We offer unforgettable adventurous canoe trips for girls in the pristine wilderness of the Canadian North. With the support of experienced female staff, girls face challenges in their own way in an outdoor setting. This environment gives girls a chance to be fully themselves, take positive risks, and learn invaluable leadership skills. Most importantly, girls have a summer filled with fun, laughter and friendship.
At Keewaydin a girl’s belief in her capabilities will grow throughout the summer due to the nature of our program, compassionate staff, supportive teaching, and opportunities to learn and master daily tasks. Through wilderness experiential learning, girls are able to take positive risks and experience significant growth, greater self-esteem, confidence, and inner strength. Wilderness canoe tripping also gives young women the opportunity to find their inner voices and the confidence to express those voices both at camp and at home.
On canoe trips, girls develop deep friendships with their section mates and bond with the staff both as leaders and experienced outdoor enthusiasts. By celebrating their own strength, and by connecting with other girls, young women gain a strong sense of self-worth on canoe trips. They are able to take the confidence and problem-solving skills they’ve learned at camp and apply these skills to real-world challenges.
The staff teaches campers the skills required to be successful members of their section. From starting fires, and preparing meals from scratch, to learning the paddle strokes necessary to navigate lakes and rivers, campers work toward mastery of all the requisite wilderness skills. By achieving the mastery of new skills, campers return year after year to help continue and eventually pass on the camp’s traditions to future generations.
“Our daughter Josephine went off to Keewaydin this past summer sight unseen. She boarded an international flight in Denver with her camp bags stowed below, and headed off to an adventure that was a great unknown. She returned three weeks later, bumped, bruised, and smiling. Proud of all that she had accomplished, she didn’t have to tell us that her days at camp were transformative; it was obvious in the way she held herself. She glowed.” – Julia Alling, Keewaydin Parent
In order to achieve the goals mentioned above, the staff strives to:
- To help girls feel safe, accepted, and have a sense of belonging to the camp community.
- To give girls the opportunity to take positive risks and to challenge themselves.
- To foster positive gender identity.
- To encourage healthy friendships.
- To develop and/or strengthen girls’ love for physical activity and the outdoors.
- To bolster the girl’s physical and emotional resiliency.
- To respect of oneself, others, and the environment.
- To improve and master canoeing skills.
- To camp for extended periods of time in a wilderness environment.
- To learn decision-making for and with the group (vital to the success of the section).
- To learn food preparation skills and cook over a fire to promote self-sufficiency on trip and at home.
- To gain navigation skills.
- To care for and respect trip equipment.
- To recognize the accomplishments and personal growth that occur over the course of the summer camp season.
How We’re Organized
Each season we enroll about 60 female campers who are assigned to wigwams based on age, experience and physical maturity. Each wigwam is split into smaller single-gender tripping groups of 6-8 campers called “sections”. The duration and difficulty of trips are determined by the age and level of experience of each section.
Girls 10-13 years old
Staff to camper ratio: 1-2
Songadeewin Wigwam (3 or 6-week sessions): Two trips (one 5-night and one 10-night) from our Devil’s Island base camp during a 3-week session. Campers who stay for 6-weeks will participate in two more trips following our MidSeason events.
Girls 13-15 years old
Staff to camper ratio:1-3
Winisk Wigwam (6-week session): Three trips (one 4 night, one 10 night, and one 21 night) from our Devil’s Island base camp.
Experienced Girls 14-16 years old (have completed at least 1 summer in the Winisk wigwam)
Staff to camper ratio between 1-3 and 1-4
Evans Outpost (6-week session): Based out of Keewaydin’s cabin on the shores of Kawaweogama Lake in western Ontario. Campers travel to the Evans Outpost via train from Temagami. Trips range in length from 15 to 25 days in the Wabakimi Provincial Park region.
Experienced Girls 16-18 years old (have completed a summer at the Evans Outpost)
Staff to camper ratio between 1-5 and 1-7
Temagami Wigwam (6 or 7-week sessions): Following at least 1 summer at Evans Outpost, campers can move up to Section 2. Section 2 is a more rigorous canoe trip, that may entail both up river and down river travel in more remote regions of Quebec, Ontario, or Labrador. Section 1 is our biggest and most rewarding adventure. Section 1 is the final canoe trip we offer young women at Keewaydin, which is 7 weeks long and culminates on Hudson Bay.
Life on a Trip
Life On Trip starts on Devil’s Island, our 50-acre base camp on Lake Temagami in the Near North of Ontario. Known for its pristine setting, abundant wildlife, and clear waters connected by portage trails that have been in use for generations, the Temagami region is the perfect setting for our canoe trips. Campers are quickly assigned to a group, their “section”; each section will paddle out from Devil’s Island on multiple trips of increasing length during the summer. Sections travel (making loops in the surrounding region) and camp on the shores of new lakes and rivers at night.
