Canoeing, Camping & Kids – Older Kids in the Boundary Waters

Canoeing, Camping & Kids – Older Kids in the Boundary Waters
Older Kids In the BWCA

A few weeks ago, we talked about taking small children into the BWCA wilderness. But what about older kids? What about teenagers in the Boundary Waters? Teens on a trip is different in a lot of ways from a trip with the little ones. Teenagers can be great paddlers (when motivated) and can usually be trusted to find ways to entertain themselves. They’re even ok with long silences. Teenagers can handle a map and help navigate which is a pro tip since with a map they’ll know how far you have to go and won’t keep asking.

bwca smallie

Hammocks, Fishing and Canoes

Once in camp, give them a hammock and they could be out for hours leaving you some quiet time for silent meditation…or a nap. Most teens seem to also appreciate a little time away from the adults to explore on their own. In the Boundary Waters, a fishing rod and canoe can go a long way.

Want to feel young again? Teenagers are good companions for some spontaneous adventure. If you spot a good cliff over some deep water, why not pull over for some unplanned cliff jumping?

This is the perfect age for them to create meaningful memories that will last them all their lives.

A Magical BWCA Night Paddle

One summer we were on a canoe trip with a group of 16- and 17-year-old girls.  We were having some very beautiful weather and decided to travel at night.  We had dinner and then broke down camp. Everything was by the canoes and we waited for the sun to go down to start our adventure which was on the south arm of Knife Lake.  We waited a long time, but the sun finally set around 10:00.  As the sun set and the stars appeared, we started our paddle.  We loaded everything into the canoes and started off. The lake was glass.  There was no moon that night, but there were millions of stars so bright that seeing each other and getting around was no problem.  We marveled at how fast we traveled; the shoreline flew by.

night canoe bwca

After about 45 minutes we stopped in the middle of the lake for a break and rafted all the canoes together.  We laid back and enjoyed a class on the stars and the constellations.  Some of the girls shared stories they prepared about how the constellations received their names.  It was so magical lying there in the middle of a lake in the middle of the night in the middle of the woods with this group of young women just soaking in the quietness and the magnitude of nature.

A New Experience

After a while we started paddling again and it became apparent that we’d reach the end of the lake much sooner than anticipated, so we needed a place to rest until morning.  We knew where the campsites were but couldn’t tell if they were occupied.  As we quietly approached each campsite, we sent a canoe to sneak in close to shore to look for canoes and tents.  The third campsite was empty, so we all went in for the rest of the night.  We laid a few tarps on the ground, rolled out the sleeping bags and settled down again under an amazing sky filled with stars.  When morning came and the sun drove away the stars it was so satisfying listening to these girls chattering on and on about falling asleep under the stars, something most city kids might never experience.

Lifetime Memory of the Boundary Waters

I’ve had a lot of canoeing adventures with youth in my years, and this experience is easily one of my favorites.  Years after that magical night, I ran into one of those girls who I’d lost touch with.  I got to share many experiences with her as her youth leader.  She told me that that trip and particularly that star-lit night paddle was one of her favorite memories from her youth and something she would remember for the rest of her life.

Bottom line, at this age, kids can experience the Boundary Waters on a whole new level. Out there you will find endless opportunities to build memories to last a lifetime and for generations to come.  Let’s get them started.


For more information on BWCA Family Canoe Trips, click here, or call us at 218-365-5837

classic bwca canoe trip