Frequently Asked Questions

Where are your participants from?

Most participants come from within North America. Often people hear about our canoe camps through our large circle of friends and alumni. In the spring and fall, we work with school groups, so many times participants hear about it through school. As word spreads and friends travel, our diversity grows. The past few summers we’ve had participants join us from Canada, USA, the UK, Belgium, France, Spain, Norway, Switzerland, China, Indonesia, Australia, Honduras, and Mexico.

Are you a Canadian camp or a US camp?

NWL is owned and managed by Canadian citizens Jodi Browning and CG Stephens. From mid-May (‘ice-out’) to October, NWL operates from our basecamps in Temagami, Ontario, Canada.   During the ‘off-season’ Jodi and CG head south, just across the border, to a home they built together in the Adirondack Mountains.  From November to ‘ice-out’ on Lake Temagami, they manage operations from ‘The Mill’ a converted sawmill where the NWL fall/winter offices are located.  Because the organizations roots and current ownership are firmly planted on both sides of the border, we attract young people and families from all over North America (and beyond!). Because we maintain offices, employees, and vendors on both sides of the border, we have established business structures in both the US and Canada.  Having offices in both countries, allows us to best serve the families who entrust us with their children.

How are participants placed in groups and on trips?

Participants are placed into groups, or sections, for particular trips based on age, maturity, experience, personality and physical capacity.  There is a general progression, but the primary consideration is always to place each participant in a group of similarly capable peers, and on a trip which provides an appropriate level of adventure and challenge.  New participants are placed in groups after their initial days in base camp, returning participants are invited by program directors to return for particular trips.  This system allows us to get to know each participant and place them accordingly.

The general trip progression is outlined below. Please keep in mind that what’s appropriate for one participant may not suit another, and placements (along with route selections) are made in light of what is best for the individual and the whole group. Participants and parents are encouraged to contact Program Directors if they would like to discuss individual placements.

Introductory/Beginner Canoe Routes (10 & 19 days)
Introductory/Beginner routes are designed to meet younger participants at a place where they can learn the basic skills needed for wilderness travel and feel comfortable travelling simply on the land.  The emphasis of these trips is on fun and appropriate levels of challenge.  The distance travelled and number of portages each day are dictated by the groups capacity, rather then a more rigid expedition plan (which requires certain distances to be covered each day).

Generally, beginner and introductory routes are for participants joining us for the first or second time between the ages of 10 and 13.  Storytelling, crafting, and games are used to frame and process the experience for each individual and build community.  Depending on the age a participant begins with us (and their maturity level), they may do 1, 2, sometimes even 3 of these routes—each consecutive adventure building upon the experiences from the previous summer.

All Northern Lights, Langskib 2-weeks, Vikings, and the younger, 1st year All-Girls sections fall into this category.

Novice Canoe Routes (19 days)
These routes move sections deeper into the interior of the Temagami Wilderness.  They are designed to meet the budding adolescent at a place where they can hone basic wilderness canoe tripping skills while learning to be a valued member of a group/community.  Participants take on more responsibility and accountability. While emphasis remains on fun, adventure, and being comfortable on trail, an exploration of both the outer (physical) and inner (emotional) journey begins here.   Participants are encouraged to articulate their values as community members and individuals, and begin an exploration of themselves (in terms of who they strive to be in this world).

Physically, these routes are moderately flexible (in terms of a ‘day-to-day’ trip plan). Sections may experience one or two days of moving water (“whitewater”) along the route, but predominately travel flat water.   Generally, novice canoe routes are for slightly older participants joining us for the first time (12 and up) and returning participants from our 2-week programs and the Langskib Viking section.  Depending on the age a participant begins with us (and their maturity level) they may do 1 or 2 novice canoe routes – each consecutive adventure building upon the experience from the previous summer.

Typical novice canoe routes may include (but are not limited to):

  • Makobe River
  • Lost Lakes
  • Florence Lake
  • Lady Evelyn River
  • Center Falls

Intermediate Canoe Routes, (19 days)
Intermediate routes see some of the most spectacular back country in the Temagami region. The remoteness of these trips require participants to have defined canoe tripping skills and a clear understanding of expedition mentality. Physically these routes require a more rigid trip plan (day to day route goals), include numerous, technical portages, and long days at the paddle. Intermediate routes include a basic introduction to moving water (“whitewater”) and spend anywhere from 3 to 5 days travelling downstream. Fun and adventure prevail, but the underlying themes are working together, trusting one another, building strong community, personal growth, and empowerment.