Travel days are filled with paddling, swimming, portaging, storytelling, singing, swimming again, cooking meals, eating, and making and breaking camp. Campers have a chance to see wildlife, waterfalls, and ancient sites, as well as to learn and master new camping and canoeing skills.
Rest Days (non-travel days) are often scheduled for a spectacular campsite on a beautiful lake, a fun place to swim, an old-growth forest to visit, a superb fishing spot, or a good place to wash clothes. Campers have a chance to relax by sleeping in, cooking extravagant meals, fishing, reading, playing games, and exploring.
I love the confidence that Sophie has gained through her summers at Keewaydin. We see such growth in her each summer she returns. There is nothing like spending six weeks in the wilderness, taking care of your own needs to encourage growth and strengthen self-esteem. Sophie loves the girls she goes on trip with and has come to need a break from constant activities and electronics overload. I think it is possible she is addicted to Northern Ontario air and water.” – Karry Hatch, Keewaydin Parent.
In Camp Activities
Time in camp between trips is spent relaxing (lying on a dock!) and preparing for the next trip. There are hot showers, a chance to send and receive mail the old-fashioned way (we provide campers with postcards to write home between trips), and three delicious dining hall meals a day. Staff and campers organize informal recreational activities such as basketball, frisbee, softball, soccer, volleyball, or tennis as well as swimming and fishing. During their time in base camp, campers help re-outfit their food supplies, wash clothes, organize their camping gear, and plan their next trip in the Keewaydin map room.
Campers have the opportunity to tell tales of their journeys at informal campfires that are open for all to attend. It is a time to celebrate each other’s shared experiences and sing a few Keewaydin songs.
Great Food, Funny Stories, Contests & Family Visits
MidSeason is a four-day event that marks the midpoint of the summer for campers canoeing out of base camp. There are contests where sections work together to demonstrate cooking and camping skills. In addition, there are informal individual competitions in swimming and canoeing. Evenings are lively with campfires and a midseason show where sections perform skits and sing songs with the entire camp. Friends and family can visit and stay at the Ojibway Family Lodge on Devil’s Island. It is a unique opportunity to witness your camper’s growth and get to know other folks who feel Keewaydin is a great place for their child to be.
Stories, Laughter, Accomplishments & Goodbyes
Before camp closes for the season, all sections are welcomed back to Devil’s Island. For two days campers participate in a friendly competition, ceremony, and a final campfire. The oldest boys and girls from the season’s long trips have the opportunity to tell stories of the summer, in their own words. It is a festive occasion where the youngest and oldest campers have the opportunity to share their adventures and spend time with family and friends. It is a magical experience. Friends and family frequently come up for the end of season; reservations should be made at Ojibway Family Lodge on Devil’s Island well in advance.
Keewaydin has a fully equipped infirmary and medical personnel on-site twenty-four hours a day while camp is in session. If further medical services are needed, hospitals are available in nearby North Bay and New Liskeard.
Campers can send and receive mail between their canoe trips. Campers will write a postcard home. Mail from Canada can take quite a while to arrive, in fact, it may land in your mailbox after camp is over!
Do send a book, magazine, or deck of cards.
Do NOT send food, snacks, or candy. Why? We need to respect the health of other campers and their food allergies. And, we need to avoid food in cabins or tents that can attract wildlife such as squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, or black bears.
While in base camp nutritious and well-balanced meals are prepared by the camp cook and served family-style. While out on trip campers participate in cooking their own food, eating three hot meals a day.
Keewaydin’s greatest asset has always been its experienced and dedicated staff. Nearly all of our trip staff members are former campers who have “graduated” following many successive seasons at Keewaydin. They join the staff as assistant staff and work their way up through the ranks as they return each summer. Typically our staff members have about eight years of experience canoe tripping with Keewaydin. Together with the headquarters staff at base camp, the trip staff provides leadership and guidance while acting as mentors to their campers.
Each section is led by the staff who is the senior member of the section’s staff team. They are responsible for the overall safety and well-being of every member of the group, making all decisions regarding the group’s welfare. Staff is assisted by the guide, who is the second in charge and oversees all trip preparations. In addition, the guide plans the route, sets the pace, and is responsible for establishing camp, cooking, and taking care of the trip equipment. The staff involves campers with any or all of these activities as their age and interest permit. In younger sections, the staff and guide are supported by up to three assistant staff to help with camp chores and provide additional supervision.
Staff Training focuses on the tools trip leaders need to be successful. All trip leaders complete the 80-hour Wilderness First Responder medical course, the eight-hour Wilderness Water Safety course as well as training in leadership and canoe and equipment repair. The leadership training is specifically focused on building skills and self-esteem in the campers.
In addition, our trip staff spends time learning about the social/emotional lives of children with renowned psychologist and author, Michael Thompson (Raising Cain and Homesick and Happy).
“The hard work, camaraderie, exposure to beautiful wilderness, and most importantly, the caring and incredible staff all contributed to a new sense of maturity, self-reliance, willingness to help others and joyfulness in our daughter.” Keewaydin Temagami Parent