Canoe Camping on the Madawaska

When everyone told us our life would change because we had children we were in a bit of denial, but they were right. It did change (for the better).  But instead of denying the change we decided to embrace it, so we bought a canoe.  We use to enjoy kayaking out to an island on the Madawaska River but that would be tricky to do with a child, especially a 15 month old who would need to try to stay still on my lap.  A canoe is a family friendly way for us to continue our love of paddling and we are glad we made the purchase.

We first took our little one canoeing on the Bonnechere River at Bonnechere Provincial Park when she was 5 months old.  I would hold her while my husband would paddle and she would be content just sitting and watching as things moved slowly by her.  Now that she’s a toddler, things have changed and sitting still doesn’t exist, unless there’s snacks (of course).


We knew we wanted to take her canoe camping so we spent a few days doing short day trips to prepare her for our trip.  I will be writing a separate post on canoeing with a toddler because every time we go out we learn something new and I’m sure we are going to learn more as the summer goes on and she gets older.  She seemed to love the canoe and handled the short trips well so we packed our gear and decided to give it a try.






We are really lucky to live in Ontario’s Highlands where we can leave our house and be at many different bodies of water within minutes.  The spot we choose was a boat launch on the Madawaska River just 15 minutes from our house.  The destination we choose was an island on the Madawaska that took us 20 minutes to paddle to from the boat launch.  It was the perfect choice for our little one’s first canoe camping experience (as well as our first canoe camping trip with a toddler).


When we got to the island we set up camp.  We filled up our dish pan with water and toys to keep her occupied while we unpacked and set up our Teton Sports Mountain Ultra 4 tent.  As soon as she saw the tent with the sleeping pads in it she wanted to go inside to play.




Even when we go on adventures we try to keep a routine for Lux.  Sleep is very important for the developing mind and body of a child.  Our daughter likes a dark, quiet room to sleep in so it is a bit more difficult to nap her during a bright sunny day but we make it work.  A lot of fresh air helps as well as bringing along the comforts of home (her blankie).


We spent the rest of the day exploring the island, swimming, making sand castles, collecting rocks and pinecones, blowing bubbles, and snacking.  We really didn’t need toys to keep her entertained (although books and toys are handy to have in-case it rains or when the bugs get unbearable).  We brought bubbles, a bucket w/shovels, her baby and books. 





It may seem like a lot of work to pack everything for just two days of camping but with a forecast predicting thunderstorms and it being Lux’s first time canoe camping we decided two days was good enough.  We spent the next morning packing up, making breakfast and canoeing back to our truck.  While Lux and I were still sleeping, Mike took the opportunity to photograph the sunrise for us and while Mike was filtering water and making breakfast, I took the opportunity to photograph our daughter.





What we learned while canoe camping with our toddler:

  • Even though we brought along a few toys, Lux was quite happy to help do the dishes, pretend to cook, and play with a spoon and carabiner.
  • We need to remember not to let her see her oatmeal before it’s cooled off enough to eat (she lovessssss oatmeal – picture below is her signing please).
  • Routines are still possible to continue even on an island.
  • Snacks make everything better (but we already knew this so we came prepared).









We had so much fun that we’re already planning our next adventure!