Camp Fire is an inclusive youth development organization founded with the intention of connecting kids with nature and helping them develop the skills needed for a happy, healthy life now and into the future. We offer a variety of youth and family programs including Community Clubs, Out-of-School Time Programs, Day and Overnight Camps, and Teen Leadership Development. Camp Fire Heart of Iowa serves approximately 3000 youth per year. 

Camp Fire believes in the dignity and the intrinsic worth of every human being. We welcome, affirm, and support young people and adults of all abilities and disabilities, experiences, races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, religion and non-religion, citizenship and immigration status, and any other category people use to define themselves or others. We strive to create safe and inclusive environments that celebrate diversity and foster positive relationships.


What is Camp Fire?
It’s a way of life.
For more than 100 years, Camp Fire has been providing a nurturing, constructive and fun environment for young people to light the fire within – to discover who they are, become a strong leader and contribute to their community.  Camp Fire brings participants into nature to learn, explore and grow together while developing a lifelong respect for the outdoors.


Meet our staff & board members! We have seasonal, summer staff opportunities at all of our overnight and day camp programs throughout Des Moines, Ames, and Boone. If you enjoy working with youth, sharing the camp experience, and working outdoors, apply today to change the life of a youth forever.



In collaboration with highly trained, caring adults, Camp Fire offers a variety of programs including youth clubs, before- and after-school care, day camps, overnight camps, environmental education, and teen leadership opportunities. At Camp Fire, youth from different backgrounds develop important skills, such as self-reliance and problem solving, while interacting with nature and enjoying fun activities, such as swimming, archery, hiking and so much more!



Thank You for Supporting Camp Fire! We could not do what we do, without your support!






Camp Fire has been an innovative leader in youth development for 108 years!

We have a rich legacy! You might remember us as Camp Fire Girls or Camp Fire USA, which were key parts of our organizational journey. What’s kept us thriving? Our commitment to diversity and inclusion from the very beginning; incorporating youth voice into all we do; our intentional effort to reflect, evolve, and use cutting-edge research to best meet the needs of today’s families; and remarkable people like you!

We got our start as Camp Fire Girls in 1910, founded by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick and his wife, Charlotte Vetter Gulick. They believed girls deserved the outdoor learning experiences that boys had and wanted to help “guide young people on their journey to self-discovery”.

In 1913, Camp Fire groups started popping up across central Iowa.

The first Camp Fire camping session is held at the Boy Scouts camp in what is now Ledges State Park. This was the first summer session of what would later be known as Camp Hantesa.

In order for Camp Fire to assume a more structured role in Iowa, the Greater Des Moines Council of Camp Fire Girls is founded.

Camp Hantesa holds its first racially integrated summer session.

The Greater Des Moines, Ames, and Newton Councils join to form the Heart of the Hawkeye (now Heart of Iowa) Council.

While Camp Fire was America’s first multiracial, multicultural, and nonsectarian organization for girls, we become co-ed in 1975. Since then, ALL youth are welcome at Camp Fire.

Now, we have 54 chapters or “councils” across the country, with far more than camp programs. But no matter the program or location across the country, the Camp Fire experience remains the same. We focus on teaching youth the life skills they need to succeed and thrive, NOW.

When our kids and teens thrive, it positively impacts every one of us—in our homes, schools, communities, and workplaces.

In 1988, Camp Fire formalized its longstanding focus on teen service and leadership. Teens in Action was created to seize the energy and ideas of teens to tackle real issues in their communities. Nationwide, teens participate in community service projects that develop life skills and make real differences in their communities.

In 1993, Camp Fire added sexual orientation to its Inclusion Policy.

In 1997, Camp Fire founded Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®—a national initiative to encourage the young people in our lives. Each year, millions of people use this day to write notes, letters, emails, social media posts, texts, etc, to the kids in their lives, celebrating their unique talents and telling them how awesome they are! Absolutely Incredible Kid Day takes place every year on the third Thursday of March.

In 2010, Camp Fire celebrated its 100th birthday. Camp Fire participants across the country all lit campfires at the same time to honor the legacy of our organization. Camp Fire continues to celebrate its birthday on March 17th every year.

In 2012, Camp Fire became the first national youth development organization in the United States to implement the Thriving framework developed by the Thrive Foundation for Youth, based on the pillars of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Camp Fire was one of the first organizations to teach kids and teens SEL skills through its programs with this new Thrive{ology} framework, a research-based approach for youth success.

In 2019, Camp Hantesa will celebrate its 100th birthday.


We’ve got something for everyone! Sign up today!


Pack your bags, it’s time for camp!



Camp Fire programs don’t stop after summer, sign up for year-round fun!


Pick from one of our many day camp options, there’s something for everyone!


Camp Fire Heart of Iowa

5615 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA 50310

Camp Hantesa

1450 Oriole Road, Boone, IA 50036

Camp Canwita

2807 Duff Avenue, Ames, IA 50010