Kayaking & Canoeing Ontario’s Madawaska River

whitewater canoeing madawaska river ontario

The Madawaska River in Ontario’s Highlands is one of the best rivers in the world to learn how to whitewater kayak or canoe. It’s no surprise that with its do-able rapids, relatively warm water and reliable flow it’s also home to the original whitewater school.

Ken Whiting and Paddle Tales, along with Madawaska Kanu Center owner, Claudia van Wijk, tell us all about what it’s like to kayak and canoe the Madawaska in this video:

About the Madawaska River

Madawaska Kanu Center (MKC) is a family business that was founded in 1969 by Claudia’s parents, who recognized the amazing capability for whitewater paddling on the Madawaska River.

Claudia says, “We’re in the region called Ontario Highlands, which is just east of Algonquin [Provincial] Park and between Toronto, our biggest city in Canada, and our nation’s capital, Ottawa.”

The river begins in Algonquin and winds it’s way to the Ottawa River 143 miles (230 km) later. There are three distinct sections of the river. MKC is located in the middle section, and the lower section holds whitewater sections of Class I-III.

“What’s unique about this river is that it’s drop-pool, where each rapid flows into a calm body of water. That’s thanks to the Canadian Shield. Having a regular water release is the reason why we can be here.”

The rapid sections of the river, especially, are known for its wildness. It’s a protected area that allows no development along the banks. Wildlife sightings are common and its beauty is well-known.

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Kayaking & Canoeing the Madawaska

For beginning paddlers, the very best way to experience the rapids of the Madawaska is by raft. Even toddlers are welcome on MKC’s very popular raft trips.

For paddlers with some whitewater experience, MKC offers two different types of solo paddling craft on the Madawaska: whitewater kayaks and open solo canoes with flotation bags—air bags made specifically for canoes.

Claudia emphasizes, “It takes skill. It’s not just something you can jump in with any boat and descend. Whitewater is powerful. It’s important to be a paddler with skills before you come here.”

Whitewater kayakers and canoeists should have the skills necessary to paddle Class III rapids comfortably before attempting the Madawaska solo.

Kayak and canoe camping on the lower Madawaska is an option, too. There are several outfitters in that section that can outfit your group with gear and shuttle services.

Learn to Whitewater Kayak on the Madawaska

MKC offers whitewater canoe and kayak lessons. If you’re a beginner “having instruction is key. You’ll learn quicker, and safer, and your experience will be positive from the onset.”

You can take a weekend course, but that won’t give you enough time to master the skills you’ll need for this river. For that you’ll want MKC’s week-long course, which is their most popular. Students can range from entry-level to advanced. Guests are put up on-site with options for camping, glamping and lodge rooms. For all the info see Madawaska Kanu Center.

whitewater canoeing madawaska river, ontario

See more Paddle TV videos on their YouTube channel.

We want to help you find the paddle that’s right for you! Contact our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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