California Cadet Corps and Bear Flag

The Mountain Survival Bivouac

This popular survival event was held in two locations for cadets in the Sacramento Metropolitan area between 1965 and 1985. The first survival bivouac was first held in foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the Spenceville Recreation Area near Beale Air Force Base. It was later moved to the High Sierras in the area around the San Juan Unified School District summer camp near Donner Summit.  The area at the base of Devils Peak was chosen for survival training because it had been successfully used previously for that purpose at several cadet corps summer camps. It was also more remote then the Spenceville site and there was significantly more natural food available for students to find and harvest. The survival exercise ran for three days with a basic program for first-year cadets and an advanced program for second year cadets. First-year cadets were organized into four or five person survival teams and established survival camps clustered close enough to each other to allow easy supervision.  The areas around Lake Jackson at the base of Devil's Peak were always used.  Basic students had extensive list of survival tasks that had to be accomplished in order to pass the bivouac. Advanced, second year survival students were organized into two-person survival teams.  These two-person teams were position on the ground so that each survival camp was not visible from the others in order to provide a more realistic survival experience.  The area around Long Lake or the gorge going down into the American River Canyon was usually used. 

Third and fourth years students were used as a cadre to provide supervision, instruction and assistance to both basic and advanced survival trainees. All survival students, cadre, and teachers were expected to live off the land the duration of the survival exercise. Surplus survival rations were sometimes used to supplemented the natural food supply for the first and second year cadets. Activities on the mountain survival bivouac included the following:

Fire building

Shelter construction

Food identification and gathering


Water purification

Survival signaling

Survival signaling

Survival swimming

Snare building


Search and rescue techniques

Edible plant identification

Poisonous plant identification



Devils Peak

Slide for Life

Lake Jackson

Slide for Life

Survival Shelter

Rabbit Jerky

Fire Making

Yum!!  Frog Legs

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