Building a Foundation

The key to providing successful wilderness trips is preparation. All Widji sessions begin with two to three days at base camp. During this time, campers meet their counselors and fellow group members and begin planning. Campers are involved in all aspects of the trip preparation: goal setting, establishing a menu, route and honing the many skills they will use on their trip.

Wilderness Setting

The real magic of Widji happens in the wilderness - friendships form and memories are made! Once “on trail,” groups spend the rest of their session canoeing or backpacking in wilderness areas. Groups move most days and camp in a different place most nights. Free from the distractions of civilization, groups get to know each other and come together to accomplish their goals.

Trail Groups and Friend Requests

Campers are grouped as much as possible according to age and experience. Groups are kept small, by design (4-8 people). A big part of what makes Widji special is the strong friendships that groups form on trail. We encourage campers to come to camp ready to meet new people and make friends. Most Widji camper attend camp individually. We also understand that sometimes two campers may want to share a trail group. We will try to honor friend requests for up to two friends but we cannot accommodate requests for more than two friends to be grouped together. Sibling pairs will be put in different groups if registered in the same session.

Trail Counselors

Leadership is the key to a quality wilderness experience. Widji trail counselors are teachers, role models, and mentors. All Widji counselors have participated in our extensive staff training and hold current lifeguard, CPR and Wilderness First Responder certifications. We select staff members based on their personal and professional experience and interest in wilderness trips and working with teens as well as their judgment and leadership ability.

Risk Management

Widjiwagan has a history of safe wilderness travel that spans more than 80 years. It is important for parents and campers to acknowledge that instant communication with emergency medical services is not always possible due to the remoteness of our trips. Because of this, we have developed a risk management strategy that couples advanced wilderness first aid protocols and training with a thorough knowledge of the areas we travel through. Our program cannot guarantee accident-free travel. However, our attitude and investment in accident prevention can ensure that, in the event of an accident or illness, our counselors have received the training necessary to inform appropriate and expeditious decisions.

Closing Celebration

We invite parents/guardians, family and friends to attend their camper’s Closing Celebration. These events offer an opportunity to share in the Widji trail experience and celebrate the accomplishments of returning campers. Registration is required at least one week in advance for the Closing Celebration. Closing Celebrations are held on the night before the last day of the session. For accommodations in or around Ely, please visit

Required Forms

Submission of the following forms every year before campers arrive:

  • Health History
  • Physical Examination
  • Contact Information & Agreement Form
  • Transportation Form
  • Insurance Card
  • Passport: Campers traveling to Canada (Quetico, Advanced Canoers and some Advanced Explorer Backpackers) must bring a valid passport to camp and send us photocopy of their passport prior to arrival.
  • Camper Questionnaire: Optional but highly encouraged 

All of these forms as well as information on out-of-state transportation assistance and gear lists are available to download from the Forms and Publications tab. Forms may be returned by mail to YMCA Camp Widjiwagan, 2125 E. Hennepin Ave. Suite 100, Mpls, MN 55413, faxed to 612 223 6322 or uploaded here.


Campers are involved in the menu planning for their trip and can tailor their trail menu to suit their tastes. But generally, meals are made from scratch out of common grocery items and specialized dehydrated goods.

Common menu items include:

  • Breakfast: granola, pancakes, oatmeal, cinnamon rolls, Grape Nuts.
  • Lunch: cheese, sausage, raisins, gorp (trail mix), crackers, peanut butter, and tortillas.
  • Dinner: macaroni and cheese, calzones, burritos, soups.
  • Groups are mostly limited by their own imaginations!

Before and after going on trail, campers will eat in our beautiful, log Kirby dining hall. Meals often include classics such as spaghetti and meat balls, tacos and lots of yummy home made bread!

We can accommodate most food allergies and other dietary needs. Please contact us with any concerns.


Widji offers detailed CanoeingBackpacking and Pathfinder specific gear lists. The Camper Information Handbook, offers information on gear retailers. These documents will answer many of your questions – we encourage you to check them out!!

In general, campers should come prepared for a variety of weather. Summer weather in northern Minnesota and Canada can quickly change from sunny and warm to cool and wet.

Dressing in layers is the best way to keep comfortable under a variety of conditions. Great trail clothing can often can be found inexpensively at Army Surplus Stores, Good wills and amongst old clothes at home. Expect that your clothes will get dirty and will be well used when you return. Widji will provide group gear items including canoeing or backpacking packs.

Your trail boots will probably be the most important piece of gear that you will bring to camp. Boots should have a sturdy sole, cover your ankle bone and have space for wool socks. We encourage campers to break boots in by walking around in them before arriving at camp in order to avoid blisters!!

Please feel free to contact us at 651-645-6605 with any questions. We are happy to help in your preparation for camp!!

Physical Fitness

We aim to give campers agency in shaping their wilderness experience to suit their unique goals and those of their group. You will work together with your counselor and group mates to plan a route for your trip that you all feel excited about and is the right pace. That being said, canoeing and backpacking are physically demanding activities. We recommend that you prepare yourself to have the most fun at camp by being physically active before your arrive. Walking at a solid pace, going for runs and playing group sports are all great ways to get ready for Widji!