Echo Hill Outdoor School's summer EXPLORE programs turns 40

Echo Hill Outdoor School’s summer EXPLORE programs turn 40 this summer. The programs offer children the opportunity to learn on the water, whether that be in a canoe, skipjack or buyboat trip.

CHESTERTOWN — This summer marks the 40th anniversary of Echo Hill Outdoor School’s summer EXPLORE programs.

Since 1979, more than 34,000 children have experienced the magic of the Chester River through EHOS’ immersive on-the-water canoe, skipjack and buyboat trips, as well as land-based programming, a news release states.

EXPLORE started as an extension of EHOS’ existing school programming — a way to continue involving children in freeform nature experiences year-round.

The first summer offered participants a chance to canoe and camp on the Chester River, and by 1983, the program was successful enough to expand to on-board camping experiences with two classic Bay workboats, the Annie D and the Bernice J.

By 1988, the skipjack Elsworth replaced the aging Bernice J, and since then, the EXPLORE programs have operated with the same recipe every summer — take a group of children, add the Chester River and a fleet of workboats or canoes, mix in a healthy dose of swimming, fishing and exploring, and you’ve got an unforgettable summer experience, the release states.

Captain Andrew McCown, associate director of Echo Hill Outdoor School, has been working the summer EXPLORE programs since he started the program in 1979, and is a strong believer in the power of a “Huck Finn” learning experience.

“After 40 years, my takeaway is that we’re fortunate to have a river that looks the way it does, that in the middle of the week with a group of kids it can feel the way it did 100 years ago,” said McCown. “On EXPLORE programs, we learn about the stars by sleeping under them, learn about fish by catching and preparing them, eat crabs when we’re hungry and sail when the wind is right. Every EXPLORE student really gets to experience the Land of Pleasant Living.”

This summer’s 40th EXPLORE session still has availability for interested participants. Children can enjoy a three-day camping trip, four- and five-day canoe trips, or five-day skipjack and buyboat trips. Parents or guardians can find out more by visiting or by calling 410-348-5880.

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