The site for the 24th World Scout Jamboree is unlike anything our Scouts have seen before. The Summit Bechtel Reserve (“the Summit”) is larger than some entire countries and will be your home for an adventure of a lifetime. We are so excited to share this special place with you. Learn about our site and what you can expect from it.
The Summit Bechtel Reserve is a training, Scouting, and adventure center for the millions of youth and adults involved in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and anyone who loves the outdoors. The Summit Bechtel Reserve is also home to the BSA’s National Scout Jamborees, and its Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base complements the BSA’s other high adventure bases: Philmont Scout Ranch, Northern Tier and Florida Sea Base.
With incredible facilities and amazing outdoor programs, The Summit is a place that takes Scouts to the limits of what they think they can do, and then pushes them further. The Summit is more than just a place for Scouts; it’s where future leaders are shaped.
The Summit: From Conception to Reality
Before the Summit: Garden Ground Mountain
Situated in the wilds of West Virginia, the Summit Bechtel Reserve sits at the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. This rocky chain of hills is approximately 460 million years old and is home to the oldest mountains in the world. The range stretches from Newfoundland, Canada, to Alabama, USA.
As wild as the Summit Bechtel Reserve is, once upon a time it was the site of heavy industry and the ground was dug up for extensive coal mining, a resource common to the region. Old surface mines left wide flat areas of ground and a network of roads that crisscrossed the hilly landscape. But when Scouts saw the site, they did not see the past—they saw the future.
Flat areas were covered with grass and are now our base camps. Old roads and trails now lead to new adventure and exploration. Scouts cleaned the streams and replanted marshes. New lakes and trees brought back animals that had long stayed away. New buildings used local resources, supported regional businesses, and improved communities that no longer could rely on the old mines.
Together, we left the space better than we found it. But we also created a space that allows Scouts like us to be inspired to seek bold solutions to hard problems in our own home communities.
The Summit story began in 2007 when BSA leadership began looking for a permanent location for the National Scout Jamboree, which had been held at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia since 1981 as well as seeking another high adventure base for the large number of Scouts who are wait-listed at the other three high adventure camps every year. A committee in charge of site selection and project planning was created. The committee named the new venture Project Arrow, chaired by Jack D. Furst. Plans for Project Arrow grew to include not only a venue for the Jamboree, but also for a summer camp, a high adventure base, and a leadership center, all housed on the same contiguous property.
More than 80 sites in 28 states were visited over an 18-month span and inspected as possible locations for the new venue. The top fifteen sites were visited and in October 2008 the list was cut to three sites: Saline County, Arkansas; Goshen, Rockbridge County, Virginia; and the New River region of West Virginia. On Wednesday November 18, 2009, the BSA announced that it had chosen the West Virginia site, known locally as the Garden Ground Mountain property, as the future home of The Summit.
One of the deciding factors for Project Arrow in choosing the West Virginia site was its adjacency to New River Gorge National River. More than 13 miles of the property borders the park, giving Scouts and Scouters access to more than 70,000 acres of managed wilderness beyond the Summit property.
The Bechtel Family Gift
This amazing site was made possible by the landmark gift of Stephen Bechtel Jr., president of the largest civil engineering company in the United States and a fellow Scout. Mr. Bechtel credits his time as a Scout for building his strength of character and leadership. His gift was the largest charitable donation ever made to the Boy Scouts of America. It is thanks to him and other donors who followed that we are able to share this magnificent space.
The Summit Bechtel Reserve Today
With each year, the Summit grows to meet the dreams of new Scouts, setting records and becoming the home to true adventure:
- Longest combined zip lines in the world (5.45 miles/8.7 kilometers)
- Longest canopy course in the country (9.55 miles/15.3 kilometers)
- Largest man-made outdoor climbing facility in the country (218 stations)
- Second-largest outdoor skate park in the country (4.6 acres/1.7 hectares)
- Second-largest BMX facility in the country (13.7 acres/5.3 hectares)
- Third-largest combined rifle, shotgun, and pistol shooting venue in the country
- Third-largest archery range in the country (116 stations)
- Largest natural outdoor arena in West Virginia (80,000-person capacity)
When rough terrain and deep ravines made connecting base camps difficult, we found a way to build a bridge through the treetops. Today the CONSOL Energy Bridge, a triple-walkway pedestrian suspension bridge, spans 800 feet (240 meters) and allows Scouts to climb to the top of its towers and dip underneath the main walkway. Structures like this help reduce the need for vehicles, keeping the roads safer and the air cleaner.
From the bottom of the Summit Bechtel Reserve to the top, there is an elevation difference of approximately 1,300 feet/396 meters. That means exciting downhill mountain biking, zip line courses, and plenty of intense hiking trails. Gravity has never been so much fun!
All of this is only a stone’s throw away from the New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River, and the Gauley River National Recreation Area. This makes the Summit a destination for fishing, kayaking, and river rafting. And the same rivers that provide thrilling rafting have carved out some of the best rock climbing on the East Coast of the USA. The Summit Bechtel Reserve today is 10,600 acres (4,290 hectares) surrounded by wilderness that expands our Jamboree program area to 70,000 acres (28,328 hectares).