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senior member (57)senior membersenior member
04/04/2019 02:02PM  
Who has taken children with them? What was the length of your trip? How did did you modify it to meet the needs of having young children. What were their ages? etc
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04/04/2019 02:11PM  
I hope to take grandkids ages 8 and 10 up this year for the first time, so can't offer any advice yet. But check out Paddling with Kids Forum
04/04/2019 03:08PM  
I've taken all 3 on trips.

Oldest's only time so far was with Boy Scouts a couple years ago at 12. Hoping to get him back for another trip after he graduates HS next year. We did a 40+ mile loop. The Scouts did great.
Middle has been there twice. 11 and 13 at the time of the trips. 2016 was a trip down the Granite River. We took our time, had a week and camped at 3 different sites along the way. 2018 was a loop from Sea Gull to Sag via Alpine & Red Rock.
Youngest has been there once, on the 2018 trip, and was 6 at the time.

Yes, the two trips where it was just me and my kids the trip expectations were modified to ensure ample playtime. However, too much time at camp can also get boring and traveling can be interesting. The only real things I did was plan a route with less mileage to cover and a rest day at the end of the trip before heading home. If I had multiple drivers the latter is less important.

Given the round trip distance of about 1200 miles for me, all my trips are generally a week away from home.

All have done other canoe trips as well, like on the WI River, Turtle Flambeau Flowage, or Sylvania Wilderness.
04/04/2019 07:22PM  
My son’s first trip was at 6 years old and we went 4 or 5 days entering at Mudro (EP 23) and heading up to Lower Basswood Falls. We covered some good distance with about 8 portages in and another 8 on the way out. He performed admirably, carrying a backpack and a paddle on the portages. He has since been on one other 7 day trip down the Stuart River (EP 19) and up to Iron Lake. He tackled a 460 and 320 rod portage on this trip and I’m now convinced that he can handle almost anything now. He’s 8 now and we’re planning an 8 day 50+ mile trip for June.

I took my daughter on her first trip at 4 entering via the Snake River (EP 84), just a three day, two night weekend trip with 4 portages to get to our base camp at Bald Eagle. She rocked it and carried a small backpack on the portages.

I think the key is to make sure that you’re tuned in to the kids because the only goal you should have for them is having fun. If they have fun, they’ll want to go back. So, when they get tired or just feel like stopping, set up camp and chill. Don’t set a rock solid itinerary, let the kids choose a campsite, fly by the seat of your pants. They’ll have more fun and you probably will too. Last bit of advice I’d give is to give them some responsibility. Age appropriate of course, but a kid is never too young to roll out sleeping bags/pads, pump water through the filter, or gather dead branches for a fire. Of course, I have a plan. I plan on adding things for my kids to do each year so that hopefully when they’re teenagers, I can chill on the shore with my rod and reel while my kids set up camp. I just hope they never read this...


04/04/2019 07:36PM  
Always taken my son, first trip he was 9 in 2015, he now has 4 trips under his belt. First trip was also the Granite River. We have a 1,000 mile one-way drive, so now we don't trip for less than a week on the water, or it's not worth the drive. Tried not to make any special rules or accommodations for him, (other than how tough the overall trip is) hey, everybody's go to pull their own weight.

Late last summer he was 12, almost 13, amazing the difference in him from the first year. Fun to watch. Now he and his sister, (16) have their own CCS Pioneer Packs and they're hauling their share on the portages.