Generally, intermediate routes are for older participants joining us for the first time (13 and up) and returning participants with 1 to 3 trips under their belt.  Depending on the age a participant begins with us (and their maturity level), they may do 1 or 2 intermediate routes – each consecutive adventure building upon the experience from the previous summer.

*First year participants (ages 13 and up) may be placed on an Intermediate level trip.  They will join a group that includes returning (or more experienced) participants who will help teach and model the skills required in an effort to get less experienced trip mates ‘up to speed’.

Typical intermediate canoe routes may include (but are not limited to):

  • Sturgeon River
  • Wolf Lake
  • Temagami River
  • Spanish River

Advanced Canoe Routes, (19 days)
Advanced routes are a physical exploration of moving water and river travel.  Time is taken early in the experience to teach, practice and understand the nature of moving water and the new skills required to travel it safely.   At this stage, participants should have adequate canoe tripping and backcountry experience with NWL (or equivalent experience elsewhere). The bulk of these expeditions take place outside of the Temagami region and require additional transportation (shuttles) on either end of the route (sometimes both).   Physically, these routes require rigid trip plans (day to day route goals) and include anywhere from 6 to 8 days of continuous river travel.

With an older, more mature section comes the capacity to balance task and process (or the outer journey and the inner journey).  Groups are encouraged to work towards cohesion, trust and communication early in the expedition—this requires intentional facilitation to cultivate a greater understanding of the group and the individuals within it.  Throughout the expedition, participants are encouraged and supported to work on areas they are struggling with (physically and/or emotionally), discover and cultivate leadership skills, and honoured for their gifts and their strengths.

Generally, advanced canoe routes are for older participants joining us for the first time (14 and up) and returning participants with 2 to 4 trips under their belt.  Depending on the age a participant begins with us (and their maturity level), they may do 1 or 2 advanced routes – each consecutive adventure building upon the experience from the previous summer.

*First year participants (ages 14 and up) may be placed on an advanced level trip at the Program Directors’ discretion.  They will join a group that includes returning (or more experienced) participants who will help teach and model the skills required in an effort to get less experienced trip mates ‘up to speed’.

Typical advanced canoe routes may include (but are not limited to):

  • Dumoine River
  • Coulonge River
  • Missinaibi River
  • Bloodvein River

Bay Trip – by invitation (from Program Directors) only, (19 days)
This is a once in a lifetime trip for experienced canoeists who have demonstrated the skills, maturity, and group-oriented mindset necessary for a challenging, remote expedition with NWL.  Advanced whitewater paddling proficiency is required along with maturity and leadership skills and/or documented leadership potential.  Participants who have demonstrated attributes such as: reliability, open-mindedness, flexibility, responsibility, honesty, empathy, independent thinking, good communication skills, initiative, resiliency, resourcefulness and a willingness to learn/grow are considered for this expedition.  Only participants who have done previous trips with our organization may be invited on a Bay Trip.

This section leaves Temagami by van and travels north to the town of Amos, Quebec to their ‘put in’ on the Harricana River.  From here the river descends roughly 300km to the coast of the James Bay. The final leg of the journey is a crossing of the southern tip of the James Bay to the Moose River.  Once they reach the Moose River, they paddle upstream to the town of Moosonee where they catch the Polar Bear Express train south to Cochrane for a final shuttle back to basecamp. This trip requires precise, remote-expedition planning and skill.  It is lead by canoe guides with considerable experience with our organization and in the field.

Emotionally, this trip requires participants to have a strong community orientation (actions and beliefs originate from the concept that individuals communicate openly, respectfully and honestly with one another). It requires a high level of perseverance (the ability to thrive on challenge, embracing change and doing what is needed to ‘get the job done’) and a strong ‘team mentality’ (a willingness and ability to provide help, share ideas, acknowledge and support contributions of others and putting personal agendas aside).  It is a true test of character that will provide incredible insight, empowerment and personal growth opportunities at a pivotal time in adolescence.

There is no set progression through our program to getting a Bay Trip invitation. It can take anywhere from 1 to 7 summers to earn an invitation to The Bay Trip.   Generally, invites are extended to participants ages 16 and up.

