Photo circa 1948
“Some things never change”

A Short History of Swan Lake Christian Camp

The county register of deeds shows that on December 18th, 1940, Jens and Emma Jensen sold part of their homestead to the South Dakota Baptist Convention. These Baptist worked to build up a campground for their young people and named this facility “Swan Lake Christian Camp” in May of 1942.

During this time, a retired railroad chapel car was brought to the camp. The “Emmanuel” rail car was commissioned in 1893 as part of the American Baptist’s efforts to provide ministers and churches to the opening west. As churches were built and the railroads waned in importance, this rail car moved from the steel tracks to a tract of land just west of the present dining hall and north of the current chapel. This rail car served as the worship center at Swan Lake Christian Camp until around 1955 when it was moved again and finally ended up at the Prairie Village near Madison, South Dakota. For more information, you can follow this link –

The camp changed ownership at this time as it was purchased by the Northern District Conference of the Mennonite Church. People still remember that the shower water was heated by the sun in a tank on the roof of the shower house. In 1964, a tornado hit the camp and destroyed many of its buildings. This was a point of real decision. Support for the camp was finally realized by the number of volunteers that turned out to help with clean up and rebuilding. People from Viborg joined those from the Mennonite communities to clear away the debris and camp resumed a couple of weeks later.

In 1999, The Northern District Conference of the Mennonite Church reorganized to include churches from the General Conference and the Mennonite Church. This reorganization affected Swan Lake Christian Camp in that it now formed its own 501-C3 non-profit organization recognized by the state of South Dakota. Swan Lake Christian Camp is still affiliated with the Mennonite Church and still continues to teach from an Anabaptist perspective. However, the camp is now governed by an elected board of directors.

People from all church denominations are welcome at Swan Lake Christian Camp. Our goal is to strive to teach others about Jesus Christ and to model an active growing Christian relationship to all who use our facilities. Come, be a part of this rich heritage in Christian Camping on the shores of Swan Lake.