I've read a lot of posts where children a lot younger have gone. I personally think it's great.
04/04/2019 08:43PM  
I took my son twice - when he was 12 & 13. The first time it was just him and me. The second time he got to bring a friend. Both times it was just one portage in and base camp for 3 nights. I found both extremely rewarding. However my son's favorite part was the motel stay on the way home with a swimming pool and delivered pizza.
distinguished member (189)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/04/2019 09:26PM  
My son is 9 (turns 10 in May) and he’s completed 10 BWCA trips. These range from 1 night up to a week. He hasn’t had a friend on any of our trips but it will happen soon I’m sure. I wouldn’t hesitate to bring a child to the BWCA, and some people on this forum start them very young! The kids have a blast....
member (42)member
04/04/2019 10:54PM  
First took our son when he was 5. The key to making it work, like everything else is planning. First thing I did was make a paddle he could use. Ditto for fishing gear, Make SURE you have GREAT rain gear. Young kids can go hypothermic fast. Finally pick a route that is easy but interesting. Our first trip we did Wind Lake because it was near my folks' place on Moose so if things weren't working out we could be home fairly easily. Wind has some really nice campsites (you have to have a campsite for swimming) and the fishing is good. I also knew the lake really well so I could plan "explores" which we would take every day hoping to find interesting things. First one we got lucky and found a beaver skull. Next day we rummaged around a campsite folks had left and found a couple of fishing lures. For in camp stuff have lots of games like pine cone baseball, handkerchief basketball, frisbee, etc. First night out we hit the jackpot with northern lights. Finally, we always do stories around the campfire. I would ask him what he wanted to hear a story about then make one up on the spot. Thus were born Ragnar and Einar whose adventures continued to this day.

When I guided the youngest I took out was two seven year-olds. I cut them a thick branch (not green wood) and they carried a pack between them like in one of those jungle movies. We used custom food boxes that were paraffin-coated cardboard so by the end of the trip they were pretty empty. One of my seven year-olds took off with the A4 on the Fall Lake portage coming in. All you could see were his legs. Tourists on the Fall Lake side started to ream me out about making this poor little kid carry such a big pack. Then the other kids on the trip broke out laughing. Like many kids this one was a ham and played the role of carrying the huge pack to the hilt. Then he threw in the punch line when we flipped the pack off and picked it up with one hand.

Have a great trip!
distinguished member(551)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/05/2019 09:53AM  
We've taken all our kids since they were toddlers to five years of age, which meant for one trip my wife stayed behind with our baby and middle, but youngest daughter was 3 for one trip, other daughter was 5 and son was 7, that was our first all together. My oldest is now 15 and he and I are doing a huge trip together this summer, I think his 7th trip, with the wife and girls meeting up with us at the end.

I'd pick a route with short and few portages for their first and basecamp for a few days, or a trip with no portages. 3-4 nights max (now 5 nights/6 days is our minimum). The number chain lakes (One and Two) offer short to no portaging and are popular. Another easy one was getting a tow up Moose with a super short portage into Ensign. That felt like a real adventure but was easy with the tow and bunkhouse at LaTourells. Look at campsite reviews on the maps section here or camping with kids forums that note which campsites are kid-friendly - i.e. easy and safe access to shoreline, good fishing from shore, etc. A short daytrip nearby is nice too. Food options are critical, desserts at dinnertime, hot chocolate or cider, lots of favorite snacks for throughout the day, mixing powdered drink in water helps...make sure to keep them well hydrated. A REALLY well stocked first aid kit, with children's tylenol, pedialite powder, and triaminic (super glue saved my middle-kid's trip as she cut herself badly two years ago). Warm clothing, extra socks. Bigger tent, a Nemo Bugout was a hit with the kids as sometimes the mosquitos or black flies make it impossible to get outside. This year I'm ditching the Nemo Bugout for a large mosquito net that I can suspend underneath a tarp...but if basecamping a short distance from put-in you can bring more and be more comfortable. Search on Amazon for lightweight backpacking chairs, you can get them for $20 now...that and a hammock and life is good. Good sunscreen and bugspray, thermacell. Bring some good books to read to them as they fall asleep.

