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From the beginning of the River Mountain land development process, we've had 3 goals in mind...

  • Don’t disturb the land and its beauty. Make sure all of our new and renovated structures flow with the land;
  • Be authentic to the property’s south central Pennsylvania roots;
  • Find great partners who share our vision.

With the permitting process now behind us (thank you Southampton Township and Bedford County!) and construction beginning next week, we're on our way to realizing our goals. I thought it would be interesting to let everyone know what we've been up to and where we're headed...

The decision on where to place the retreat cabins and the design of the structures probably took the most time to figure out. Where we ultimately landed was because of the vision of Terry Squyres, Principal at GWWO Architects in Baltimore. 

Terry advised a beautiful spot in a meadow that sits at the base of a hill below what we call “Forest 1”. A stream runs through the forest there, with a beautiful, wild meadow and Warriors Ridge to the east. There was a  reason Terry loved this spot; she had a vision for our cabins that was a game changer. She envisioned 4 modern cabins, each designed with Circadian Rhythms in mind. Each cabin would face east with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing for each guest to “wake with the sun” as the morning light rises over Warriors Ridge. What a complete, 180 degree different experience for kids compared to the blue light and sleep issues of cellphones (one of the items we discuss in depth during retreats!). Next, she suggested adding individual skylights above each guest’s bunk so they could see the stars as they go to sleep (If you haven’t read our blog about the night sky at River Mountain, please do. I can’t even begin to express how beautiful they are). And finally, each bunk would have its own window facing the woods that could be opened by guests to hear the sounds of the stream flowing nearby. We loved this final design element, as research has shown that proximity to water, and the sound of water, is associated with many positive benefits for the body and mind.

I could go on for days about how cool the cabins are. I really could. I think this quote from Terry for a PR piece she did sums up her vision perfectly...

“River Mountain’s vision inspired us to create an environment throughout the site and buildings that fosters a restorative relationship with nature,” says design principal Terry Squyres, AIA. “Central to that concept is architecture that is designed to reconnect River Mountain’s guests to their natural circadian rhythms, with a focus on natural daylighting, fresh air, and spaces that support the retreat’s daily routines of adventure and reflection.”

The River Mountain team is very thankful to Terry, Alan, Bob, Eric, Al and everyone at GWWO for their wonderful work on our project.

When it came to the next step - choosing a contractor - we wanted to find a group who a) understood our retreat vision and minimal impact construction goals, and b) a group with the craftsmanship expertise to tackle the renovation work on our “Main Campus”. Main Campus includes our registration building, our activity barn (a beautiful 19th century, Mennonite constructed barn), and a historic 1807 log home that will serve as our dining hall.

After a lot of research and interviews, we chose Quarry View Building Group. During our first meeting with Quarry founders and brothers, Ben and Levi King, we knew they shared our passion for getting kids off tech, and they definitely understood the craftsmanship needed to improve and renovate several of our existing structures. With Amish roots planted in the soil and their expertise in the building and restoration of agrarian structures, partnering with Ben and Levi on our River Mountain build out was a no brainer. 

Below are a couple quotes from Quarry View’s blog that do a great job explaining the historic structures we’re excited to be working on...

“Quarry View will be working with River Mountain on two beautiful, historic structures that will be restored/renovated to accommodate programming needs. The Old Log Home on the property, ca. 1805-1810, is a two-story building consisting of horizontal logs with mud chinking between the logs, small windows, gabled roof and a brick/stone chimney at the east side of the house. The foundation comprises fieldstone with mortared joints. The home sits on a hill above Sweet Root Creek adjacent to one of several natural springs on the property.

The Main Barn on the property was constructed in the late 19th century and is best categorized as a “Basement Barn.” The access points at the basement level are at the gable ends (north and south elevations) with a center aisle running in the middle of the barn, and the building was probably used as a dairy operation. The upper level of the barn consists of wooden beams (some scarf joint), rafters and flooring. The renovated structure will serve as River Mountain’s indoor activity center.”

And that’s a wrap ... for now.

I can’t tell you how excited our group is as we continue getting River Mountain Retreat ready for our young guests next summer. We’ll continue to keep you updated on our progress!

If anyone has any questions about this blog or anything River Mountain related, email me anytime at or call me anytime at 615.383.0984.

Becca G – Faces of River Mountain

By Meghan | April 1, 2020

Meet Becca Gurney, Founder of Design Choice, a boutique graphic design studio in Washington, DC. Becca and her team work with progressive clients to make the world a better place, by encouraging entrepreneurial endeavors, advancing social justice and women’s causes, and supporting women in leadership positions. She’s also the creative genius behind our print designs and an absolutely awesome human.

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National Day of Unplugging

By Meghan | March 5, 2020

Tomorrow is National Day of Unplugging. Take time to unplug from your phone and reconnect with each other and the world around you at River Mountain Digital Wellness Retreat!

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Field Trips at River Mountain

By Ryan | February 11, 2020

River Mountain’s school programs teach screen time management and digital citizenship to help students flourish in school and at home.

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The Benefits of Camp

By Ryan | February 6, 2020

There’s a lot of great research about the benefits of camp experiences for young people. Over the past 12 months, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several of those researchers, including our own team member Pete Allison from Penn State, and I’m grateful for their work establishing a greater understanding of camps’ impacts on child development.

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Restorative Vision – Nature and Wellness Retreat Design

By Meghan | February 3, 2020

Every element of River Mountain Retreat is intentionally designed to add to the restorative experience of our guests. One key aspect of this is in the design of our cabins and wellness retreat facilities.

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Summer Camp near Washington D.C., Yet a World Away

By Ryan | January 17, 2020

Conveniently near Arlington County, Montgomery County, and Fairfax County families, River Mountain summer camps are ideal for DC parents’ busy schedules.

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Best Summer Camp for Active Pittsburgh Kids

By Ryan | January 9, 2020

Only 2 hours away from the Steel City and featuring all the outdoor activities that kids love, River Mountain is the best summer camp for active Pittsburgh kids.

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A Decade of Technology

By Meghan | December 31, 2019

Looking back on the past decade of technology – rapid developments, rapid adoption and rapid optimization. It all happened so fast.

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Reconnecting Over the Holidays

By Meghan | December 20, 2019

As a parent, the holidays are hectic. Parties, presents, and of course, the kids being off from school. With all of the running the season brings, it’s easy to forget that this is a time of year where we can pause, exhale, and find joy in what surrounds us.

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The Benefits (and Accessibility) of Nature

By Ryan | November 23, 2019

A lot has been written in recent years about the “benefits of nature” — fantastic books like Florence Williams’ The Nature Fix and ground breaking research like the work being done by Utah professor David Strayer.

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Upcoming Camps