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Everything You Need to Know About White Water Rafting On Ontario’s Ottawa River

Sunset at Dog's Leg rapid on the Ottawa River • Credit: OWL Rafting
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Everything You Need to Know About White Water Rafting On Ontario’s Ottawa River

Learn about Ontario's top white water destinations

Find out why the Ottawa River is one of the best white water rafting locations in the world.

About 1 hour from Ottawa, you’ll find the best white water rafting the Ottawa River has to offer. In fact, it’s the best white water rafting in Canada.  

If heart-racing adventure is your game, gear up to ride class III and class IV daredevil sections of Ottawa River called Hell’s Half Mile, Lemming’s Leap and Butcher’s Knife. Or if it’s calmer waters you seek, travel along the quieter channels of the Ottawa River - perfect for gentle family float trips. 

It’s a perfect adventure for your family, friends or even a bachelor party white water rafting getaway. It's time to check white water rafting off your bucket list.


When is Ottawa’s White Water 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 white water rafting Ontario has to offer!

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

Waterfront resort on a calm river.

Packages include delicious meals, accommodation (campsites, RV sites, cabins, lodge rooms) and use of resort amenities. In addition to the white water rafting, you can enjoy time playing and relaxing at the resort with other water sports (SUPs, kayaks, canoes, pedalboats), swimming, beach volleyball, Frisbee golf, mountain biking, soccer, horse shoes, sauna and more.

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

How Hard is White Water Rafting?

Because of the many channels on the Ottawa River, there are three types of white water 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 trips and are suitable for non-swimmers, multi-generations and/or families with children 5+ years old weighing at least 50 lbs.

Family in a raft with guide steering in white water.
Families love fun rafting trips on gentle rapids.  Source: OWL Rafting 

Your experienced guide steers the 6 or 7 person raft and you help to paddle. Gentle Float adventures do not require you to paddle. There is a very low chance your raft will flip or you will 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.

Medium Intensity Rafting Adventures

Medium intensity rafting trips are designed for people wanting lots of fun white water excitement. They are great for people with basic to good swimming skills and have a comfort level of being in water as there is a good chance your raft will flip.

Group of people paddling a 12 person raft in whitewater.
Feel the rush on this exciting real adventure ride. Source: OWL Rafting 

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 90 lbs or more. These day or multi-day packages run in May to September.    

High Intensity White Water Rafting Trips 

High intensity rafting trips offer the ultimate excitement in white water fun in smaller rafts. Participants should have good swimming skills and be very comfortable with being in water as it is very likely the raft will flip. Not recommended for first timers.

6 people paddling a small raft in white water rapids
Are you ready for this challenge? Source: Destination Ontario 

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 90 lbs or more. These day or multi-day packages run from May to September.       

Is white water rafting safe for non-swimmers?

Non-swimmers can enjoy low intensity white water rafting trips or a gentle float trip. Medium and high intensity trips are not recommended.

2 rafts with guides with people swimming and floating in calm river
Optional floating with a life jacket is available on calm parts of the Ottawa River. Source: OWL Rafting 

The white water rafting resorts offer lots 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 white water rafting in cold water?

During May & September, the water is cool & 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.

7 people paddling a raft in white water rapids
The water warms up to 20C in summer months. Source: Destination Ontario 

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 or May/early-June/September

  • Secure footwear (sneakers/sport sandals/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/July/August

  • sneakers/sport sandals/water shoes (no flip flops or crocs)
  • bathing suit
  • quick dry clothing
  • sunscreen
  • full or half wetsuit – depending on weather (available for rent)

PLAN Your Trip Now

Whether you’re looking for a gentle family adventure or a high adventure getaway, whitewater rafting the Ottawa River is for you. Go for the day or plan a multi-day fun vacation on one of the resorts specializing in white water rafting near Ottawa.

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