Go when it is warmer so they can swim, later in the summer there is nothing better than picking blueberries and mixing into pancakes. Bring activities along for when it is rainy, and have good raingear. Appropriately sized lifejackets, backpack, and paddle. Spend a night or two in a tent and fill a canoe with your gear and child(ren) and practice before you go. Talk through what the portage process looks like ahead of time, plan at least 2x whatever the forum's state (or outfitter says) as the time it will take you to get to any given location. Adjust your expectations for what you get to do in terms of fishing, downtime, exploring, etc. Make it about them and having a good time, though our mantra when things go south is "not every part of an adventure is fun!", talk about what hard things may happen and have backup plans for when those things happen. Keep spirits up. Sing, laugh, exlplore with them. As they grow they will want to go back, you can go further and do more. After going for 10 years now, my son and I are finally taking that "dream trip" where all our priorities are the same - distance, solitude, adventure, pushing limits, and LOTS of fishing...but it's been a long journey and process. Now I'm telling him I expect him to drag my sorry old butt along when he goes with his kids someday.

Here's a video of us from last summer's trip to Insula. They are older now, so the adventures push us deeper and deeper...but as you can see, we have a good time:
The Rock
distinguished member(551)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/05/2019 10:30AM  
ghamer: "I hope to take grandkids ages 8 and 10 up this year for the first time, so can't offer an advice yet. But check out Paddling with Kids Forum "
Woo Hoo! Have fun buddy! Can't wait to see the pics!
distinguished member(835)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/05/2019 08:02PM  
We took our 2 kids and a dog, so we needed 2 canoes. My son was just out of 8th grade, and could carry one of the canoes. My daughter was a sophomore, and very petite, but had a lot of paddling experience. we went in a few lakes, then base camped.

For entertainment, son fished, and we were near a sandy beach so swimming for daughter and dog. Each had a couple chores they were responsible for. It was important to us that while they had fun, they also knew we relied on them for some things.

One thing to think about regarding age- if you are the only adult out there, and you get hurt (some of those rocks are really slippery) would your kids be able to get help? And can they swim? Discuss what they should do if the canoe flips, and other age appropriate scenarios.

senior member (57)senior membersenior member
04/06/2019 07:14AM  
distinguished member (141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/06/2019 03:26PM  
First trip with our kids they were 3, 6, and 8. We must have done something right because we are taking our 6th family trip to the BWCA this summer and the kids are 19, 22, and 24. For a successful trip you need to schedule everything around the kids. Stay at a cool hotel/lodge the night before, keep the trip short, go when it is warm, and do something on the way home that you hate but the kids love (.......Mall of America).

Our first trip we put in at Little Gabbro, paddled around the point on Bald Eagle and stayed at the sand beach campsite for three nights. We packed water toys, ate their favorite foods, sang around the campfire and played board games. I would wake early and get some fishing time, the rest of day was spent making sure my kids (and wife) had a good experience. This trip launched a lifetime of outdoor adventures with my kids! But be careful, you may create something that leads to some nervous nights as a parent. When my daughters were 17 and 19 they went on a 32 day road trip camping in 11 different national parks and did things like hike up half dome. My wife was a nervous parent the entire month, I felt like I had won a trophy for parenting!

Good luck on your trip! And keep it Kid focused!
distinguished member(624)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/07/2019 09:55AM  
Lots of expertise for traveling with kids on this forum, spend some time looking through what's been written. I'm by no means among the most experienced on this but my teenage daughter is my primary tripping partner and we've been doing duo trips for several years. At this point I trust her with my life in a tough situation more than most adults I've tripped with.

Follow their interests and give them real (age appropriate) responsibilities, not just busy work. Take the time to directly engage with what they like and don't like. Let them be active participants in planning and decisions. Keep things positive but don't gloss over the challenges or the crappy parts, and let them be frustrated when it's frustrating.

Most important is to keep expanding their capabilities, but don't overstep them. It's a fine line so err on the shorter day, the easier route until you know how they do. I discovered early on that my daughter doesn't like rest days, but that taking one occasionally is a good idea anyway.

Personally I think the West side is easier to introduce young kids, and our first trips were only three or four nights. Our first trip was a base camp type but she wanted to move so we always do expedition type trips now. Just always know how to reduce mileage if you need to, until they're old enough to suck it up and work through the crappy parts if they have to. For M that change happened at 12 but it depends on your kid.

