Hidden Acres wants to be a place set apart to encounter Jesus.
So what is Hidden Acres?
Hidden Acres began as the dream of the 45 Evangelical Free Churches of the Central District. In the late 1970’s, a task force set out to find the perfect piece of property to build “their own camp.” In 1979, the group found 640 acres and began to raise funds to make the down payment. A program of “selling” acres to donors began in the summer of 1979, and by early fall nearly all the acres were pledged, which allowed the churches to go ahead with the $817,000 purchase. Papers were signed in October of 1979, and the Central District owned a piece of raw property: 500 acres of timber and 140 acres of farm ground. The only buildings on the grounds were a hog shed, a dilapidated barn, and a corn crib.
Before long, roads were built, utilities were brought onto the property, and a vision was cast. By 1983, a building was torn apart in Mason City and reassembled on the foundation of our current Main Lodge. Many volunteers poured hours into this project, only to see their dream go up in smoke in a 1983 Christmas Eve fire that burned the building to the ground. However, this proved to be a gift from the Lord; through insurance, a new and more functional building was completed by contractors by the spring of 1985. This new building allowed the camp to begin offering adult and family retreats immediately.
The first two weeks of summer camp were held at Hidden Acres in 1983 but it was not until 1985 that a complete summer camp program was held on the grounds. Throughout the 1980’s additional cabins were built and summer camp began to grow. In 1986, the first counseling staff of 12 was hired to handle the 60 campers we had each week. During the first summer of camp, 384 campers attended at Hidden Acres.
The next decade was a time of tremendous growth in facilities and camper numbers. By the end of the 1990’s, nearly 1900 campers were attending week-long summer camps and nearly 10,000 guests came to camp annually for retreats. Hidden Acres was hiring about 90 counselors each summer to handle the increase of campers. Many new buildings and program areas were built including a horse barn, the Climbing Tower, the Lake, the Bunkhouse, and the Johnson Lodge.
Hidden Acres didn’t stop growing. In the 2000’s, the camp continued to increase in buildings, staff, campers, and programs. The Welcome Center was built in 2001, the Family Life Center in 2006, and the Inn in 2008. During summer camp in 2009, 145 young people were hired to minister to the 300+ campers who attended camp each week. About 15,000 guests attended weekend retreats that year. Fifteen full-time staff were involved in making the camp “truly set apart” for the guests.
HIDDEN ACRES TODAY
Today, Hidden Acres is the largest camp in Iowa and one of the larger camps in the Midwest. In the past ten years we have added an additional horse barn, chapel, and lodge, a giant swing, two pastoral retreat cabins, and the 40,000 sq. ft. Dining Hall. Hidden Acres now covers 660 acres, has 50 buildings, and has housing for 900 guests (640 during winter months). There are also three ponds, an indoor swimming pool and gym, and 85 RV sites. Our full-time staff of 30 keeps the camp running smoothly for nearly 20,000 annual retreat guests. Most weekends are filled; the Lord has been good to us.
Hidden Acres’ Summer Camp programs have grown, too. We now offer regular ("Residential") camp as well as specialty camps and church day camps. Our summer staff team of over 180 serves more than 3,000 campers in seven weeks. We then become a rental facility for other summer camps, churches, businesses, and families throughout the rest of the year. Programming options cover many indoor and outdoor activities like horse rides, rock climbing, swimming, gym games, and pedal carts. We are thankful to the Lord that He has laid His hand on us and has directed our path over the years. Our prayer is that, through all of these buildings, staff, and programs, we might serve the Lord and bless your family, too.