Summer Camp at Deer Lake

The Salvation Army Camp Gifford has been providing fun outdoor activities and learning experiences on Deer Lake for children since 1922

By Loren Grube

The Salvation Army (S.A.) has been operating in Spokane, Washington since 1891. They first sent kids to Deer Lake for open-air camps between 1914-1917. In 1921, they purchased their first piece of Deer Lake property and official camps began the following year.

Early campers enjoying a canoe ride on Deer Lake

During the early days, children rode the train from Spokane to Loon Lake and then traveled by horse-drawn wagon to the camp. In later years, as it is today, they were transported by bus from Spokane. There were mostly logging roads at that time, with just a few cabins around the lake.

Early campers getting ready to take the bus to Camp Gifford

The Salvation Army now owns 140 acres of land around Deer Lake, which operates under the name Camp Gifford. They’ve added a climbing wall and sailing program, and even a zip line. While at camp, boys and girls gain new abilities. They may learn to swim or use a bow and arrow for the first time while enjoying fun with other children their own age.

Camp Gifford provides a safe environment for kids to interact and socialize face to face with other kids and adults. They get to be out in nature and learn about the local wildlife, such as wild turkey, deer, and moose. They may learn how to track deer, as a leader points out tracks along the hiking path, for example.

Parents will be glad to know that safety is key at Camp Gifford. Every employee receives two weeks of training, which includes a “Protect The Mission” course that speaks to important rules to ensure the safety of every child at camp. They want the camping experience to be one they will always remember and that they look forward to coming back each summer.

Major Ken Perine oversees Camp Gifford as well as The Salvation Army of Spokane. As a kid, Perine’s dad would take him camping in the most primitive way (with just a tarp). At the age of 12, his friends “started bugging him about Jesus,” he said, and he ended up going to church at The Salvation Army. Perine started working at S.A. camps at the age of 15, and it was there that he later met his wife. They have been married now for 30 years. In 2017, Perine moved to Spokane and has been leading the efforts in both Spokane and Deer Lake ever since.

“Camp helps stretch kids and gets them away from technology and out into nature where they can grow in their abilities and get out of their ‘shells’,” said Perine. He asks parents this question, “What would you rather your kids do this summer, master video games, or become a master at learning to navigate wilderness or camping?”

Perine suggests getting your reservations in now for this season because they will fill up fast. The capacity for Discovery Camp is 120 per week and the capacity for Teen (Wilderness) Camp and Sailing Camp is 20 per week. There are scholarships available for those who need financial assistance. To see if you qualify, visit If you have questions, please call 509-329-2759.

Salvation Army is now recruiting adult leaders for summer camp

The Salvation Army is actively seeking 40-50 young Christian men and women, aged 18 or older, who want to make a difference and love the outdoors. The dates run from June 19 to August 4, 2023 and the pay is $17.50 per hour or more depending on the position. For more details (including a list of positions), and to apply, visit

Camp Gifford – Summer Camp Details

This summer, there are three camp options at Camp Gifford on Deer Lake: a week-long Discovery Camp for ages 7-12 and Wilderness Camp for ages 13-17, and a two-week long Sailing Camp for ages 12-17.

Discovery Camp (ages 7-12)

The Salvation Army Camp Gifford provides an exciting, educational, and spiritual outdoor camp experience for children at week-long Discovery Camp sessions. This camp includes games, arts and crafts, archery, swimming, boating, singing, and learning about God in a fun and uplifting environment.

June 26-30: Discovery Camp 1
July 3-7: Discovery Camp 2
July 24-28: Discovery Camp 3
July 31-August 4: Discovery Camp 4

Wilderness Camp (ages 13-17)

The Salvation Army Teen Adventure Camp takes place at Camp Cougar and offers hiking, high rope courses, outdoor survival skills, swimming, and more. Campers explore nature and grow their relationship with Christ while developing friendships with other teens from around the Pacific Northwest.

A fun rock climbing wall experience awaits at Camp Gifford to challenge teen campers

June 26-30: Wilderness Camp 1
July 3-7: Wilderness Camp 2
July 10-14: Wilderness Camp 3
July 17-21: Wilderness Camp 4
July 24-28: Wilderness Camp 5
July 31-August 4: Wilderness Camp 6

Discovery and Wilderness camps run Monday at 12 p.m. through Friday at 9 a.m. Bus transportation is available from Spokane. The cost is $480 per session.

Sailing Camp (ages 12-17)

The Salvation Army Sailing Camp has three sessions that operate two weeks each. Campers learn the fundamentals of sailing from certified U.S. Sailing instructors. Students learn courage, teamwork, and leadership. By the end of the two-week camp, they’ll be able to race sailboats. Camp is Monday at 12 p.m. through Friday at 9 a.m. with campers returning home for the weekend. Cost is $960 per session.

June 26 – July 7: Sailing Camp 1 (home: June 30-July 3)
July 10-21: Sailing Camp 2 (home: July 14-17)
July 24 – August 4: Sailing Camp 3 (home: July 28-31)

Registration for any of the three camps is online at Reminder: Scholarships available on a sliding scale. For questions, email Camp Gifford at or call 509-329-2759. Camp Gifford is located at 3846 North Deer Lake Road, Loon Lake, WA 99148.