The 5 Best Rivers Of Ontario

Ontario is a wonderful paddling destination and home to some of the world’s best whitewater.

With the Canadian Shield cutting through most of Ontario it provides the geology necessary for quality whitewater. Dotting Ontario’s landscape are many amazing provincial parks to camp and make home base between paddling trips.

Many of the rivers listed here are conveniently located near civilization and easy to access.

Petawawa River

The Petawawa River is a wonderful scenic river that offers stellar whitewater most of the year. There are two sections, both of which are fun, high volume rapids. The rapids along them are easy to scout and portage should they be too difficult to attempt. Close to the world-class Ottawa river the Petawawa is an easy day trip for those in the area looking for something else.

Upper Section

Class: 3 – 4

Location: Algonquin Park Lake Travers.

Description: The upper section of the Petawawa is a great full day adventure, deep in the heart of the Canadian wilderness. The run starts with a one-hour hike along some old train tracks. You know you’re at the put-in when the trees on the left open up to reveal a long set of rapids with islands and channels on either side. The first notable rapid is on the downstream right side with an easy little waterfall followed by some class 3 boogie. Most of the river is characterized by large bouncy rapids with the occasional hole to watch out for. The last rapid at the take out has a ten-foot waterfall with an obvious horizon line, boof the center then run the last bit of boogie to the takeout.

Town Section

Class: 3 – 4

Location: Right in the town of Petawawa. Put-in can be found off Wilson Ave where the start of the walking trail / train tracks meet the river.

Description: The town section has perfect riverside access along the entirety of it, thanks to the riverside park. The start of the run is at the train bridge and ends after the boogie below the biggest rapid on the run Lovers rapids. All rapids are easy to scout and have fairly straight forward lines with pools in between to rescue any swimmers. At the very bottom there are two additional rapids. “Suicide” and “golf course”. Suicide is a big burly rapid with shallow run out at the bottom. Golf course has a fantastic surf wave during the spring, with perfect eddy access and roadside access. However, to run the last two rapids you will need a shuttle back up to the top.

The Mississippi

The Mississippi River is a great spring time run offering a variety of different sections varying in difficulty. Most of these runs are best done in the spring when water levels are high, or else the rapids get very shallow.

Blakeney

Class: 4 – 5

Location: Just off County Road 29 on Blakeney Road. There will be a bridge and a large parking spot offering immediate access to the river.

Description: Blakeney is a fantastic springtime run opening up the moment ice breaks during spring melt. This run can be pretty busy when its in and for good reason, with it being one of the best runs early spring. Blakeney is a short and divided by multiple islands and channels creating a nearly endless amount of lines. Blakeney is not a beginner run and more geared towards the advanced paddlers. Just upstream between Almonte and Blakeney is a beginner section with some easy class 1 to 2 wave trains should you be looking for something easier.

Playfairville

Class: 1 – 3

Location: The put-in can be found at the end of Iron Road where a bridge with parking can be found. Take out is at Playfairville.

Description: The Playfairville section is a springtime run as well only ever running when levels are high. This section is much easier than blakeney while still offering a few decent sized rapids. The character of this section is simple class 1 – 3 wave trains with pools between each rapid. The only rapid of note is around two thirds down the run where a good surf wave forms. Just around the bend the river opens up into a wide rapid with wide ledges creating holes that might catch paddlers off guard. Despite the easy and sometimes boring rapids, the scenery and wilderness makes for a relaxing trip definitely worth trying.

Madawaska River

The Madawaska River is an incredible paddling destination with multiple sections all of which are runnable year round. Theres plenty of camping and resorts along the river offering kayaking lessons for beginners and great fun for advanced paddlers alike.    

Middle Madawaska

Class: 1 – 3

Location: Put in is located at Park Lake Dam and the take out is on the left in Mud Bay.

Description: The middle Madawaska is one of the best places to learn and home to the Kanu Club. All summer long there is plenty of water, the levels controlled by dam releases giving consistently predictable levels. The rapids are characterized by simple boogie and pool drop characters never exceeding class 3 in difficulty, making it a fun, easy run. Located on the river is also a maze of hanging gates to practice slalom and key disciplines in swift water maneuvers.

