From Camp Moraine to New York Point

Published 11:10 am Saturday, May 1, 2010

Here’s an interesting question for area walkers, bikers and hikers. What’s the distance from Camp Moraine to New York Point out in Myre-Big Island State Park? The answer is zero. In reality, both names apply to the same peninsular area within the park that’s been a popular campground for several generations.

In reality, this particular part of the shoreline of Albert Lea Lake has had several names. One, now unknown, was likely used by the region’s original inhabitants — the Native Americans or Indians. Next came the label of New York Point. Then in the era somewhat prior to the 1920s, the peninsula’s name was changed to Morraine Point.

The person who became closely associated with the Morraine name was Albert Lea banker Alfred Christopherson. In fact, he owned the lakeshore property in this area, according to several county plat books. The use of the Morraine name was emphasized in an article about Christopherson in the June 3, 1926, issue of the Freeborn County Standard.

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However, the word “morraine” is a misspelling of the word “moraine.” A dictionary description of moraine states it is a “an accumulation of earth and stones left by a glacier.”

The real use of this lakeside location as a campground started with J.M. Snyder, who became secretary of the Albert Lea YMCA in 1928. Within a decade or two, Camp Moraine became a popular outdoor destination for area youngsters.

A Tribune article in 1962 said this camp had accommodations for 60 boys weekly with eight counselors and two cooks. Among the camp’s activities, depending on the weather, were swimming in the lake, archery, target shooting, boating, various outdoor crafts, games and presenting Friday evening programs for the parents.

To the east of the former Camp Moraine site is another landmark on Albert Lea Lake known as Big Island. In 1953, this island became a part of Helmer Myre State Park, named to honor the memory of a former state senator, Freeborn County sheriff and world wrestling champion. About 1967, Camp Moraine became a part of the expanding state park property. And in time the YMCA camp activities dwindled away and all the cabins were demolished.

In 1985, the state park’s bulletin announced a name change for this peninsula location with these comments:

“The rehabilitation work at the group camp has been accompanied by a name change for the camp. The group camp is now known as New York Point. The name was changed to give the area a more inviting title and to bring alive some of the history of the park. The previous name, Camp Moraine, is somewhat misleading in that the area may not be a moraine and the previous name sounded more like a military installation than a recreation area.

New York Point is an old name used to designate the area used by some sportsmen from New York. This activity occurred in the early part of this century (the 1900s). The New Yorkers would come here by train and fish in the spring and hunt in the fall off the point in Albert Lea Lake.

“These people were actually carrying on activities that had been going on at the point for about 8,000 years. There is evidence that the point was a living site in prehistoric times. Selecting good places to hunt and fish hasn’t changed much over the years.”

Another name change for this portion of Albert Lea and Hayward Townships came in 1990 when the state legislature approved the present title of Myre-Big Island State Park.

At the present time only two permanent buildings are located at what’s evolved into the New York Point Group Camp. One is the dining hall or main lodge. The second is the craft hall. There are also flush toilets, showers, fire rings and tent sites. The dining hall has running water, gas stove and refrigerator.

This part of the state park is open for camping from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Among the groups using this particular area, as cited by a park ranger, are church youth organizations, the Crossroads Campers and Salvation Army groups.