Wabun’s History

Founded in 1933

Eight teacher-coaches began their founding of Wabun in the fall of 1932.  They felt even then that the technologies of the times were insulating their student-athletes from a true connectedness with the comforts they enjoyed in their everyday family lives – many buttons, levers, keys and switches.  They sought to formulate an experience that would put kids in touch with their their own strengths and abilities while enjoying a close and powerful relationship with the natural beauty of a Lake Temagami lake and riverscape. 

They were convinced that the benefits to be enjoyed in being the authors of their own well-being and joys could be transformational in the development of competencies and confidences.   Life at four miles an hour, recreation being what you do with others – not what you purchase, subscribe to or consume, and contributing to a truly interdependent section of wilderness canoeists guided their definition of the Wabun experience. In the winter of 1932-33, several of these gentlemen called upon the efforts of the Mattawa guides with whom they were to lead canoe trips the following summer, and the residents of the local Temagami First Nation population on neighboring Bear Island. They travelled by train to the town of Temagami, and together they all loaded dogsleds with materials needed to start the building of the camp’s facilities, mushed their way up the eighteen miles of ice to what would be Wabun’s future site and started laying foundations and pounding nails.  With basic structures in place, these founding directors launched Wabun’s 8-week inaugural season in July of 1933. Campers travelled by train to the town of Temagami where they boarded a large passenger boat for, what was then, a two-hour water journey to the base camp on Garden Island.

Continuity From Past to Present

Founding family leadership of the camp has continued uninterrupted for over eighty years as has the relationship to this day with the town of Mattawa and with Bear Island, with the latter represented in both camper and staff ranks, a relationship highlighted in the annual Bear Island – Wabun Staff ballgame played at the camp’s opening every year since 1933. Wabun provides opportunities for travel in uncomplicated ways in undisturbed territories, and has been doing so for over eighty years. With the exception of some modern materials used in some of our gear, we travel the same way, the same routes, experiencing the same joys, that were the cornerstone of our founding in 1933. Fortunately, and happily the benefits haven’t changed either, nothing can diminish that sense of self and belonging, an inevitable outgrowth of living a Wabun life, attested to by over 4,000 of our alumni/ae.

Annual Bear Island-Wabun Softball Game
Wabun’s Founders in 1933
Inaugural Season
Brief History of Wabun & Archival Video