Leadership Trip – by invitation, or open enrolment (with equivalent experience), (32 days)
The Leadership Program was designed to ensure the high quality and standards of our wilderness programs in the future—both within our organization and throughout the field of adventure-based education. This course combines Northwaters’ emphasis on group work and personal growth with the fundamentals of leading a whitewater canoe trip.

Working in a supportive and encouraging environment with our most experienced guides, participants have the opportunity to experiment with their own leadership styles, share their knowledge and learn new skills related to leading wilderness expeditions.

Course topics include:

  • advanced map & compass
  • environmental ethics
  • advanced whitewater paddling
  • whitewater rescue
  • teaching techniques
  • group development
  • conflict resolution

Each year this trip is run on an advanced northern river and is open only to those who have completed our James Bay Trip or have equivalent whitewater/backcountry experience.

Typical Leadership trip routes include (but are not limited to):

  • Moisie River
  • North Knife River
  • Seal River
  • Great Whale River
  • Coates River
  • Rupert River
  • Winisk River
  • Hayes River
  • Albany River

What do I need to bring? Do I have to buy expensive gear?

You probably already have most of what you need; a sleeping bag, rain gear, sturdy foot wear and enough clothes to stay warm down to 5 degrees Celsius (40′ F). Northwaters and Langskib supply all of the group camping gear including: canoes, packs, paddles, PFD’s, tents, cook kits, etc. Once you have registered for a program, we will include a complete equipment list with your confirmation package. Watch our “How to Pack for a Canoe Trip” video here!

Do many participants return?

Yes! We have an exceptionally high return rate. Participants return because they are valued members of a supportive community which requires only that they show up, be themselves, and do their best. Each year participants are invited back on progressively more challenging trips- through the Temagami region, on scenic northern rivers to run white water, and ultimately on to the Hudson Bay. We even offer a Leadership Expedition for 17-19 year-olds with hopes of apprenticing to be a Northwaters and Langskib guide.

How do I get there?

We meet participants in Temagami, Toronto, and Ottawa, Ontario and bring them to our base camp on Lake Temagami. Total travel time from Toronto or Ottawa to base camp is about six hours. Once you have registered for a program you will have access to detailed travel information inside your Parent Portal, or folks can visit our Travel Page for more information.

Is it safe?

Safety is always our primary concern. In over 50 years of leading backcountry canoe trips, we have never had a serious injury. All of our guides are certified in Wilderness Medicine and Waterfront Lifesaving, but more importantly, they have extensive training and years of experience in running safe programs. Each trip travels with a GPS “Spot” device and satellite phone to communicate with basecamp if need be.

What kind of experience do I need?

You don’t need any previous experience! Most first time participants have very little experience in backcountry travel, and many are new to canoeing. Over the course of the program you will learn everything they need to know (and then some).

Who are your staff?

Our canoe guides are extensively trained in group process and community building, Wilderness Medicine, Waterfront Lifesaving and expedition planning. All of our trip leaders begin as Northwaters and Langskib participants and work their way through our organization into a staff position. Once they have completed our Bay Trip, Leadership Expedition, medical and guide training, our staff undergo a two to four-year apprenticeship before earning their leader paddle. Visit our staff profile page to meet our directors and get a better idea of the fine young people leading trips with us.

When do programs usually fill?

Enrollment in each of our canoe expeditions is limited to ensure a quality experience. By spring we have filled many of our sections. Please contact us for current program availability.

What does tuition include? Are there any hidden costs?

Tuition covers all activities from arrival at base camp through departure on the last day of the program. Guides, food, mid-program transportation, reprovisions, and group gear are all included. The only other program fees are sales tax (mandated by the Canadian government to be calculated separately) and optional bus travel from Toronto or Ottawa before and after the program.

Can I come and tour the camp before I send my child to your program?

We welcome family at the end of all programs for an optional celebratory barbecue. The second to last day, Northwaters and Langskib gather together to feast, share stories, and wrap-up our incredible adventures on trail together. Prior to this, touring base camp is logistically difficult and can be detrimental to the participants ‘journey’. Part of the magic young people experience with us is the initial arrival at our island base camps—they are situated far from the mainland and require boat or float planes to access. This gives our participants a real sense of adventure and a distinct separation from the ‘known’.

Can I still come if I have food allergies?

