Keewaydin Way Publication Published March 2004 

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About The Original Book

Cover photo: Keewaydin Way: A Portrait 1893-1983

The Keewaydin Way

A Portrait: 1893-1983

The original 1983 publication of the history of Keewaydin was five years in the making.

Author:  Brian Back

Sketches: Hap Wilson

Maps: Brian Back and Hap Wilson

Publisher: Camp Keewaydin

206 pp., 9 maps, 22 sketches, 76 photos


Currently out of print.

Reviews and Comments

"This book  is one of the most well-worn on my shelves."

            James Raffan, author

"The years of work were worth the effort. Already I've re-read some portions. I keep wishing there were more."

            Alfred "Waboos" Hare, former director of Keewaydin Dunmore

"I eagerly read it. The research must have been exhausting and interesting. Many thanks for a long-needed record. A great job."

            Heb Evans, author of several books on canoeing

From Appalachia

Thirty years ago, almost any new book on canoeing might get reviewed in this column simply because it was a new book on canoeing. The situation has changed today. Books in Print now lists about 120 titles under "Canoeing," of which about 40 are instructional and 20 are about tripping. But who really needs them? Almost anyone with camping experience and the ability to propel a canoe should be able to handle something like the Allagash, and then go on from there. As for the wilderness adventure books, all too many of the newer ones are of the "narrow escapes" variety. Did the authors take these foolhardy and unnecessary risks through ignorance or inexperience, one wonders, or were they perhaps invented in order to sell the book? In this column, we seek the few exceptions to rise above the literary muskeg. Here is one such book.

You will not likely find The Keewaydin Way in any library or bookstore, nor am I aware of any other reviews. It might not have come to my attention had not one of my companions casually mentioned it as we sat around a campfire on the shores of Ashuanipi Lake discussing, of all things, accidents involving canoeists and trains.

Anyone who does much canoe tripping in eastern Canada is following in the hallowed footsteps of Keewaydin, in spirit if not in body, whether they realize it or not. Keewaydin is said to be the oldest private summer camp in North America. Their first regular tripping season was in 1903, but the book traces the roots of the camp, and of recreational canoe-tripping in general, back to the Maine Woods in the late 1800s and ultimately to the Gunnery Preparatory School for Boys in Washington, Connecticut, in the 1860s. From there, this fascinating account moves forward in unbroken chronology to the present.

Especially noteworthy is the depth of historical information surrounding the Temagami region (where the camp was and still is centered) augmented by an excellent appendix of notes. Old photos, camp records, and other memorabilia from the very earliest days onward enhance the book. Note that someone cared enough to preserve these archival treasures, so often lost, and pass them down through several generations. These are further supplemented by the author's diligent research and many interviews with old-timers. The sketches by Hap Wilson are excellent. The book is crammed with anecdotal items some humorous, such as the infamous sinking of the piano in Lake Temagami, and some not (four fatalities, including the tragic Matthew Ridgway train accident). One incredible chapter could have been taken straight from a paperback romance. There are descriptions of proven techniques and equipment that have not changed or been improved much over the years, including the wood and canvas canoe.

Author Brian Back is a former camp staffer and guide. He spent four years gathering the material for this unique documentary. He is presently co-founder and co-chair of the Temagami Wilderness Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the Temagami wilderness in the face of powerful commercial interests. We can only hope that Keewaydin and other camps like it can survive what is becoming an ever more uncertain future. Come what may, this remarkable book, of which alas only 1000 copies have been printed, documents what surely has been a glorious history of canoe-tripping in eastern Canada.

          Stewart Coffin,  June 15, 1988

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Maps and information herein are not intended for navigational use, and are not represented to be correct in every respect. 
All pages intended for reference use only, and all pages are subject to change with new information and without notice. 
The author/publisher accepts no responsibility or liability for use of the information on these pages. 
Wilderness travel and canoeing possess inherent risk. 
 It is the sole responsibility of the paddler and outdoor traveler to determine whether he/she is qualified for these activities.
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