Ipswich River Day Camp | 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, and beyond. Sessions run June–August. Small group sizes allow us to provide a high-quality educational experience and a welcoming, supportive environment.
- Half Day (am): 8:30–11:15 am (Discoverers, only)
- Half Day (pm): 12:15–3:00 pm (Discoverers, only)
- Full Day: 8:30 am–3:00 pm
- After Camp Option: 3:00–4:00 pm
One-week sessions blend outdoor exploration, hands-on activities, games, songs, and crafts. Many incorporate canoe trips on the beautiful, slow-flowing Ipswich River as well as visits to the sanctuary’s popular rockery. Age groups and themes include:
Discoverers (ages 4–5, half-day)
Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: 1 to 5
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.
2018 Themes: Furry Fun Time | Wetland Wonders
Young Naturalists (ages 5–6)
Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: 1 to 5
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.
2018 Themes: Call of the Wild | Crawly Creatures | Mammal Ramble | Water Watchers | Wildlife Detectives
Investigators (ages 7–8)
Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: 1 to 8
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.
2018 Themes: Carnivore Camp | Forest Foray | Island Investigation
Naturalists (ages 9–11)
Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: 1 to 8
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.
2018 Themes: Aqua Adventures | Fun with Nature Photography | Survival of the Fittest | Woods Walkers
One and two-week sessions allow campers to develop their unique interests in focused areas of study. Campers are divided into two age groups.
A Closer Look (1 week)
Take a closer look at nature by focusing on a new topic each day. Explore the sanctuary 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-and 8-year-old group will take a lobster boat cruise, while the 9–11-year-old group experiences a whale watch.
Animal Art (1 week)
All the 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 their likeness in clay and on canvas. This session will be co-taught by an artist-educator and a naturalist. Families are invited to a Friday afternoon art show.
Into the Wild (1 week)
The wilds of Topsfield are rich with wildlife. Using nets, microscopes, and binoculars, we’ll search for interesting insects, fantastic flowers, beautiful birds, awesome amphibians, and more. Go canoeing on the Ipswich River and meet live birds of prey with rehabilitator Pat Bade.
Ipswich River Trekkers (2 weeks)
Spend a day learning how to paddle a canoe on the Ipswich River to Perkins Island. Once there, we’ll have lunch, play games, and build gnome homes. Listen to Native American stories told by wildlife rehabilitator Pat Bade, and meet one of her live owls. Campers will visit all of the amazing locations our sanctuary has to offer, including the Rockery, vernal pool, the stone bridge, and the observation tower. At the end of each session, campers will play the camp favorite Predator/Prey game. New This Summer: Raptor rehabilitator Jane Kelly, owner/operator of "On the Wing," will present live hawks and falcons.
Natural Landscape Art (1 week)
Paint panoramas, draw backdrops, and collage countryside vistas this week. Campers will experiment with different techniques and various media such as watercolor and charcoal to create dynamic landscapes inspired by exploration of the sanctuary. This session will be co-taught by an artist-educator and a naturalist. Families are invited to a Friday afternoon art show.
Super Scientists (1 week)
Kids dream of becoming scientists when they grow up, and this week they’ll do real science. Catch and study insects up close, observe and feed wild birds, solve a nature mystery, and design experiments using real scientific tools.
One-week sessions focus on learning different outdoor skills in varying habitats. Each includes a special activity.
Nature Photography (1 week)
Improve your photography skills as we trek near and far to capture the natural world with our cameras. Learn tricks to improve your pictures of landscapes and wildlife. Travel to Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary in Gloucester, and Mount Agamenticus in Maine to photograph amazing scenery, plants, and animals. While in Maine we’ll have a special visit at the Center for Wildlife to photograph their animal ambassadors! Please Note: Campers must bring their own digital camera.
Mountaintops (1 week)
Hiking is on the agenda for this fun week. Take day trips to Tippling Rock in Sudbury and the boulder field at Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire. Head to Wildwood, Mass Audubon’s overnight camp in Rindge, New Hampshire, where we’ll hike nearby Mount Monadnock and paddle on Lake Hubbard. Enjoy an evening of s’mores around the campfire and camp out in tents.
One-week sessions led by staff who have been trained in Water Rescue and Small Craft Safety.
Ipswich River Adventures (1 week)
Learning to canoe opens up another world along the Ipswich River that is usually out of reach. Learn paddling techniques, water safety, and teamwork skills as you explore the river and its islands. Discover different insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that live on various islands and lurk in the backwaters of the river. Please Note: Program participants must know how to swim.
Further River Adventures (1 week)
Paddle less-visited sections of the Ipswich River while searching for frogs, turtles, fish, and other animals that inhabit its banks and islands. Cool off in the river with daily dips and learn watercraft safety skills. An overnight campout on Perkins Island will highlight this week as we pitch tents, enjoy s’mores around a campfire, and observe nocturnal animals such as owl, bats, and beavers. Please Note: Program participants must know how to swim.
Counselors-in-Training (ages 14–16)
Our Counselors-in-Training (CIT) program is for teens who want to gain experience working with children in an outdoor setting. Participate in lesson development trainings, lead games, assist camp groups, and learn to teach activities.
An application is required, and space is limited. For more information and an application, contact the Camp Director.
After Camp Option
Need a later pick-up? Our trained camp staff will supervise campers enrolled in full-day sessions at our Topsfield and Marblehead locations.
Separate 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 Parents & Campers Are Saying . . .
“Keep up the amazing work! My daughter was inspired and thrilled each day!”
“My son LOVES this camp—more than any other camp he has ever attended.”
“My son had an amazing week, and even gave his counselors hugs before he left.”