Ipswich River Nature Day Camps | Topsfield Program Descriptions & Hours

Campers at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

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.

Camp Hours

  • Half Day (am): 8:30–11:15 am (Discoverers)
  • Half Day (pm): 12:15–3:00 pm (Discoverers)
  • Full Day: 8:30 am–3:00 pm
  • After Camp Option: 3:00–4:00 pm

Theme SessionsSpecial Interest Camps │ Trekkers │ Traveling Adventures 
Canoe Adventures │ Counselors-in-Training │ Extended-Day Option


Theme Sessions • Ages 4–11

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
Designed for our youngest campers, these sessions encourage them 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.
2019 Sessions: Things With Wings | Squish Squash

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. 
2019 Sessions: Cool, Colorful Critters | A Buggy Good Time | Animal Instincts | On Safari | Call of the Wild

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 sessions include a canoe trip on the Ipswich River for a day of island adventure.
2019 Sessions: Carnivore Camp | Wily Wetland Predators | Herpetology Time

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 sessions include a canoe trip on the Ipswich River for a day of island adventure.
2019 Sessions: Predator Prowl | Into the Wild | Reptile Roundup | Fun with Nature Photography


Special Interest Camps • Ages 7–11

Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: 1 to 8

River Ramble
June 24–28 Ages 7–8 & 9–11
Canoe to not one but two islands located along the Ipswich River! Families always ask us for more canoe trips, and this session won’t disappoint. We’ll canoe upstream to Perkins Island, build ever-popular “gnome homes,” and take a second boat trip downstream to Colt Island to play camouflage and for more island investigations. 

A Closer Look
August 5–9 Ages 7–8 & 9–11
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, campers ages 7–8 will take a lobster boat cruise, while campers ages 9–11 will experience a whale watch.

Super Scientists
August 12–16 Ages 7–8 & 9–11
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.

Natural Landscape Art
August 5–9 Ages 7–11
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.

Animal Art
August 12–16 Ages 7–11
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.


Trekkers • Ages 7–11

Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: 1 to 8

Session 1 (July 8–19) │ Session 2 (July 22–August 2)
Spend a day learning how to canoe on the Ipswich River and paddle to Perkins Island. Once there, we’ll have lunch, play games, and build gnome homes. Listen to Native American stories told by storyteller, Pat Bade. 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, play the camp favorite "Predator/Prey" game. Campers will be grouped by age, and the activities will be appropriate to their age level.

NEW! Special guest Rick Roth, Director of the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team, will give his amazing live reptile presentation.


Traveling Adventures • Ages 12–14

Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: 1 to 6

Nature Photography (July 15–19) → NEW Exciting Locations!
Take your photography skills to the next level as we trek to capture the natural world with our cameras. Learn tricks to improve our pictures of mountaintop vistas, forested trails, coastal landscapes, and wildlife action shots as we visit the Middlesex Fells Reservation, Great Bay National Reserve in New Hampshire, and Mount Agamenticus in Maine. While in Maine we’ll have a special private tour of the Center for Wildlife. Campers will have an extraordinary opportunity to get up close and photograph owls, falcons, and other animal ambassadors!

Mountaintops (July 22–26)
Hiking is on the agenda for this week of Teen Travels. We’ll take day trips to the Overlook Trail in Lynn Woods and the boulder field at Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire. On Thursday, we’ll head north to Wildwood, Mass Audubon’s overnight camp in Rindge, NH, where we’ll hike nearby Mount Monadnock and paddle canoes on Hubbard Pond. The group will camp out Thursday night and enjoy an evening of storytelling and s’mores around the campfire.


Canoe Adventures • Ages 12–14

Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: 1 to 6

Ipswich River Adventures (August 5–9)
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.

Further River Adventure (August 12–16)
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 owls, bats, and beavers.


Counselors-In-Training • Ages 14–16

June 24–July 5 | July 8–19 | July 22–August 2 

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.


Extended-Day Option

After Camp • Monday–Friday (3:00–4:00 pm)

We offer an optional extended day program for campers enrolled in full-day sessions at Topsfield and Marblehead.

Separate preregistration is required. When registering online, you will be offered the chance to enroll during checkout.


Overnight Camp at Wildwood

Wildwood logo

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.”