Contract Dates & Salary Information

All staff contracts run for approximately 10 weeks, from early June through late August.

Position Type Contract Dates Salary
Department Staff June 9-13 through Aug 24 $2,100
Unit Leaders June 13 through Aug 24 $2,500
Single Department Heads June 13 through Aug 24 $2,400
COPS/Challenge Course/Climbing Directors June 8 through Aug 24 $2,700
Craftshop/Waterfront Directors June 9 through Aug 24 $3,000

Admin, Nurse, Kitchen Manager and Cook positions are special contract positions. Salary is determined during interview process. For these positions, all contracts start by June 9th.

Frequently Asked Questions

Besides my salary, what are the benefits of working for Camp Nor’wester?

Staff Info 1We expect that all of our staff take the opportunity to positively impact children in an outdoor setting seriously. Working with children at camp will lead to your own personal growth – build your confidence, better knowledge of camp and possibly trip skills, experience in conflict mediation/resolution, experience in designing or building a program (within your department or for your camper unit), peer communication, community building, giving and receiving feedback, develop your leadership skills, and more.

The Nor’wester community is deep and strong – with over 80 years of offering camp experiences for children, the alumni network is very rich. Nor’wester connections are made all over the world and can often lead to further employment and enrichment opportunities beyond camp.

We also have pro-deal accounts with certain retailers, including Chaco.

What certifications do I need to work at camp?


Besides that, we do encourage all staff to consider advanced certifications like Wilderness First Aid or Lifeguarding, and we do offer pre-camp trainings in WFA and WLGT to help support staff in getting them. All Waterfront staff must be LGT certified, and we highly encourage Unit Leaders to be trained as a Lifeguard as well. Wilderness First Responder is also a great course, especially those likely going on trips. Staff with “advanced” trainings beyond First Aid and CPR receive a stipend, dependent on the certification type.

How much training do I get before the campers arrive?

Staff Info 2We have a two-week Staff Training prior to campers arriving. A large part of the time is spent in seminars and practice sessions, where staff members receive information on camp policies and practices as well as get practical training in emergency response, age group characteristics, and conflict resolution. Department staff will be evaluated on their respective skills and Unit Staff will receive in-depth training on group management. In addition, the time is used to set up camp, getting departments ready, and taking supplies and equipment out of storage. Community development within the staff is also a large focus, including compassionate communication practice and giving feedback, so we are all on the same page before the campers arrive.

Where exactly is the property located?

We are located in the San Juan Archipelago in Washington State. The islands are approximately 70 miles north of Seattle. Johns Island is a small non-ferry served island on the western edge of the Archipelago, just east of Stuart Island and north of Spieden Island. On a mapping search engine like Google Maps, search for “Johns Island, Washington”. Scroll in and out to see where the San Juan Islands are located in relation to Seattle. Johns Island is 3.5 miles north of Roche Harbor, next to Stuart Island.

Where do most campers and staff come from?

About 50% of our campers come from Washington State, 20% from Oregon, 15% from California with the remainder coming from across the United States and internationally.

Staff members are more diverse geographically. Many past campers who return as staff will come from Washington, Oregon, and other parts of the west coast, but we hire staff from all over the country and usually 6-8 from abroad each year.

What does a typical day look like?

Staff Info 3In general, the day begins at around 7:30am and ends around 10:30pm. Everyone comes to breakfast at 8:00am and morning activities start at 10:00am. There are two one-hour activity periods in the morning, lunch at 12:30, a rest period from 1:30ish to 2:30, followed by either 3 one-hour, or 2 ninety-minute activity periods. Dinner is at 6:00pm and evening activities begin around 7:30pm.

Unit Leaders attend daytime activities with their unit, while Department Staff provide instruction to the various units coming to their department. All staff help with supervision at meal times, and evening activities are supervised by a combination of Unit and Department Staff, as assigned by the Head Counselors.

How should I plan to get to camp? Do I need to bring a car?

Whether you’re flying from across the country or driving up from Seattle, all staff are responsible for getting to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal in time to board the designated ferry specified by the camp office on your contract start date. There will likely be other staff (new and returning) on that same ferry, carrying their trunks and luggage with them. We try to help people connect ahead of time to make carpool plans – use the staff Facebook group for this.

Typically less than 30% of staff bring cars to camp. If you do, you’ll be parking your car for the summer at Roche Harbor, on the north end of San Juan Island, since the camp property is only accessible by boat. On time-off, you can use your car to get around San Juan, and everyone is willing to give others a ride to and from town. The cost for parking for the summer is $150, and can be deducted from your final paycheck.

