As early spring starts, melting snow and icy bays turn liquid and there’s a good reason the world’s best paddlers keep a close eye on the Ottawa Valley. The migration begins as the swelling Ottawa River bursts above its banks. You too can try kayaking the Ottawa River starting in the town of Beachburg, just a two-hour drive northwest of Canada’s capital city.

World-class kayaking in the Ottawa Valley

Surrounded by sprawling farmland and forest, the Ottawa River boasts some of the biggest whitewater east of the Rocky Mountains—in flood, it rivals some of the biggest-water rivers in the world.

With waves known to showcase the full range of freestyle moves, the Ottawa River is a playboater’s paradise and has nurtured local paddlers like Ben Marr, Nick Troutman and Kalob Grady into world-class big wave kayak competitors.

In August 2015, the Ottawa River will host the ICF Freestyle World Championships for the third time.

Guide to kayaking the Ottawa River

Park ‘n’ play

Depending on water levels, you could play for hours at any of the Ottawa’s well-known waves: Garburator, Buseater, Babyface, Corner Wave and more. Ask a local what’s in.

For the day

A run of the Ottawa’s Main or Middle Channel offers class II to V whitewater. Whitewater Ontario provides detailed access and rapid descriptions.


The nearby Madawaska, Petawawa, Mattawa and Dumoine Rivers are popular destinations for multi-day whitewater trips.


Fly to the international airport in either Ottawa or Toronto and rent a car—it’s a two-hour drive from Ottawa and five hours from Toronto. Bus routes are available to the nearby town of Cobden where you can catch a taxi to your destination.


Rafting companies dot the banks of the Ottawa River, offering accommodations from cook-over-a-fire camping to comfortable cabins with gourmet meals. Explore your options: | |

Eat and Drink

Don’t miss the Whitewater Brewing Company, a brewpub just steps from the banks of the Ottawa. With names like “Class V IPA,” and “Whistling Paddler,” it’s no surprise these drinks are brewed by former river guides.

While you’re there

From family-friendly entertainment to definitely-not-family-friendly nightlife, the local rafting companies host a plethora of events throughout the May to September paddling season, along with activities like disc golf, bungee jumping, SUP, live music and more.

This article on whitewater canoeing was published in the Early Summer 2015 issue of Rapid magazine.This article first appeared in the Early Summer 2015 issue of Rapid Magazine. 

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