Palmer Rapids

Class: 1 – 3 (There is only one class 3 that being the Jessups chute at the top just below the dam)

Location: 6535 Palmer Road. The Paddler Co-op is both the put-in and take out located just a short ten-minute paddle downstream of the rapids. Along the length of the rapids are a walking trail giving easy access for multiple laps.

Description: Palmer Rapids is also dam controlled, providing consistent reliable water levels throughout the summer. Camped just below Palmer Rapids is Paddler Co-op, a small lodge with on-site camping offering kayaking instructional courses. Having been there myself, what makes this place fantastic are the amazing people and beautiful location, making it one of the best places to paddle. Go there for a week and find out for yourself, you won’t be disappointed!

Gull River

Class: 2 – 4

Location: North of Minden on Horseshoe Lake Road, until you reach the dam then take a right immediately after. Parking lot will be found on the right.

Description: The gull is a great river to sharpen your skills as a kayaker. With enough water flowing through year round, the gull will always be open and worth the trip. Being man-made and maintained by the community, there is plenty of easy access along its banks.  A solid roll is highly recommended along with excellent boat control due to how shallow the rapids can be. If you can master the Gull, you will be qualified to tackle just about any river out there.

Ottawa River

The Ottawa River is renowned worldwide for producing top class kayakers, and its incredible whitewater. The Ottawa River is huge and offers a large list of activities for all who come to its shores. Offering everything from fishing, kayaking, swimming, recreation and much more. With how long the Ottawa is, the options are nearly endless for the types of activities available. Get out there and explore the world class river for yourself! You won’t regret it.

Beachburg

This is by far the most popular section and for good reason.

Being home to some of the best rapids on the earth and multiple rafting companies, there will always be excited boaters bombing down the rapids or waiting in the eddies. With that in mind keep your head on a swivel so as to avoid getting hit by a raft or kayaker.

Class: 1 – 4

Location: Travel along Grants Settlement Rd until you reach McCoy Chute Trail on the right where a large parking lot can be found. The takeout is now pay-to-access and can be found at RiverRun Rafting.

Middle Channel: There are two different channels paddled on the Ottawa, those being the Main and Middle channels. Both of them are fantastic day trips with fun big water rapids at all water levels. The middle is usually the easier run but beware The Garvins Chute an obvious horizon line after a short paddle through a lake. This rapid is easily class 4—sometimes even 5 at high water—yet is easily portaged on the left.

Middle Channel

Main Channel: The main channel is a little bigger than the middle and just has larger rapids to contend with. If you’re ever going to paddle the Ottawa, plan to be there for at least two days in order to run each channel. The only rapid to worry about on the main is Coliseum at high water, at the bottom there is a very wide ledge hole called Death Ledge which has nearly taken multiple lives. To avoid Death Ledge either go left or right, it’s very easy to avoid it.

Main Channel

City of Ottawa

In the spring when water levels are high there are some very popular sections in the city of Ottawa. Many wonderful surf waves form ranging from huge intimidating waves to gentle little foam piles you could soul surf forever.

Champlain Wave

Class: 3

Location: Baites Island just off Champlain Bridge in Ottawa.

Description: The most popular spot out of all the surf waves is definitely the Champlain Wave. With how friendly and accessible it is, this wave is a no brainer. A nice big relaxing foam pile with nice shoulders to easily cycle on it allows for just about any trick in the book with a huge eddy that will feed you right back into the wave.

Sewer Wave

Class: 2 – 3

Location: Drive across Champlain Bridge then take Boulevard Lucerne or Alexandre-Tache east until you get to Rue Begin. Make a right and park at Parc Brebeuf. Sewer Wave can be found behind the statue.

Description: On the other side of the river from Champlain wave is Sewer Wave albeit a smaller wave but much less crowded than champlain. Sewer Wave offers excellent access and a large eddy for recovery which feeds right into the wave making it very easy to surf. As for the shape of the wave, it has a V-shaped reactionary feeding into it on either side with a tall foam pile making it great for setting up tricks. With a busy park at its side you’re sure to get the attention of a few people to marvel at your paddling skills!

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