Located in Boone, North Carolina, Turtle Island Preserve is a nonprofit educational nature center offering camp and workshop programming geared toward helping visitors reconnect with natural environments and traditional farming and hunting practices. Turtle Island Preserve is the vision of North Carolina native Dr. Eustace Conway III, the grandson of Camp Sequoyah founder Chief Johnson. Conway’s love for the outdoors was fostered at a young age, influenced by the work of his maternal grandfather and by childhood experiences on extended hiking trips with his father.
Opened in 1987, Turtle Island Preserve follows along the foundations of the Sequoyah program’s ideals about outdoor camping, hiking, and traditional living practices, encouraging visitors to enter into a more harmonious relationship with their natural surroundings and teaching skills foreign to modern urban life. The campsite is named Turtle Island in honor of various indigenous creation legends about Earth’s lands being formed by a giant turtle rising from the oceans to support ecosystems on the terrain of its shell.
Permanent Attractions and Workshops
Today, Turtle Island Preserve is operated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, serving as an environmental education center and natural wildlife preserve. The 1,000-acre campsite is located near Boone, North Carolina and offers a variety of public workshops and retreat experiences geared toward providing visitors with a comprehensive and respectful understanding of nature and the traditional practices of rural Americans and indigenous cultures. Set in a remote valley area surrounded by dense forests, workshop participants are given an opportunity to “walk back in time” and learn a variety of traditional farming, camping, and outdoorsman skills in an old-fashioned farmstead environment.
All buildings and structures within the campsite were constructed by hand by Turtle Island Preserve employees and crafted to evoke the architecture of early American settler farmhouse living. Visitor accommodations are housed within primitive log houses and tents, and all restroom facilities on site are comprised of traditional outhouse facilities. Other features on site include a hand-built covered bridge, natural fire campsites for cooking, and a large open preserve area for hunting and gathering. The facility is structured around ideas of natural ecological sustainability, and all workshops teach conservation practices that can be incorporated into daily life after returning home.
Standard scheduled workshops at the facility include Blacksmithing Weekends, which offer two-day experiences with professional blacksmiths and crafting teachers and highlight 18th- and 19th-century foundational techniques. Adult workshop participants are offered an opportunity to make a hoof pick, fire poker, or candle holder to take home after the workshop.Hide Tanning workshops are also offered periodically, providing participants with chances to use wet-scrape brain tanning methods to create buckskins out of white-tailed deer hides in a three-day workshop setting. At Honeybees and Crafting Meads workshops, open to participants ages 21 and older, craft brewing techniques for creating brews with natural honey over open flames are explored.
A variety of special workshops offer opportunities for the entire family, including a Woods Woman 101 workshop series, which provides safe opportunities for female participants to use traditional tools and practice cooking and medicinal skills over open campfire flames, and a Father/Son Camp that may be tailored to fit family dynamics of individual groups.Boys and Girls Camps are offered throughout the summer months, providing opportunities for youth aged 7-18 to learn traditional blacksmithing, basket weaving, goat milking, and cooking skills and embark on group hikes and fishing excursions.
Educational School Camps offer school field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school students, and distance learning outreach programs bring natural concepts directly into the classroom with owl pellet dissection labs and composting workshops.University Discovery Camps are also offered for college students, featuring workshops focusing on concepts of permaculture, off-grid living, alternative energy sources, and historical studies related to traditional Appalachian lore. College service learning opportunities also allow groups of 12 or more chances to work on gardening, wildlife maintenance, and animal care projects. Scout retreats are also offered for groups of up to 100.
All camp visitation is conducted through standard scheduled workshops or by special appointment for small groups and organizations. Lodging, meals, and required tools and materials are provided as part of camp fees. In addition to standard scheduled workshops, visitor groups of 12 or more may arrange custom camp experiences tailored to individual needs by contacting the facility directly via phone or email several weeks in advance of expected workshop date. Special arrangements must be made in advance for visitors wishing to bring pets to workshops. In accordance with North Carolina law, all workshop participants must sign medical and liability waivers prior to attendance. Visitors may also purchase several educational works by Conway on site at the campsite, including instructional videos, informational booklets, and a documentary about the facility by Mobius Films, titled “Reconvergence.”
2683 Little Laurel Rd, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-265-2267