unit was located a little west of the present Amantacha.

This was also the first unit to have triple bunks.  This design would be used when building Raganeau and Teondecorum. 

Amantacha was reached by crossing the Swinging Bridge.  The Swinging Bridge was there when Echon was built.   Unfortunately, it began to sink a few years after the lake was built.

Norb Garvey recalls, “That same bridge evolved into the floating bridge after Lake Echon was built, the water level being higher than the bridge and the float barrels worked well for about 10 years before they rusted thru, dragging the bridge into the water 4” to 6” and making lots of wet feet.” (As I recall, very wet feet).   Amantacha campers still used the “Sinking Bridge” as the main way to get to the unit.  Unfortunately by the mid 70s the bridge that for so many years carried Amantacha’s campers was literally stretched to its limits and now rests at the bottom of Lake Echon.  Norb recalls that “Royce’s (Reeder – the Camp Ranger at the time) idea was to crank the cables tighter and lift the bridge, and it worked for a bit but then stretched a bit and went under again. One afternoon in the mid 70s Royce and I put a chain hoist on it and he had me cranking on it, cheering me on, it came up out of the lake and then the cables snapped. Royce said “darn it” and we cut it all loose and sank it into the lake.” 

Amantacha – a unit and a bridge  picture of the unit during fall

Wet feet and lost luggage affected Amantacha’s popularity.  It also had competition from Raganeau and Teondecorum if one wanted to be in a tree house unit (Garnier was rebuilt during this time and its design was a total game changer.)

Amantacha campers now had to walk from Tekakwitha to their unit OR they could use an ingenious idea that sounded good on paper.  A cable was strung close to where the old bridge was located.  A little ferry was built and campers pulled themselves across to the other side.  The ferry held about 4 campers.  There was no luggage haul in those days.  On Sunday, campers and their families would load up all of the camper luggage on the ferry.  Legend has it that most luggage and campers safely arrived at Amantacha, BUT not all campers and luggage were successful in landing camper and luggage to Amantacha! 

In 1977 a new bridge was built.  Amantacha campers had dry feet and their luggage once again! 

Norb Garvey recalls, “I worked the off-season by myself with Royce starting February of 1977 when we built the walking plank sections and slid them onto the cables as the bridge appears today.”

The new bridge has always been called the Amantacha Bridge, thus giving Amantacha the distinction of being a unit name and the name of a bridge.

By 1996, it was decided that Amantacha needed to be rebuilt.  The new unit was completed and being used by 1997.  Amantacha now had the tree house design of the other units.  It was bigger, airier, and no more triple bunks.   

Amantacha continues to be one of the most popular units.  It also has one of the oldest continually used unit cheers at Camp.  The 1997 newsletter introduces the new Amantacha with this title “OOOO-SASASA…”

The original Amantacha color was maroon.  The spirit animal is still a swallow. 

Amantacha – what did come first – the unit or the bridge?  I suppose the answer is both!  They seem to be explicitly intertwined.  Originally, this post was just to be about Amantacha, but as I wrote it, I discovered that so much of Amantacha’s past is tied to the bridge.  It seemed that I couldn’t write about just one without bringing in the other. 

Click Here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s history.


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