Skip to main content

History of Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya

YMCA Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya has been connecting families, students, and campers with the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin since 1937. Camp has a rich history as "The Place of Friends" and a culture of inclusion and character development that continues to grow year after year. We are always striving to nourish our existing traditions and history while continuing to evolve and improve. 

Our journey began as a small logging camp on the shore of Chute Pond. Resilience, responsibility, and relationships are deeply rooted here. The men who lived and worked here spent evenings around the campfire sharing stories and laughter much like our campers do today. In fact, one of our most cherished campfire stories is that of the legendary Ole' Peterson who was known for his ability to break up the toughest log jams on Chute Pond. Our on site camp museum resides in one of the original logging camp cabins from the 1930's and beautifully preserves our camp heritage. 

1936  The YMCA Board approved a plan to allow the Y’s Men’s Service Club of the Green Bay YMCA to sign off on a loan to purchase 10 acres of land on Chute Pond in Oconto County.  Buildings were designed and a few started by Mr. and Mrs. Fohnfarek, the Oconto County Sheriff.  

1937  The cabins were finished along with the first Dining Hall which was a small square cabin that later acted as the Trail Building.

July 14, 1937 was the first day for Y-Camp.  “It was a cloudy, drizzly day in July when 31 boys climbed out of a dingy railroad car in the middle of the Nicolet National Forest and began hiking a long, rough, winding trail to a small clearing at the south end of Chute Pond." 

1942 The waterfront was cleared to improve the safety of the swimming area.  The Athletic Field was also cleared.

1951  Electricity came to Camp for the first time!

1952  The first all-girls session was established. It ran for two weeks at the end of summer with only girls in the camp. 

1953  The name U-Nah-Li-Ya was adopted.  It was intended to mean “Place of Friends” in local native dialect. This was a meaningful expression for the experiences that created the camp culture desired by the Green Bay YMCA.

1959-1960  Eight new Cabins were built on the west side of Camp, starting the second generation of Cabins for Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya.  These were winterized to accommodate the new business of Environmental Awareness Education (now Outdoor Environmental Education) and weekend business. 

1961  The “Green Latrine” housed the first flush toilets in Camp.

1965  Two cabins were built to begin the development of the east side of camp.  This added cabins to the expanding year 'round programs, and created a “girls” side of camp.

1969  After two years of planning and building, the Dining Hall was completed and started operating year 'round food service.

1971-1972   Camp built more east side cabins, a new trail/crafts building, and a sled hill. 

1977  The first maintenance shop was built.

1981  The Y’s Men’s Earth Lodge Shelter was built.

1998  A partnership grant and a gift from the Y’s Men’s Club built the high ropes course.

2000  The Kress Chapel was built.

2009  The water front was renovated in a project that included docks, boats, sea wall, and inflatables.

2012  Camp and the Green Bay Y celebrate 75 years of serving youth and families all year long through summer resident camp and tripping, Outdoor Environmental Education and Adventure Leadership programs, Y-Family Camp programs, and weekend rentals and retreats.

2015 The Resch Welcome Center and Dining Hall were renovated. 

This year Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya is completing Phase 2 of our Capitol Improvements as we renovate 4 of 5 girls cabins. The long-standing commitment to consistent improvement is alive and well at Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya. Our roots are a part of our journey as we appreciate the lives we have impacted for the past 81 years and look forward to continuing to impact lives for the next 81.