Absolutely- we can accommodate most food allergies. We are considered a ‘Nut-Safe’ facility and have eliminated all nuts and tree nuts from our menus and facilities. For those with wheat, gluten and dairy allergies, our menus can be modified to meet your needs and we will outfit your trip accordingly. Beyond that, if you require specialized (non-perishable) supplemental foods you need to bring, you are welcome to do so. Just make sure you give them to your trip leaders before departing on your adventure (so they can pack it up with the rest of the food going on trail).

Can I bring a friend?

Sure, many participants come with a sibling or friend, especially their first year. We simply ask that you be open to the possibility of being placed in separate tripping groups once we have spent some time together at base camp. Our experience is that participants get far less out of one of our programs if they are in the same group as a relative or friend that knows them from home. This may not be the case for you and your friend, but young men and women have a tendency to stick with old patterns and expectations when people who know them from home are present. When they are within a group of young people they’ve never met, they are more open, take more risks and try out new ways of being that help them grow.

What if it rains?

We travel in most kinds of weather. Unless there is lightning or excessive wind, we are on the move. Experiencing all that nature has to offer while on trail, is one of the many gifts and teachings we receive. You may be surprised at how peaceful it is to paddle in a steady rain, or how cooling it is to portage with a gentle drizzle on your cheeks. Don’t worry, you will pack accordingly and your trip leaders will teach you how to stay warm and comfortable on trail during inclement weather.

What if I can’t swim?

It’s important that you are comfortable in and around water, but you do not need to be an excellent swimmer. You don’t even need to float! We provide PFD’s (Personal Floatation Device) for each participant at the outset of the program.

Do you have scholarships available?

Yes. Deepwater Experiential Education Project is our not-for-profit partner that provides need and merit based scholarships to help folks attend our programs. Funding is allocated on a first come first serve basis. The earlier you apply, the better chance you have at receiving a scholarship. Funding deadline is March 30th of the current year. You can learn more about DEEP and download all application forms by visiting

What if I get my period on trail?

Getting your period on trail is no different than getting your period at home with the exception of not having a toilet to sit on. This can be an inconvenience for some, but for most, not a big deal and something you quickly get used to. Trip leaders will share our protocol and procedures at the outset of a trip on what to do when you have your period on trail. This will include: packing out your waste (tampons and/or pads) in a way you are comfortable with, making sure soap and hand sanitizer are accessible to you at all times, and accommodating your needs while on the move.

What is the fine print? What is your cancelation policy?

TUITION: Tuition balances are due May 15th. Tuition covers all activities from arrival at basecamp until departure on the last day of the session with the exception of tax, optional pre and post camp bus fare and optional spending money for camp store items, such as t-shirts, hoodies, maps, water bottles, & stickers, which can be purchased at the end of session BBQ.

Trip/Travel Insurance: We strongly recommend all families purchase supplemental trip/travel insurance appropriate for youth adventure camps. NWL carries robust insurance to cover health/medical care, and it is wise to protect your personal tuition/travel investment accordingly. Supplemental insurance can provide reimbursement in the event your child is unable to attend part or all of a program. Look for a policy that covers trip interruption and/or unexpected travel expenses in the unlikely event of illness or injury before or during camp. This insurance should be purchased at about the same time as enrollment. Allianz, Trav Mark, Travel Guard International, and are a few reputable providers families have used in the past.

Refund Policy
For regular session programs: A $500 deposit is due at the time of enrollment. Tuition is due May 15th and is inclusive of all activities, gear, food, and in-program travel. As with all services in Canada, we are required to collect HST (harmonized sales tax). If you opt to use NWL transportation the fee is $125 each way, due by May 15th when Travel Forms are submitted.

Withdrawals from regular programs up to 60 days before program start date are eligible for a refund (minus a $25 processing fee). Program withdrawals within 60 days before the program start date forfeit the deposit. Participants who cancel within 30 days of program start date forfeit their deposit and 50% of their tuition. NWL cannot refund payments for participants who withdraw or are dismissed the day before, day of, or during program. Families are advised to purchase supplemental trip/travel insurance to cover costs associated with this scenario.

For Bay Trip and LP : A $750 deposit is due with application. Tuition is due May 15th. Due to the logistics surrounding the remote nature of these expeditions, deposits are only refundable up to February 15th. Cancellations made after February 15th forfeit the deposit. NWL is not obligated to refund the tuition of any participants who withdraw or are dismissed the day before, the day of, or any time after the first day session begins

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