White Water Rafting the Ottawa River | The best rafting in Canada
One of our favourite things to get up to on a road trip in Canada is white water rafting. And there isn’t a better river for a white water rafting tour than the mighty Ottawa river. Why? Big rapids, warm water and in the summer great Ontario sunshine! There is a reason it is considered the best river to raft in Canada by many including Wild Water Adventures… who aren’t even located here! It’s just that great.
Rafting the Ottawa river is special for many reasons. You have huge and fun rapids with funky names like “Dragon’s Tongue” & “Bus Eater”. The rapids are classed III to V (on a scale up to VI where that is by all intents not passable). There are different channels to raft given the conditions. Oh and you can go “surfing” on your raft if the water conditions are right. Did we mention that the water is warm! Warm enough for most of the days of the season that you don’t need a wetsuit and you’ll find yourself swimming a lot.
There are two primary rafting channels on the Ottawa river. You have the “Main Channel” and the “Middle Channel” – both around the Rocher Fendu islands. No matter which channel you raft down you will start at the infamous McCoy’s Chute Rapid. You’ll also see kayakers and other white water adventurists enjoying the water.
There isn’t a better channel – as they are both awesome – just a better one for a given day which your rating operator will know! You can even get to go down a waterfall with a 5-meter drop at Garvin’s Chute. A little nervous about it – all good you can skip it.
The Ottawa River flows – it really flows. And it is appropriately named by the Algonquins Kichi Sibi or Kichissippi meaning "Great River" or "Grand River". The river is absolutely massive at 1271 kilometres long, and in some places over 460 feet deep. We aren’t sure if it is because of the size of the river or age but the rapids are considered in many locations “drop-rapids” because they have a big drop and short break. It adds to the fun.
There is a reason why it is considered one of the original “highways” of Canada. This along with the many tributaries that flow into it were used as highways – by canoe. The mouth of the Ottawa river is at Lake Temiskaming. It flows south to Ottawa and then east all the way to Montreal before draining into the Lake of Two Mountains and the St Lawrence river. This river highway connects our major cities – or these cities sprung up and grew in part because of this canoe highway. For a huge stretch of the Ottawa it also acts as a border between Quebec and Ontario. Aptly named the Rivière des Outaouais on the Quebec side.
The main area for white water rafting on the Ottawa is just an hour north of the city Ottawa. This is where all the commercial rafting companies are set up. You have rapid after rapid with drop-chutes, waterfalls and big water. There are class IV rapids that have enormous waves that swallow, flip and flop your boats – yes even with you holding on as tight as possible.
Rafting is a higher risk activity and there have been incidents on the Ottawa river – like any water-sport. Make sure to follow the instructions of your guide! One thing that we love about the river is that between many of the rapids there is lots of space for a swim - and the river isn't "rocky" in the classic sense. This way you just go for a nice swim (or float with your PFD) when you end up out of the boat.
We haven’t even gotten to the scenery yet. You are in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by forests and wildlife on this wonderful day-trip. The views are beautiful and engrossing.
Enjoy your time on the water!
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