For certain arrival days, we send a camp representative over to Anacortes to meet walk-on passengers in the parking lot so they can load their luggage into a van and avoid having to carry it on and off the ferry. Once the ferry reaches Friday Harbor, staff drivers will head up to Roche in time to unload, park and meet the barge to camp. Walk-on passengers (who do not have a seat in a vehicle already) will be met by a camp representative at the ferry terminal and will ride in a camp van to Roche. Then we all get on the barge for the 30-minute ride to camp!

What about Time Off?

Staff Info 4Working at camp 24/7 is a very demanding effort that requires a lot from all of us. We recognize this and ask you to do so before committing to a summer of employment. All staff receive 66 hours of time off (or eleven six-hour blocks of time with the possibility of combining them) during both camper sessions. Changeover is a 48-hour period of time off (off-property) between the sessions. Each staff member also has two “nights off” per week, from the time after dinner to 9:45pm. In addition, there is a schedule of supervisory duties for each staff living in a unit, to cover rest-hours (after lunch) and night time supervision each day. The frequency of these duties depends on your position but otherwise you will have rest-hours and the 10-11pm hour free.

Off-property time off typically means taking a boat shuttle driven by our skippers from Johns to Roche Harbor and staying on San Juan Island overnight. You may choose to stay or return to property on the evening boat, if the schedule allows, but most staff will spend the majority of their time off on San Juan. Staff share rides to and from town, and the hitchhiking culture is pretty developed and safe in the islands. You will almost never be on time off alone, so there will always be someone else to connect with. Visit Friday Harbor, buy some “necessary” treats at the grocery store, see a movie or spend the afternoon on one of the island’s beautiful beaches. There are tons of great restaurants around town. Most staff will plan to camp together for the night, or perhaps reserve a hotel room with a few friends. We hope time off is helpful to you – mentally and physically – so that you can return to camp ready to be back “on” with campers.

What will living accommodations be like? Will I have access to laundry facilities on the island?

One of the best perks at Nor’wester is getting to live in a tipi! All staff will be assigned to live with one of the camper units, and will have supervisory duties to that unit from time to time. Most staff live three to a tipi, and there are usually two staff tipis in each unit, so six total staff. You will have your own bed frame and mattress, and you are responsible for your own linens. Most staff use their sleeping bags; some bring a fitted sheet or light blankets to make it a bit more “homey.” Weather is pretty moderate in the San Juans in the summer overall – temps cooler in June but warm up to the 80s daily in July and August. We all arrange our belongings in the tipi differently – some keep everything in their trunks, others build shelves or hang items with hangers or fabric closet organizers. Again, use the staff Facebook group for suggestions.

Laundry facilities are available on island – there is no charge, but we all must use and respect the Laundry room under the same guidelines: respect the line, your parent doesn’t work here, please consider helping out a co-worker by moving their laundry through and good karma is earned by taking time to sweep the floor! Staff are expected to do their laundry in their “free” times, and usually we all help each other out and move things through so you might be surprised with a clean and folded load when you get back.

Is there phone or internet access on property?

Being in such a remote location, there is very limited cell phone service on Johns, although it is growing. Since we have a strict no-technology policy for campers, staff are not allowed to use their personal cell phones or electronic devices in front of campers or while on duty except in cases of emergency or with express permission of the Directors. During free times, there are spots on the island away from main camp where staff do pick up service, however for the most part staff wait until TO to call friends and family. There is an office phone available to staff after dinner when not on duty if needed, and we can often set up a time for a job/school related call during the day on a case-by-case basis.

Staff can also access the internet via one of our staff computers in the office when off-duty. Our satellite internet service is limited, so we have for a 10-minute limit, especially when others are waiting. Again, we can set up a specific time for you to use a computer for job/school related needs.

Many businesses in Friday Harbor have free Wi-Fi and the Library is open most days of the week for staff on time-off.

Staff Testimonials

When I attended the camp over many summers, I realized this was the community of people I wanted to put myself in. The atmosphere of the camp always brings a smile to my face, and happy thoughts to my mind. Working long hours with people you love being around, laughing and singing isn’t work in my eyes, it’s an experience that you can’t find anywhere else.
5-year Camper, 1st year Staff
Camp Nor’wester is the best place that I have ever worked. This isn’t because of the job (although that was fun, too) but because of the openness, support, and just general kindness/respect given to you by the staff team.
1st year Staff
Spending three months outside, sleeping in a tipi and sharing what I love most with others is worth little pay and long hours. There are so many in our world today who don’t understand what being outdoors can do to a person. Outdoors we are our most real and authentic selves. From this place of honesty there can be so much change and growth.