In the fall of 1947, the Leaders' Councils of Grays Harbor and Mason Counties each separately began looking for new places to hold their annual 4-H summer camps for club members. On April 8, 1948, the committee met and decided to purchase a 30-acre tract of cleared land and buildings on Panhandle Lake. The Panhandle 4-H association was incorporated with the State of Washington on June 17, 1948. The first 4-H camping session was held in July that same year. At the time, the camp consisted of just a few pole buildings - the long road of site development was just beginning. For many years Panhandle has enjoyed the benefits of a strong partnership with Washington State University. This collaboration along with the acquisition of additional acreage has brought the camp to its current total of 490 acres.
In 1950 the association was faced with the possible sale of state land on the East side of the lake to a private developer wanting to construct a resort and dance hall. Representatives from the association appealed to the State Land Board to remove the land from sale and allow the Panhandle association to lease the land until such time that Panhandle could purchase the property. For the next six years the association leased 360 acres from the State for a dollar an acre. In 1956 the association exercised their option to purchase the state land and decided to purchase the entire 420 acres owned by the state.
In 1951, 30 acres were set aside as a tree farm, this became the first 4-H Tree Farm in the nation. To this day Panhandle is the only 4-H camp in the United States that is also a working tree farm. The additional 420 acres that was purchased in 1956 also became part of the tree farm.
It wasn’t until the end of the 90s that the association hired the first full-time manager and began keeping the camp open year-round. Nowadays Panhandle employs two full-time staff to operate the facility. During the summertime Panhandle is bustling with campers, overnighters and visitors of all sorts. We are hoping to grow our off-season calendar with more meetings, retreats, business functions, parties and private events. Each group or individual that rents Panhandle helps secure the future of this unique gem of a facility.