Canoe game suggestions for Girl Scouts?

I’ve been asked to supervise the waterfront at a small lake for a Girl Scout encampment in mid-October and am looking for ideas for a canoeing game. The event is planned & put on by older girls, for older girls- 12-18 yr-olds. This year’s theme is Wild, Wild West and I need to work within that. Each session is an hour long and we have 8-10 tandem canoes out per session. The safety & handling talk usually takes 10-15 minutes and on-the-water time is 30-45 minutes. Skills will be rudimentary at best. I’m looking for fresh ideas- please help!

I wish I could offer
more constructive ideas, but I am a Lame-O when it comes to games. Mike McCrea is the Game Master, with backwards races, bow solo races, and more than I can remember.

I CAN cauation you on what to stay away from though. Canoe soccer, or any activity requiring a ball would place swinging paddles in close proximity to other paddlers. That is an invitation to disaster.

How about a race over a marked course with the stern paddler blindfolded and the bow paddler giving directions?


Sponge Fish
You might want to look for one of Mike McCrea’s trip reports on the duckhead’s annual “lilly dipper” races. They do all sorts of wacky races, such as race with the paddlers facing opposite ends of the canoe, racing backwards, and what have you.

When I was first learning we played a game with sponge fish that involved throwing the sponges at each other. What was the object? I don’t remember, but it didn’t seem to matter. We had these fish-shaped sponges and threw them at each other. Most often, we’d miss and the sponge ended up in the water. We’d all maneuver feverishly trying to get to the sponge so we could pick it up and wing it at somebody else. So the game reinforces boat handling skills.

Wild West, eh? So the sponges can be pistols, or sticks of dynamite. Bring some milk jugs, rope and anchor weights (rock, brick). Use the jugs to establish the boundaries of “the okay corral.” If the sponge lands in your boat, you are blown up or shot. If you want it competitive, boats that are shot or blown up can be eliminated (must leave the corral). If not, give them a penalty–leave the corral and take a swim, or maybe paddle the perimeter of the corral before you can reenter.

You may need to establish a high-sticking rule. There is incentive to use the paddle to block the sponge from landing in your boat. That’s fine if you aren’t scared of the kids clocking (hitting) each other with the paddles. If you think that is an issue, make a rule against it.

Good luck with your scouts. Whatever you do, it will probably be fun of the kids. Kid + water + canoe = fun.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

a couple games
well there is the duct tape game. Its kinda like flag football in canoes. You put a piece of tape on the bow and stern and they everybody tries to get the most pieces of tape. When both pieces are off your canoe you go out. The winner is not the last boat standing, but whoever has the most pieces of tape.

Then there is dead fish. Use a bilge sponge or something similar and players try to throw the “fish” into other players boats. Getting a fish in your boat means you are out. If you have a lot of people you could play with multiple “fish”. This game is also more fun with solo canoes.

What we did last year…
Good ideas, please keep 'em coming. Last year the theme was Silver Screen and the movie the girls came up with was Lake Placid. I bought lots of tennis balls from the dollar store and 3 squishy alligators. The idea was to collect the balls (eggs) from the water to keep new alligators from hatching. If an alligator was thrown in your boat, the eggs had to be returned to the water. The winner was whoever had the most eggs at the end of the session. No one tried to block the flying alligators- wonder why? Maybe because whoever had 'em didn’t advertise it until they were close enough to assure a successful toss?

You don’t need our help!
You are way more creative than we are.


from 1956 Red Cross Canoe Manual

Hand Paddling Races

Broom Paddling Races

Standing Races

Canoe Over Canoe Rescue Race

Standing on the gunnel and paddling races

Tail end races - kneel in the extreme stern facing the stern and try to control the boat

Kangaroo Races - propel boat by standing on gunnels and bouncing, paddle only used for balance

Canoe jousting - padded spears please

Bucket race - fill other canoes with your bucket form lake, no bailing of your canoe allowed

Tug of War

Tired swimmer race - paddle out to “Tired Swimmer” put them in canoe and race back

OK there are 30 activities in all. Email me if you want details

The current Red Cross manuals are all business. Guess they don’t want to put ideas into our heads.

some fun ones i played as a kid

– Last Updated: Sep-06-07 3:52 PM EST –

although I am not a Girl or a Girl scout here are some fun games! Demolition derby self explanatory, Ram your opponents boats! Boarding party self explanatory, hoist pirate flag and attempt to take over your opponents boats. Submarine, Flip Boat up side down and pretend you are in a Sub, and lunch secret attacks against other subs by tossing mud balls at them, or rocks if they are in a Grumman. Sink the boat, how many kids does it take to keep a Grumman canoe under water. (With air ballast tanks still intact) Its pretty easy to sink one if you open the cover that holds the Air, or in the case of the cheaper ones holds a block of foam. Another fun one is to see who can paddle a flooded boat the fastest. Or to see who can paddle the fastest around a circular course sitting in the bow seat paddling forward, or stern seat paddling backwards.

