Camp Bethel board announces purchase of Shell Creek Guest Ranch

Barbara Anne Greene

After much prayer and tears, the Camp Bethel Board voted unanimously to relocate Camp Bethel off federal land to private land. The board has since purchased the Shell Creek Guest Ranch. The ranch is located 45 minutes west of the current facility.

Bethel was established in 1944 on leased federal land west of Lake Sibley. The decision to move was based on several factors. One was the limits put on camp expansion, as there are only 14 acres at the current location.

The ranch has about 80 deeded acres and approximately 1,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management leased land. Shell Creek runs through the property.

Another factor of the decision was the cost of doing businesses on the mountain as far as building, supplies, permitting, etc. The board also discussed if they should continue to invest in property that is not owned and therefore is controlled by someone else.

A huge factor in the purchase was that Bethel received $1,038,000 from the Wanda and John Steinle Estate last summer. They attended the First Baptist Church in Thermopolis. Because of their great love of children, they chose to bless Bethel.

Bethel put $1 million down on the ranch. The remaining $350,000 is being financed. The party carrying the note has offered no payments and no interest for the first year. This will give Bethel an opportunity to fundraise.

A bonus of the new location is that Bethel will be able to expand its couples and families ministries. The ranch has a six-unit motel, a three-until motel, a dining hall with a commercial kitchen and capability of serving 40-50 people, and two homes for staff.

The plans are to use the current facilities for couples/families. Cabins, chapel, dining room etc., for youth camps will be built in a field below the current facilities.

Summer camp this year will be held on the mountain if COVID-19 restrictions allow and if the sale of the current location allows. Camp Bethel has been listed for sale. This sale is for the title of improvements. Anyone seeking additional information may call Tim Huff, 307-655-7021.