WORLD'S OLDEST CANOE-TRIP OPERATOR

Background

 

FOR QUALIFICATION AS THE OLDEST organized canoe-trip operation, it had to be continuously operating year after year for the longest period of time and still be operating today. I sought any canoe-trip business, operator, public or private institution or program anywhere in the world. Seventy-five per cent of the qualifying operators' customers, students, clients or users must spend 75 per cent of their time traveling on a canoe trip or series of canoe trips that are at least two nights and three days long. The canoes used must be the North American-style open canoe, sometimes referred to as the Canadian canoe or Maine guide canoe, and are non-motorized.

This criteria ruled out youth camps (and there were many) that had a strong emphasis on canoe tripping, but where canoe-tripping did not dominate their program.

There were many institutions in the twentieth century that relied heavily on canoe trips, like the Hudson's Bay Company that supplied inland posts by canoe brigade. Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources (then Department of Lands and Forests) operated teams of fire rangers in the pre-bushplane days that kept open by canoe vast networks of portages for firefighting access, and the fighters themselves traveled to fires by canoe. Trucks, trains and planes have supplanted their canoes.

Aboriginal canoe use has not traditionally been organized except between families or in brigades for the trading companies. My research on aboriginal use is not complete by its nature, but I have learned enough to draw some safe conclusions. Native-Canadians and native-Americans who used canoes would travel together when sharing each other's hunting territory or in seasonal travel to trading posts. Trading post travel by canoe has ended. Virtually all canoe travel, even on remote hunting territories, has been supplanted by the outboard motor. In those rare cases that families still share grounds, it has not been done with the same family groups or has not been done continuously since World War I. 

Today canoe-tripping institutions are limited to outfitters, schools and youth camps. From this group, only two operations could be found, both youth camps, that fit the criteria and have operated since before 1915. Keewaydin, the oldest, and Camp Pathfinder in Algonquin Park in southern Ontario, operating since 1914. Ironically, Pathfinder was co-founded by a former Keewaydin staff member.

 

Sources

Much of this research overlapped with research on the world's largest canvas-canoe fleets, world's oldest canoeing organizations and world's oldest camps. Among those whom I sought out for help were prominent canoe-tripping individuals like Kirk Wipper, James Raffan, Craig Macdonald, Ralph Frese and Bruce Hodgins. Over a hundred potentially qualifying institutions were contacted directly. The following organizations were also canvassed:

Adirondack Museum

Alberta Camping Association

American Camping Association

American Canoe Association

Associations des camps du Quebec

Australian Camping Association
British Canoe Union

British Columbia Camping Association

Camping Association of Nova Scotia

Canadian Canoe Museum

Canadian Recreational Canoe Association

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

German Canoe Federation

Grand Council of the Cree

International Camping Fellowship

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Manitoba Camping Association

Maine Youth Camping Association

New Brunswick Camping Committee

Ontario Camping Association

Ontario Recreational Canoe Association

Open Canoe Association of Great Britain

Saskatchewan Camping Association

Scottish Canoe Association

South African Canoe Federation

Wooden Canoe Heritage Association

 

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