Canoe Camping with a Baby: A Learning Experience

Canoe camping with a baby

In June, we took our daughter canoe camping for the first time and found canoeing with a baby to be more difficult than backpacking with a baby, still we had a wonderful adventure. Before we left, we tried to get her used to the canoe on the lawn and it seemed like she liked it, but we forgot one very important element: the dreaded personal flotation device.

baby in a canoe
Dry land test.


On a Friday afternoon, we headed east to Steam Boat Rock State Park on the shores of Banks Lake, where we have camped and canoed before. Our goal was a set of boat in camp sites about a 20 minute paddle from the state park put-in. We stayed close to shore and made sure there was no wind.  Our daughter did fairly well, but I had to hold her in my lap, so my paddling efforts were of little use and Steve had to J-stoke all the way to camp. We knew this was a possibility, but we had hoped that she might sit in the bottom of the canoe for a while. And she might have, if it hadn’t been for her pfd. She is not fond of it, and it doesn’t look very comfortable to me either. The trouble is, that the more effective the pfd, the less ease of movement it provides. I remember my sisters and I pushing back against life jackets growing up. I have a feeling this battle will continue.

Anyone have any great ideas for getting kids and toddlers to wear life jackets? Or suggestions on the best models?

canoeing with a baby
Mom, what are we doing again?


Still, we made it to camp: where we were immediately swarmed by mosquitos. I ran around in circles with the little one while Steve set up the mesh interior of our tent. Then we dodged inside. The mosquitos buzzed around the the tent and landed on the netting, as if waiting for us to dare to venture into the great outdoors.

mosquitos at Banks Lake
Watching the sunset, and the mosquitoes, through the mesh sides of our tent.


I had to wonder if we would be packing up the next morning. However, the mosquitos had gone into hiding by the time we got up the next morning. We spent the day by the lake in the shade. Our little girl experienced sand for the first time, and loved tearing apart the “castles” that we built.


Banks lake camping
On the beach at camp.


DSCN3845 Then, at about 5:00 two things happened: the shade disappeared and the mosquitos came back out. We tried to hide in the tent, but it was too hot. Our daughter needed a nap, but she couldn’t fall asleep. In a desperate effort to escape the heat and the mosquitos, we got into the canoe (after struggling to get her into the life jacket) and paddled out into the shade of Steam Boat Rock. Steve paddled and I held our daughter while she fussed. Then, after 5 minutes or so, she fell asleep. Had Native American mothers paddled out in their canoes to lull an otherwise inconsolable baby? I wanted to laugh, but kept quiet for her sake. While the little one snoozed, Steve paddled us across a small inlet. We landed on a steep sandy beach (with no mosquitos) and we played in the sand until the sun went down behind Steam Boat Rock and our campsite was in the shade.

DSCN3864 DSCN3874

The next morning the heat and the mosquitos were worse, so we decided to head out one day early, beat not necessarily by the camping and canoeing, but by odd weather which had led to a high lake level, lots of mosquito breeding grounds, and a sweltering June.

Nevertheless, Steve had a plan for our future canoeing escapades…

Read the continuation…

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