Have fun!
distinguished member(1439)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/08/2019 08:52PM  
We didn't get back to the BW until our son had just turned 13. That 1st trip was a bear because we planned too ambitious of a loop. We managed to do it, but he complained a lot. However, by the time we went back the next year, he was game for anything and chose to take the heaviest pack over the portage into Meeds as our lead off. The next year I was recovering from a broken ankle and he was a work horse. This summer he is spending a week backpacking, 3 weeks in Quetico and then spending a week with us going into a PMA.

So start easy, make it fun, get them hooked, and then the skies the limit.
distinguished member(2872)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/09/2019 05:41PM  
Read trip reports from member TuscaroraBorealis. Especially those that go back about 5 years.
04/10/2019 07:29AM  
My oldest was seven when we went to Quetico the first time. The mistake I made with him was we did a day trip from Basswood to Louisa Falls on Agnes. The waterfall was roaring and we couldn’t bath in the bathtub without getting thrown over the falls. Then a thunderstorm hit. So that poor kids had to do the Meadows portages twice in one day just to have lunch at a waterfall. For a kid waterfall is neat but it was too ambitious. Make sure the reward matches the effort. For him it did not. It was a character builder and I was proud of him, but we should of just went swimming and fishing that day.

My youngest went when he was five. They both have been going ever since. Will be 9 and twelve this summer.

Just know your kids. I’d say be flexible and adapt based on how the trip is going. A lazy camp day is a killer. You need to swim, fish, explore, or have a travel day is my advice. But a balance of not too ambitious vs. some action works best. We find 6 days 5 nights is a good amount for the family but every family is different of course.

04/14/2019 09:12AM  
I love taking my kids to the bwca. Each year I take one of the ducklings on a daddy/daughter trip. The one on one time with each of them is priceless. Each of them did their first trip at age 5.

I usually do a 4 day/3 night trip and we basecamp. I stick to entry points with small lakes so there is less of a chance for wind to cause problems with a small kid in the bow.

Make it their trip. My girls are always involved in the planning. They help pick the EP and which lake we plan to camp on. They also help plan the food etc.
During the trip they make most of the decisions as far as which campsite, when to fish, when to eat, what to do around camp etc. Pretty much the only time I overrule them is when safety is involved.

With kids along you definitely need to be flexible and go with the flow.
04/15/2019 10:58AM  
It really depends on the kids. Some kids can't sit still and will tend to wander off. If they are like that then you might want to wait until they are 10 and avoid campsites with big boulders and steep drops.

If the kids can sit still for long periods of time, don't wander off, and can be trusted to listen to directions like gathering firewood without getting lost, then they can go a lot younger. Really the decision maker on ages is how much you trust them and how well they follow directions.

My plan when my son is ready, is to take him to Burnt from Sawbill. It is a place I have wanted to go, close to the campground in case anything goes wrong, and an easy trip in. I'm just waiting for him to be responsible enough for me to trust him not to jump in the lake as soon as my back is turned. He's 4 right now and not well behaved, so I'm thinking it will take a few years at best.
member (16)member
04/15/2019 10:47PM  
My dad took me on my first trip when I was eleven and it got me hooked! For me I have always loved nature and it was really cool that he shared that with me! I will never forget our first trip it was perfect, the mosquitoes hadn’t hatched yet so there were practically no bugs. We went to see (in my opinion) the best waterfall in the Bdub rose falls. The bass were protecting their beds so on almost every cast off the shoreline of our campsite I caught a fish! Finally to top it off the weather was perfect we didn’t see a drop of rain! No sure if I will ever be able to top that trip, but it set an awesome first impression of the Bdub for me!
04/17/2019 06:38AM  
Awesome post. I can only hope that my kids go on a month camping tour when they are teenagers! That is winning parenting. I love the pictures as well. Playing the oar guitar is a new one for me. love it.
04/17/2019 06:40AM  
Everyone knows their family and your skill level and with that there are BWCA trips for everyone. I encourage people to take kids. Our family has had a ton of success with taking kids. Both of our girls have gone. Autumn was 4.5 years old on her first trip and went last year at 5.5 and will go again this year. Ella was 3 on her first trip and will be taking her 2nd trip this year. I have also took my nephew last year age 10. I have went with a family friend DeanL a couple of times and going again with them. Really good trip report here...

