Great Mountain Forest and the Yale Camp

The Yale Camp at Great Mountain Forest in the Litchfield Hills of northwest Connecticut, deeded to Yale by the Childs Family in 1940, is located in the middle of the 6,500 acre Great Mountain Forest which is under the trust and care of the Great Mountain Forest Corporation and the Childs Family.

What is now a heavily forested landscape was once almost completely cut over for farming and charcoal production.  There are signs of past land use everywhere, if you know what to look for and how to interpret them.  And there are remnants of the old forest which managed to avoid the woodcutters axe.  All in all, a place where history can be gleaned from knowing how to read the land, and listening to the stories of folks who have been on this land for generations.

By learning about the lives of the two men who established what they intended initially as a hunting camp in Norfolk, we may come to realize that the values and imagination that nurtured their creation of Great Mountain Forest were shaped by their shared undergraduate experience at Yale College in the Class of 1891. Frederic Walcott had deep ties to Norfolk. At Yale he began a lifelong friendship with Starling Childs, with whom he founded a securities trading firm and also shared a passion for hunting ducks and upland game. Together they acquired, forested and stocked an ever expanding wildlife habitat that we now enjoy, and all the while maintained their love of Yale, a comradeship with its students, faculty and staff, and an enduring commitment to supporting the University’s mission.  Frederic Walcott, who later served as a U.S. senator, maintained a lifelong commitment to the environment, and served as President of the Connecticut Board of Fisheries and Game.

Although the nearly eight acres on which the Yale Camp sits was not deeded to Yale until 1940 the intent that Yale students and faculty enjoy the richness of Great Mountain Forest clearly was part of the vision that motivated Childs and Walcott from the very beginning of their plans for the forest.

 The task of maintaining the Yale Camp at Great Mountain Forest is largely the responsibility of Russell Russ of the Great Mountain Forest Corporation, and without his continual help and cooperation it would not be possible to enjoy this outstanding facility.

Note:  Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). Content posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School’s name at that time.