Located in the Keene Valley region of the east central Adirondacks, Putnam Camp is an extremely well-preserved woodland summer retreat that has maintained its original character and purpose since its establishment in the mid-1870s by a group of Boston intellectuals. The site played an important role in the valley’s history as a 19th-century destination for distinguished artists, scholars and literati, whose attraction to this Victorian-era cultural colony in the isolated High Peaks reflected a direct response to a national “back-to-nature” movement that promoted wilderness contact as the antidote to the stresses of a rapidly industrializing society. The founding members of the camp—Henry Bowditch, William James and Charles and James Putnam—represented the so-called Boston School, a tightly knit group of psychologists, philosophers, neurologists and psychiatrists who ranked among the most erudite and progressive thinkers of their day. Set against the extraordinarily beautiful backdrop of the High Peaks, their simply appointed woodland sanctuary served as a summer escape not only for family, but also for countless colleagues and friends to whom the culture of Putnam Camp—plain living and high thinking—epitomized the essence of a proper wilderness retreat.
Although owned and run by the original families during their lifetimes, in 1932 Putnam Camp became a not-for-profit corporation run by a Board of Directors, and has stayed this way ever since. There is a year-round manager, who hires the summer staff. The camp accommodates 40 guests and. is open during July and August. During the three-day Columbus Day Weekend in October there is room for 20 guests. Putnam Camp runs as a private club, but interested guests can contact the manager to inquire about membership. Guests are typically introduced by other Putnam Campers, who are encouraged to introduce friends who they think would be congenial with others and who might enjoy our particular (and sometimes peculiar) form of rustic charm.
The primary activity at Putnam Camp is enjoying the beautiful wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains. Many guests hike up the many beautiful — and challenging — mountains in our part of the Adirondacks, known as the High Peaks Region. But other guests prefer to enjoy the natural landscape and solitude by reading, writing, relaxing or playing acoustic music. The most avid hikers come back year after year to make progress toward becoming "46ers" by climbing all 46 mountains over 4000 feet. Others prefer easier walks up smaller mountains or along brooks, perhaps taking their bathing suits and a book or sketch pad to a swimming hole for the day. The camp has canoes and kayak-like Hornbecks for paddling in the Saranac Lakes and the many other nearby lakes and streams. On rainy days, there are several fine museums and other such attractions, most notably the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake and the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. There are some nice stores in the area, too, and Keene Valley has a fine library.
Our cabins and rooms are simple; some are surrounded by trees and close to the sound of the brook at night — as is a beautiful and unusual open-walled building where most of us gather in the evenings for good conversation, games, singing by the campfire on cookout night, and special events such as celebrations of new 46ers. We gather for breakfast in our rustic dining room in the old farmhouse, and at that time food is laid out for making pack lunches. Dinner is served there family-style, and accommodations can usually be made, upon advance notice, for specific dietary needs. There is a laundry available to guests. WiFi is available, too, in limited ways, but, in general, we discourage the use of electronic devices so as to preserve the rustic nature of our camp.
Putnam Camp will open to guests this year on Friday, June 28. The final night of the season will be Monday, August 26 (with departure on the morning of August 27.) Our reservation letter will be emailed to members and posted on our website in February.
In order to provide a Covid-safe environment, members will need to follow the covid policy, which can be found on the member's portion of our website here.
In the meantime, if you are in the Adirondacks, please remember that, for security and safety, no one is permitted on the grounds of Putnam Camp when we are closed unless being escorted by the managers or our caretaker.
There is also a one-time per-season facilities fee of $30 per person paying the adult rate, which will be invoiced at Camp. This fee will be waived for individuals coming to Putnam Camp for the first time. A 50% deposit is required when a reservation is made. Cancellation or shortening one's stay may result in the loss of the deposit.
Please note: This is general information; some details are not included here.
Interested newcomers please contact us for information about membership and reservations.
Because staff are only physically present at Putnam Camp for part of the year, our contact information changes seasonally.
Putnam Camp offers a limited number of full-time paid positions each summer. If you are interested, please see the the 2024 job listings and application with pictures. For a printable version of the job application without pictures, please use printable version of the 2024 job listings and application.