Everything You Need to Know About Whitewater Rafting on the Ottawa River

A group of people riding down rapids in a whitewater raft

Ride class III and class IV daredevil sections or if it’s calmer waters you seek, travel along the quieter channels, perfect for gentle family float trips. It's time to check whitewater rafting off your bucket list.

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Whitewater Rafting Season

The Ottawa River has excellent flows from May to September. Some rapids are better in lower water than high. The rapids are rated as Class III to V, but at any water level, the Ottawa River provides the best whitewater rafting in Ontario.

There are three Ottawa River rafting waterfront resorts that offer exceptional day or multi-day whitewater rafting packages; OWL Rafting, Wilderness Tours and RiverRun Campground and RV Park.

Packages include delicious meals, accommodation options of campsites, RV sites, cabins or lodge rooms and use of resort amenities. In addition to the whitewater rafting, you can enjoy other water sports like SUPs, kayaks, canoes, pedal boats and swimming, as well as beach volleyball, Frisbee golf, mountain biking, soccer, horseshoes and relaxing in a sauna.

The resorts are open from May to September, and weekdays are generally less crowded, as are early season weekends.

Types of Whitewater Rafting

Because of the many channels on the Ottawa River, there are three types of whitewater rafting trips offered. The trips are based on the level of adventure intensity: Low, Medium or High.

Low Intensity Rafting Adventures

Low intensity rafting trips are very easy and are suitable for non-swimmers, multi-generation and groups with children 5+ years old weighing at least 22 kg (50 lbs).

Your experienced guide steers the 6 or 7 person raft and will direct you on how to paddle, although these gentle float adventures don’t require you to paddle. There is a very low chance your raft will flip or fall out. These day or multi-day packages are offered from June to September in the gentle channels of the river with Class II and III rapids. Trips include optional body surfing and swimming along the way.

Medium Intensity Rafting Adventures

Medium intensity rafting trips are designed for people with basic to good swimming skills and are comfortable being in water as there is a good chance your raft will flip.

These trips use a 12-person raft that is steered by an experienced professional. Active paddling is required by all. Trips include optional body surfing, floating and cliff jumping. Children must be 13 years or older and weigh 40 kg (90 lbs) or more. These day or multi-day packages run in May to September.

High Intensity Whitewater Rafting Trips

High intensity rafting trips offer the ultimate excitement in whitewater fun in smaller rafts. Participants should have great swimming skills and be very comfortable being in water as it is likely the raft will flip. These are not recommended for first timers.

Keen paddlers will be guided by an experienced professional in a 6 or 7-person sport raft or in a 2-person sport yak and will be required to do active paddling. Trips include optional body surfing, floating and cliff jumping. Children must be 13 years or older and weigh 40 kg (90 lbs) or more. These day or multi-day packages run from May to September.

Whitewater Rafting for Non-Swimmers

Non-swimmers can enjoy low intensity whitewater rafting trips or a gentle float trip. Medium and high intensity trips are not recommended. The whitewater rafting resorts offer a host of alternative things to do for people who choose not to raft. You can go on hiking trails, mountain biking and relax on the beach by the river.

What to Wear Whitewater Rafting

During May and September, the water is cool and full wetsuits are available to rent or may be supplied by some rafting companies. Later in spring and in the summer, the river warms up to roughly 20 C (70 F), however, on cooler days you may wish to rent a half or full suit.

You will be advised what to wear when you book your trip, however, this list will give you an idea of what you might need.

Cooler Days: May, early-June and September

  • Secure footwear, including sneakers, sport sandals or water shoes (no flip flops or crocs)
  • Wool socks
  • Wool or fleece sweater
  • Nylon windbreaker
  • Full wetsuit (available for rent)
  • Sunscreen

Warm Days: mid-June through August

  • Sneakers, sport sandals or water shoes (no flip flops or crocs)
  • Bathing suit
  • Quick dry clothing
  • Sunscreen
  • Full or half wetsuit – depending on weather (available for rent)

Original article by Trish Manning 

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