The Ottawa River: A World-Class Whitewater Kayaking Spot

2 minute read + video

In the middle of agricultural country and just over an hour away from Ottawa, Ontario is one of the top whitewater kayaking spots in the world.

 whitewater kayaker on big rapids on the Ottawa River

Kayaking one of the many world-class rapids on the Ottawa River

“If you don’t already know about the Ottawa River, you’re probably not a whitewater paddler. The Ottawa is recognized around the world as one of the premier whitewater destinations for paddlers of any skill level.” ~ Ken Whiting, PaddleTV

Joel Kowalski and Katie Kowalski, run Wilderness Tours, a family rafting business started in the mid-70s by their father, Joe.

Joel says, “For us whitewater kayakers, it’s one of the greatest sections of whitewater on earth. The Ottawa River has a variety of channels—it’s almost like a ski hill of whitewater where you have a variety of different channels to choose from of varying degrees of difficulty.”

Take a look at this video for some spectacular whitewater footage:

From flat, lake-like paddling, the river dumps right into McCoys, the first section of whitewater Ken takes on in the video. He says, “It’s such a perfect example of Ottawa River whitewater. Warm water, big waves, a high probability of gettin’ tossed on our head, but lots of time to get the pieces back together!”

One of the features that makes the Ottawa a unique river is the need for navigation. It’s more like a lake that way, with its many lakes and islands. It’s not uncommon to lose your way at times.

“Having these lakes between the rapids gives you the opportunity to slow down and really enjoy the beauty of the area,” says Casey Bryant Jones, a guide with Wilderness Tours. Plenty of natural beauty and wildlife add a different dimension to a whitewater trip.

4 whitewater kayakers on the Ottawa River, next to a small rocky island

Whitewater kayakers on the Ottawa River

Another unique aspect of the Ottawa is how much the water level can change throughout the season. It fluctuates by several feet over the course of the summer months, making each trip a different experience.

Joel remarks, “Paddling in big water is a special kind of challenge. It’s not just a physical challenge…it’s like putting together a 3D puzzle. And unlike a lot of other sports where when you fall down you stop moving, in big water the course is always moving.”

“It doesn’t take long. A few strokes against the current and you realize there’s no way that you can hope to win a one-on-one battle with the river. It’s just too powerful. So you have to learn to work with that power,” continues Ken.

Be sure and watch the above video for heart-pounding footage of Ken and his friends as they take on several of the Ottawa’s rapids.

whitewater kayaker shooting through big waves on the Ottawa River
A kayaker shoots through big waves on the Ottawa River

The Wilderness Tours team helps promote and protect this 5,000+ acre area through the National Whitewater Park. The park includes this phenomenal section of the Ottawa River, along with the surrounding wilderness for people to enjoy outdoor recreation pursuits like whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching and more.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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