Camp Widjiwagan

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Camp Widjiwagan is a YMCA camp based on Burntside Lake near Ely, Minnesota, United States.


The mission of Camp Widjiwagan is "to develop, in young people, respect for self, community, and the environment, through wilderness adventure and environmental education." [1]


Camp Widjiwagan was founded in 1929 by Julian Kirby with the permission of the YMCA as an all-boys wilderness camp. In 1947 it held its first sessions for girls. Since its founding it has gained national recognition for its excellent canoeing and backpacking programs. Since 1973 it has also run a strong environmental education program, called the Widjiwagan Outdoor Learning Program.

When the YMCA purchased Camp Du Nord in 1961 and Camp Northland in 1981, Camp Widjiwagan helped set them up as YMCA centers on Burntside Lake.

Wilderness Tripping Program[edit]

The wilderness tripping program at Widjiwagan runs from June through August and works with youth from the ages of 12 to 18. Three types of trips are offered: canoe, backpack, and 'combo' trips incorporating both canoeing and backpacking. There are a progression of trips in both canoeing and backpacking, as the age and skill level of a camper increase. The trips are single-sex and feature a high ratio of staff to youth, as high as 1 to 2 on the introductory trips, though a ratio of 1 to 5 is more common. The program offers standard, open-enrolled trips as well as by-invitation advanced trips for experienced campers.

The canoeing progression is as follows:

Trip Title Travel time in days Typical age of participants Destination By invitation:
Intro 5-10 12-13 BWCA No
Boundary Waters 7-13 13-14 BWCA No
Quetico 10-19 14-15 Quetico Provincial Park No
Explorer 21 16 Crown Lands, Quetico, BWCA Yes
Advanced Explorer 27 17 Manitoba and Ontario Rivers Yes
Voyageur 45-52 18 Nunavut and Northwest Territories Yes

In 1972, a parallel backpacking program was started. Backpacking trips are similar to the canoeing trips, except that time spent on trail is typically 2-3 days shorter, due to the need for travel days to and from camp. Backpacking trips take place in the mountain ranges of Isle Royale, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska.[2]

Environmental Education[edit]

Canoe built by Joe Seliga

Camp Widjiwagan also has an Environmental Education Program during the fall, winter and spring seasons. This program, started in 1973, allows schools to send up groups of students to the camp for a week. During this week, campers undergo some basic environmental education, including studying wilderness survival, plant and tree identification, basic hiking skills, and more. During the winter months, classes include animal tracking, the night sky, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

Notable alumni/staff/friends[edit]

Joe Seliga in workshop

Other Camps with the same name[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jerry Stelmok: The Art of the Canoe with Joe Seliga, MBI Pub. Co., 2003 (ISBN 0-7603-1241-9) — has a major section on Camp Widjiwagan

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°59′56″N 91°57′7″W / 47.99889°N 91.95194°W / 47.99889; -91.95194