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As It Was: Grants Pass Claims Country’s First Auto Camp

In 1923, Grants Pass claimed to have invented the auto camp, based on Chamber of Commerce records showing the first camp opened in May 1915.

As a boost to tourism, the Chamber had rented 4 ½ acres of Rogue River frontage and cleared it of brush -- the present-day site of Riverside Park.  The first visitors came from Yakima, Wash., when the camp was nothing more than a vacant lot.  The camp was free, and a committee cleaned up after visitors.  That first year averaged about seven campers a night. 

By 1923, camp improvements included 12 cottages, each with a wood stove filled with kindling, a bed, table and chairs, electric hot plate, electric lights, and water.  Each tourist enjoyed free hot-and-cold showers, sanitary lavatories, and bathhouse privileges.  A 24-by-36-foot community room offered space for visits with other travelers and for writing letters and reading.

The improved camp had space for 100 visitors at $1 a night for cottages and half that for campers to help pay for law enforcement.

Camp superintendent Joe Ferguson ran a small store on the premises.

Source: Springfield News, page 7, August 14, 1923, Springfield, Ore.  Accessed at Josephine County Historical Society's clipping file.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.