There had long been a need for a camp for the Boy Scouts and other youth organizations in the area. In the fall of 1919 the Kiwanis Club of Saginaw decided to purchase a site and build and equip a cabin for Saginaw youngsters within hiking distance of the city. At a luncheon meeting on October 30th, the club voted to proceed with the project. Through the generosity of three public spirited Saginaw citizens, the idea gained momentum and developed into the assurance of a beautiful piece of forest for the use of the public.
Arthur D. Eddy, William B Mershon Sr., and Henery J. Gilbert, coorporating with the Kiwanis, took over the Bernthal tract of 66.66 acres on the Cass River eight miles south of Saginaw. The land included 40 acres of woods fronting the river and 26 cleared acres. The idea of public woods was developed by the Kiwanis Club following the general disappointment over the cutting of Cook's grove, which had been a popular spot for Saginaw residents. Mr. Eddy, Mr. Mershon, and Mr. Gilbert visited the land, on which an option of $ 9,000 had been obtained. They were much impressed with the beauty of the spot, and their financial support followed. The woods provide an ideal recreation area and perpetuates one of the few stands of fine timber remaining in this part of the state. The Kiwanis Club had planned to purchase only a few acres to provide a site for the cabin, but the action of Messrs, Eddy, Mershon, and Gilbert made the entire tract available to thousands of Saginaw youngsters-scouts and numerous other organized youth groups.
Old Smokey, the first cabin built, began to take noticable shape on May 13, 1920 when more than 60 Kiwaninians turned out and transformed a pile of rough tamarack logs into the frame-work of the cabin. The log raising was the first big step toward the development of Camp Kiwanis. It was designed by Clarence L. Cowles, and the construction was under the direction of O.W. Jenkins. There was no record of the cash outlay for the cabin. The structure, measuring 40 feet x 20 feet, provided sleeping quarters for 28 boys, a large living room with a huge stone fireplace, a lean-to kitchen, and a screened-in porch.
The immediate popularity of the camp resulted in the need for larger accomodations. In May, 1923, a farm building was converted into Sycamore Lodge. In October 1935, Little Hawk was built to replace the temporary Sycamore Lodge. Little Hawn was situated on the bank of the Cass, west of Old Smokey. The cash outlay for Little Hawk was $ 1,095. No coast information is available on Sycamore Lodge.
The third cabin, Wanigas Lodge, was erected in 1951, and was valued at more than $ 4,000. Largest of the three units, it is 48 feet x 18 feet and has sleeping accomodations for 24 boys. The building is of vertical half-log construction in a natural finish. Materials for the concrete slab foundation were contributed by Frank W. Andersen, and the metal lining for the asphalt shingles were a gift of Harold M. Dooley. Total cash outlay by the Kiwanis Club for the Lodge was $ 3,536.
In the 1970's students from Saginaw High School constructed a fourth cabin known as Sinawik.