All advice from Swedge
comes with a liability disclaimer.


Nevertheless, fun suggestions - maybe not for a bunch of icky GIRLS.

when I was growing up, we actually clamped lead sinkers on to our fishing line by biting them!!! now folks get scared if your little toy has lead paint!! I mean we used to bite solid lead!! oh the humanity!!! Oh yeah Girls used to play with us too, although they were more frequently the TARGETS of our attacks… Although i remember a few of them holding ther own! i often wonder what happend to those girls! Ah life was soooo much simpler when you didnt notice or care about the parts that made girls girls!!!

Canoe games
Great ideas - keep them coming! I’ve added these to a document based on a similar thread a year or so ago. I’ve used many of these at our summer youth camp, and am always looking for more new ideas.

Here’s a couple we’ve used:

Balance a 16’ long 2 x 12 across the middle thwart of a canoe. Have a bow and stern paddler, plus one kid standing on each end (the last 12", marked off)of the 2 x 12. The standers have to continually toss a ball back and forth while the canoe is paddled out into the lake, around some bouy, and back in. A race with 4 canoes going is fun to watch, and the kids enjoy it.

We’ve also done canoe jousting with older kids with 17’ Alumacrafts. Sit on top of one end of the canoe, with legs dangling down each side. This brings the opposite end up in the air, with each paddle stroke raising it even further. With a little practice, one can learn to tailwalk and swing a canoe quite well. The jousting comes in during a free-for-all of about 6 canoes at a time in a controlled - and fairly small - area. A tailwalking and swinging canoe can unseat another paddler… This sounds terribly dangerous, but we’ve never had a mishap, and have played this many times over the years.

cYa, Jim

Dead Fish Polo
The best canoe game is dead fish polo. It is important to have several large sponges, not just one.

The rules are simple. Sponges are tossed upon the water. They may only be picked up on ones paddle.

The object is to toss the sponge into another’s boat. If it lands there, that individual[s] are eliminated until the next contest. Hence, the last person[s] without a sponge in their boat wins that particular contest.

In real life, we seldom eliminate - just throw the sponge back out and go after it again. Did I mention that hitting a body part with a wet sponge generally causes it to fall into the boat?

The game teaches boat handling: heeling away from the sponge, acceleration, back paddling, etc. A great way to lock in the skills that have been taught over the day.

here are my favourites:
Blindfolded canoe race:

teams of three, each canoe gets two blindfolded paddlers and one passenger who gives directions. Race course is short-out on the water, around a buoy and back.

Great practise for team work- speed is not a winning factor…

bailer race:

two teams, divided into groups of three , two paddlers in each canoe and one oponent as passenger. The opponent has a bailer and tries to fill the canoe while the race is on (same course as above: short…)

speed is the winning factor- bailers have to be of same size of course

hint: the bailer person can slow the canoe further down by how he fills the bailer…

scavenger hunt:

a set number of foamy floats (4" pieces of pool noodles) per team. The floats are numbered as are the teams (ie you have five teams- you have 6 floats with # 1, 6 floats with # 2, and so on up to team # 5)

The floats are scattered arround on the water by the game leader/referee (works only without wind…) and each team has to search for it’s floats. Wrong numbers have to be returned to the water.

First team back with the most (or better all) of it’s own floats wins.

Great for skill practise-draws, prys, reverse…

Bumper boats
Our scouts learned real fast in ABS boats playing bymper boats. 5 points to win, point earned by a solid ram by your bow on someone else’s beam. Must watch out for fingers. Works best with 3 boats in a heat. The competition is intense. The first 2 points come fast, after that the skill level and experience makes it go much longer. Also builds bracing skills.

Herding & Exploring
Wind, water & air temperature are definitely issues in Michigan in October. These girls will be in platform tents with no great way to get warm and dry once they are wet, so some of the ideas that would involve getting wet will definitely be saved for a summer event. We can take care of a few swimmers but not 100.

I’m liking the scavenger hunt idea- it would tie into the explorer thing. Since wind could be an issue, we can tie laundry jugs to bricks and have items tied to each jug so they don’t all end up at one end of the lake. Each team would have a map of the lake showing the location of the items they are supposed to find. I’ll have to get out on the lake pretty early to set it up- the duck hunters won’t be pleased…

Get a 10’ 2x6 or larger plank and drive it with the bow of the canoe or side glance hits, across a finish line. Great practise for learning to manuever a canoe.

Do one canoe at a time, fastest time wins.

Race with canoes partially filled with water to give the boat a very unstable feel. Maybe fill with 5 or 10 gallons of water.

After they get the hang of it,
you can have races. Plan a race day on one of the ending days of canoeing. I think a little race will be fun. Nothing unique, just a nice race. They can be in teams of 2, in 1 canoe.