Ipswich River Day Camp at Topsfield Program Descriptions & Hours
Our flagship camp, located at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. Campers ages 4–14 explore a variety of North Shore habitats, including fields, forests, and wetlands on our 2,000-acre wildlife sanctuary. Sessions run June–August. Small group sizes allow us to provide a high-quality educational experience and a welcoming, supportive environment.
- Half Day: 8:30–11:15 am; 12:15–3 pm (Discoverers, only)
- Full Day: 8:30 am–3 pm
- After Camp: 3–4 pm (optional; registration required)
One-week themed sessions blend outdoor exploration, hands-on activities, games, songs, and crafts. Many sessions incorporate canoe trips on the beautiful, slow-flowing Ipswich River as well as visits to the sanctuary’s popular rockery. Sessions are offered throughout the summer and age groups include:
Discoverers (ages 4–5, half-day)
Half-day sessions designed for our youngest campers to exercise their natural curiosities about nature. A balance of daily walks, games, and indoor activities, including storytelling and arts and crafts, keeps campers engaged and entertained. Staff are experienced in working with preschoolers and are trained to meet the developmental needs of their young audience.
Young Naturalists (ages 5–6, full-day)
Explore a variety of exciting nature topics. Campers take daily hikes to investigate fields, forests, and wetlands, and learn about plants and animals through hand-on activities. Together with their campers, caring and nurturing staff sing songs, playing games, and answer questions about nature.
Investigators (ages 7–8, full-day)
Have fun in nature while learning about wildlife. Campers learn how to use scientific equipment including sweep nets, binoculars, and microscopes. Many Investigators themes include a canoe trip on the Ipswich River for a day of island adventure.
Naturalists (ages 9–11, full-day)
Have fun in nature while learning about wildlife. Campers enjoy daily hikes and make scientific observations at the sanctuary’s Rockery Pond, vernal pool, observation tower, and river. Many Naturalists themes include a canoe trip on the Ipswich River for a day of island adventure.
One- and two-week specialty sessions allow campers to develop their unique interests in focused areas of study. Campers are divided into two age groups: ages 7–8 and ages 9–11. Individual sessions are offered one or two weeks during the summer and include:
Predator Prowl (ages 7–8 and 9–11)
It’s not easy being a predator. Predators need to be strong, fast, cunning, and persistent to catch their prey. We’ll search for hawks, snakes, frogs, fish, and dragonflies that are on the hunt. Special activities will include canoeing on the Ipswich River and meeting live birds of prey.
A Closer Look (ages 7–8 and 9–11)
Take a closer look at nature by focusing on a new exciting topic each day. Campers will explore with a wildlife tracker to search for mammal signs and an insect specialist to learn amazing facts about butterflies. As a special day, the 7-8-year-old group will take a lobster boat cruise, and the 9-11-year-old group will experience a whale watch.
Super Scientists (ages 7–8 and 9–11)
Kids often dream of becoming scientists when they grow up, and this week they’ll do real science every day. Campers will catch and study insects up close, observe and feed wild birds, solve a nature mystery that will take them all over the sanctuary, and design their own experiments using real scientific tools.
Natural Landscape Art Week (ages 7–8 and 9–11)
Paint panoramas, draw backdrops, and collage the countryside vistas of the sanctuary this week. Campers will experiment with different techniques and various media such as watercolor and charcoal to create dynamic landscapes inspires by exploration of the sanctuary. Co-taught by an artist-educator and a naturalist. Families are invited to a Friday afternoon art show.
Animal Art Week (ages 7–8 and 9–11)
All the crawling, leaping, swimming, and soaring animals of the sanctuary will be our subjects for painting, drawing, sculpture, and more. We’ll investigate the trails to observe creatures, engage in activities and games to learn about their adaptations, and capture them in clay and on canvas. Co-taught by an artist-educator and a naturalist. Families are invited to a Friday afternoon art show.
Ipswich River Trekkers (ages 7–8 and 9–11)
Trekkers incorporate all the special activities and amazing locations our camp has to offer. Each group will spend a day learning how to paddle a canoe on the Ipswich River to Perkins Island. While on the island, we’ll have lunch, play games, and guild “gnome homes.” We’ll be mesmerized by Native American stories told by a wildlife rehabilitator and meet a live owl. Everyone will have a chance to visit the Rockery, vernal pool, stone bridge, and observation tower. At the end of each session, campers will play the camp favorite “Predator/Prey” game.
Teen Traveling Adventures (ages 12–14)
One-week, themed sessions focus on learning different outdoor skills in varying habitats, such as animal tracking in forests, hiking mountains, and canoeing through wetlands and marshes. Each session includes a special activity like canoeing to an island on the Ipswich River, an overnight at Wildwood camp, or a whale watch in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
Canoe Adventures (ages 12–14)
In these two, one-week sessions, campers will learn paddling techniques, water safety, and teamwork skills. During daily explorations on the Ipswich River, discover insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that live on the river’s islands and lurk in its backwaters. Second session includes a camp out on Perkins Island to enjoy s’mores over a campfire and observe nocturnal animals.
Counselors-in-Training (ages 14–16)
Ipswich River’s Counselors-in-Training program is for teens who are looking to gain experience working with children outdoors. Participate in training sessions, lead games, assist camp groups, and learn to teach activities. An application is required, and space is limited. Participants must commit to two consecutive weeks of camp. For more information and to request an application, please email us.\
Optional After Camp Program
Need a later pick-up? Our trained camp staff will supervise campers enrolled in our After Camp program, which is offered from 3-4 pm for campers enrolled in full-day sessions at Topsfield and Marblehead.
Preregistration is required. When registering online, you will be offered the chance to enroll during checkout.
Overnight Camp at Wildwood
Is your child ready to try an overnight camp experience? Check out Mass Audubon’s Wildwood Camp, located in Rindge, NH! With outdoor exploration programs for boys and girls ages 9–17, Wildwood is the perfect next step for your day camp-lover.
What Others Are Saying . . .
“I liked taking hikes, seeing ‘Godzilla,’ the big snapping turtle, and playing games.”—Camper
“Love, the counselors, love the activities—thank you for running a great camp.”—Camp Parent