Wood On Water: A Teenage Summer Spent Canoe Tripping 400 Miles (Video)

A Film Following 12 Women Along A 40-Day Traditional Canoe Route

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What better way to learn about yourself and the people around you than 40 days traveling by way of canoe? Through heinous portages, bug-infested nights, and over a month of paddling with all their equipment, Hannah Maia’s film, Wood On Water, follows a group of 12 young women on an epic summer adventure. A 400-mile canoe trip with Camp Keewaydin through the Canadian wilderness.

wood on water image still
Feature Image: Hannah Maia / Wood On Water


The Canoe Trip Summer Camp

Keewaydin was established in 1893. It’s one of the oldest operating summer camps in North America. A cornerstone of Keewaydin is its focus on canoe trips.

According to the camp’s literature: “Today we look much the same as we did in 1893; paddling in wood canvas canoes, using tump lines to portage canoes, double packs, and wannigans (the wooden boxes) in which we carry food and equipment. Meals are cooked over open fires and sections prepare all of their food from scratch. Groups (sections) of six to eight kids travel the surrounding wilderness waterways, often portaging from lake to lake or up and down rivers, making camp at new spots each night, and sleeping in tents with one or two other campers.”

While the camp has remained much the same in its 130-year history, there has been one major shift within the past 20 years, when girls were first permitted to attend the program.

portage, scene from Wood On Water
Image: Hannah Maia / Wood On Water

Changing currents at Keewaydin

“The first year of the girl’s program started in 1999. Myself and a couple other women came up to help start the program,” Emily Schoelzel, Keewaydin Camp Director, explains in the film. “It wasn’t until I got there that I realized the staff community, the male staff community, had very mixed feelings about girls being there. Keewaydin was 105 years old. Had been boys only for 105 years. And all of a sudden by introducing women, a lot of things were going to change.

“I also do think there was a lot of question if women could actually do canoe tripping the way Keewaydin does canoe tripping,” Schoelzel goes on to say. “To me it seemed the most simple and direct path was that we just needed to do it exactly the way they did it, and then they wouldn’t have anything to question. I knew we could. There was no doubt.”

Maia was keen to know why something established over a century ago to promote the idea of manliness and roughing it in the woods is relevant to teenage girls today. The result is the story shared in, Wood On Water.

Watch Maia’s coming-of-age film along with others as part of the 2022 Paddling Film Festival.


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