You may not know that Ottawa and its surrounding region has the same status in the whitewater kayaking world as Whistler, in B.C., does for skiing and Hawaii does for surfing! This is because the Ottawa region is surrounded by three of the world’s best whitewater rivers. The “Rocher Fendu” section of the Ottawa River is near Beachburg, Ont., the Gatineau River runs near Maniwaki, Que., and la “Rivière Rouge” runs near Mont Tremblant, Que.
Home to one of the world’s top five whitewater rafting spots, with big class III to V rapids located about an hour’s drive west from the city’s downtown core, the mighty Ottawa River is a favourite spot for world-class kayakers and amateur rafters alike. On a stretch of the scenic upper Ottawa and Madawaska Rivers, you’ll find three rafting companies, Owl Rafting on the Ottawa River, RiverRun Rafting & Wilderness Resort, and Wilderness Tours, who you can contact for this Ontario Signature Experience! Opt to go on a gentle family rafting excursion that recounts the history of Ottawa’s most powerful waterway while floating along or if you want to test your limits, go on a high-adrenaline, six-man rafting adventure. These companies offer an experience for every level of rafter. Various whitewater kayaking courses are also available. Ottawa’s whitewater season begins in late May.
You can even go whitewater rafting through Ottawa’s downtown core! Operated by outdoor adventure company Wilderness Tours, Ottawa City Rafting invites guests on a 3.5-hour gentle rafting excursion that starts just 10 minutes west of Ottawa’s downtown core and offers beautiful views of the city’s historic Parliament Buildings.
If more adrenaline is what you’re after, you’ll want to check out Ottawa’s Champlain Bridge wave known as The Wall! Located off of Bate Island, just west of Ottawa’s busy downtown core, the rapids near the busy Champlain Bridge feature a standing, ever-flowing wave each spring that attracts surfers and freestyle whitewater kayakers from around the world. If you thought that you couldn’t go surfing in Canada’s Capital, guess again. And this surfing community, which uses traditional surfboards and paddleboards, keeps growing with each passing season!
You can even learn how to whitewater kayak right in the heart of downtown Ottawa. The Madawaska Kanu Centre (MKC) has an “MKC in the City” program that offers whitewater kayaking instruction at a spot known as The Pump House, which is located just around the corner from the Canadian War Museum. You can literally go kayaking in downtown Ottawa!
If you’re up for a little on-the-water adventure but you’d prefer a slower pace, why not give stand-up paddling a try? Locally, you can team up with the Rideau Canoe Club to do everything from basic stand-up paddling fitness, to racing techniques, to paddleboard yoga and Pilates. You can also rent stand-up paddleboards at many public beaches in the city.
- Why not rent a stand-up paddleboard from the Dows Lake Pavilion and paddle on the Rideau Canal all the way downtown?
- In July 2014, OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River, located about an hour’s drive west of Ottawa’s downtown core, hosted the Ultimate Stand Up Paddle Challenge; the first event of its kind in Canada! The challenge included flat water racing events and an “Elite” whitewater event through roaring Ottawa River rapids.
Did you know that one of the most popular waves in the world for extreme freestyle kayaking is located in Ottawa on the Ottawa River? It is known as the Ruins Wave. Located just west of Ottawa’s downtown core, the Ruins Wave flows through the abandoned, cement ruins of an old electricity facility and attracts kayakers from around the world. “OTTAWA, ON” is even carved into one of the cement walls that are surrounded by whitewater!
This summer in 2015, Wilderness Tours Adventure Resort will host the Freestyle World Kayaking Championships. Most locations only get to host this event once and this will be the third time these championships take place on this world-class river, which is located about an hour’s drive west of downtown Ottawa.