We’re always looking forward to the next challenge, the next opportunity, the next chance to build leadership and character and make a positive difference in the world. By doing so, we’re following a path established nearly a century ago by remarkable visionaries, and maintained through the years by countless people who have shared a passion for our mission. Their stories are as remarkable as their commitment, and you’ll find many of them here.

“I know that whenever our daughters have their own children, boys or girls, they will be bound for Manito-wish.”


Why are we called Camp Manito-wish YMCA? The answer reflects both our heritage and our purpose.

When we were established in 1919, the intention was to create a summer camp in Wisconsin’s northwoods. W.H. “Daddy” Wones, the Boys Work Secretary for the State of Wisconsin YMCA, had proposed the plan, which the State Y Board unanimously approved.

Before the new camp could open, it needed a name. Because it was located in the center of the collection of lakes and rivers known as the Manitowish chain of lakes, Camp Manitowish was a logical (and descriptive) choice.

Curious about the meaning of the name “Manitowish,” Wones traveled to the nearby Lac du Flambeau Indian reservation. The Chippewa explained that “Manitou” means the Great Spirit, while “wish” means dwelling place.

Wones decided that the name would be hyphenated as Manito-wish, reasoning that the Indian word “Manito” and the English word “wish” would be combined to convey the wish of the Great Spirit for “all to achieve what’s best for themselves.”


Camp Manito-wish YMCA was established in 1919 on the shore of Boulder Lake in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin. In the spring of 1919 Walter “Daddy” H. Wones, H.E. Andrews and Judge E. B. Beldon searched for the perfect place to establish a summer camp for the State of Wisconsin YMCA. Wones believed that the wilderness of Northwoods of Wisconsin offered a more in depth experience and challenge for campers. It would be a place for many kids from urban areas to experience a quiet night, observe wildlife, and paddle through beautiful lakes, rivers and streams.


Heritage Center

Since our foundation in 1919, Camp Manito-wish YMCA has built a long-standing reputation for character and leadership development. These successes have been made possible by our unique wilderness setting, our program areas, and by the constant efforts of the many dedicated men and women who have come before us.

The John F. Michler Heritage Center has been built to recognize their contributions and honor the legacy of these people and this place. Named for the camper, staff and board alumnus who had a passion for Camp Manito-wish and its history, the newly opened Center serves as an interactive and engaging gathering place where Manito-wish’s rich history is showcased, shared and preserved, and a monument to those who made it all possible.

For a more portable version of our history, click here for “Course Set for Manito-wish,” the official history of Camp Manito-wish YMCA.


What a great treat to see 12 advanced trips come in and learn about the trail experiences of each of them. They start at camp, go off on a well planned and executed long wilderness experience, and return to camp on the same day, 12 different groups. No one else does this!
K. H.