About Winoka Lodge
I used to hear fairly often from friends in Springfield about an abandoned girl scout camp on the shores of Lake Springfield where a bunch of girl scouts were brutally murdered. They usually went on to tell me that it was called Camp Winoka and was now haunted by the ghosts of the murdered girl scouts. In a way, I almost wish that fascinating story were true. Not because I hate girl scouts, mind you, but then who hasn't thought about decapitating a few when they come to your door with cookies? But I digress.
The truth, unfortunately, is that there was never a girl scout camp in Springfield where girl scouts were murdered. In fact, as far as I know, there was never a "Camp Winoka" in the area at all. However, the Greene County Library did some research and found that there was a girl scout murder at a camp in nearby Locust Grove, Oklahoma. The camp, like the fictional Camp Winoka, was closed immediately after the murders. It's very probable that this story is the reason we have the Camp Winoka legend today. So, since there's no Camp Winoka, then you might be wondering what the hell all those old buildings are out in the woods where people say it is.
Those remains you find in the woods next to Lake Springfield and Highway 65 are the remains of the once prominent Winoka Lodge or Winoka Club. It was founded in or around 1890 as a hunter's club on the James River south of Springfield, and the property originally encompassed fifty-four acres and had around a dozen springs. The lodge also contained a spring called Big Boiling Spring that was considered to be the largest in Greene County. Unfortunately, Big Boiling Spring is now lost somewhere below the waters of Lake Springfield.
Among those springs, the lodge featured ten springs in a small canyon, called the Cotton Gin or Roaring Springs. These springs were diverted in sculptured pools and fountains, many of which are still there today. The springs were also used to provide the drinking water for the lodge, and in later years, to fill the swimming pool.
The lodge changed hands several times over the last century, and unfortunately suffered separate fires in 1977 and 1978. The three story lodge was almost completely destroyed in one of those fires, and today only a few of the structures are still standing.
I've heard for years that Winoka Lodge is haunted, but if it is, we've already established that it's not by girl scouts. However, the lodge has been around long enough that it's certainly as much a candidate for haunting as anywhere else. However, in my many trips to the property, I've never personally seen anything. I have heard stories of people having rocks mysteriously thrown at them and things like that.
There's still plenty to see at the property. Many of the sculptured pools are still there, and functional, along the canyon as you enter the property. A large rock bridge still passes over the creek, and trails snake their way around the lodge. Several buildings' foundations remain, along with a few chimneys jutting toward the sky. Probably the coolest thing on the property is large swimming pool and bath houses. The property also contains at least two caves, one of them very large.