I think a few key things for us is be prepared for everything and malleable. This last trip we had rain every day but had a blast. Brought paperback books (boxcar children, huck finn) card games, toy tractors, etc. There was time spent under the rain tarp but that can be fun as well. Myself and Dean were probably the most restless and hardest to keep contained to the tarp. We didn't make it to Iron our plan but found a ton of peacefulness on Stuart. Did a great deal of fishing and it was nice the boys caught a lot of fish right from camp. Did a short hike to a falls.

The year before we had two extra adults for our two kids which was nice. (sister and brother-in-law) That year we brought a hiking pack to carry the 3 year old when hiking (not portaging) she had to portage. Little things went along way things like keeping a journal or count of all the critters we saw was a ton of fun. The kids loved it and now can go back and read which critters we saw. A rule for us is must be potty trained but that is more incentive to become potty trained. We used to drive up through the night but started to rent a cabin or bunkhouse the night before. A bit easier on the adults... the kids sleep through the night anyway on the drive. Dean and Steph this past year the boys were about 9 and 7.

distinguished member (376)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/17/2019 08:54AM  
If you take them, amazing things happen. Here's a couple shots of my paddling partner from about six years ago (he was 12) when he had almost no previous canoeing experience and carried very little of his own gear (he was the size of an average 9 year old):

We have always done 6-7 day trips, and I did make sure I included lots of extra time for him, whether it was exploring other campsites, hiking on the trails around our site, or just playing cards in the tent. I let him pick fishing spots, how long we would fish, packed some extra snacks of his choice, and let him choose when to go to bed. This was important because I didn't want it to be him coming along on "my" trip. I wanted it to be "his" trip too, and that really worked well over the years. I have some great photos of him "being a kid" out there, they are some of the best BW photos I have. He has always been included in all camp chores in some manner, and even enjoys some of them now.

Here are some pictures of his last trip, carrying a bigger load than me on most portages.

His little brother, now 11, has a couple 4 day Sylvania trips under his belt already, and will be coming to the BW this summer as well assuming we can work out the details around his busy baseball life.

My older son is headed off for a different type of journey, and may not get to join us this summer, but I know he hasn't taken his last trip with us.

Moral of the story? Time goes fast, start them as soon as they are ready and be prepared to learn a whole lot about your kids!
04/22/2021 02:54PM  
Awesome photos, and sounds like some memorable trips for the family! We will be taking our 2 year old on his first trip next month. What kind of carrier did you use for carrying your 3 year old on hikes? Did it fit in a pack while you were portaging?
04/22/2021 02:58PM  
schuetpa: "we brought a hiking pack to carry the 3 year old when hiking (not portaging) she had to portage.

Awesome photos, and sounds like some memorable trips for the family! We will be taking our 2 year old on his first trip next month. What kind of carrier did you use for carrying your 3 year old on hikes? Did it fit in a pack while you were portaging?
distinguished member (211)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/22/2021 03:52PM  
woodsywife: "Awesome photos, and sounds like some memorable trips for the family! We will be taking our 2 year old on his first trip next month. What kind of carrier did you use for carrying your 3 year old on hikes? Did it fit in a pack while you were portaging?"
In my experience a good child carrier is a big and expensive child carrier :). Otherwise it could get really uncomfortable on rough terrain (like pinching kid's legs). We used Osprey Poco with rain cover for the first 2.5 years (here it is

- the green thingy behind my wife). But for canoe trips it's way too heavy and takes too much space. After the first year, when our son learned to walk, we arranged our on-foot expedition according to his abilities.
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