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Canoe, Kayak, SUP, and Raft Events in Ontario

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Canoe, Kayak, SUP, and Raft Events in Ontario

Events like the Palmer River Fest might look crowded, but that’s the whole point. • Credit: Tim Baklinskie

Float your way through Ontario this summer—there’s a reason to get on the water every weekend

Pull out a pen and start marking up your calendar. Festivals, events, and races are the best way to share your passion for paddling.



Update Coronavirus (COVID-19): Due to the Coronavirus, official measures are in effect that impact events as well as travel to and within Ontario. Learn more here

In response to recently announced government restrictions on gatherings, many of these events are postponed and/or cancelled. For updates please check the event websites or social pages by clicking on the links below. 

It’s never too early to plan a summer’s worth of paddling events. Whether your preferred scene is a gruelling race or a casual festival, there are plenty to choose from. All the events below are designed to get you in a canoe, kayak, raft, or on a paddleboard floating on a lake or river. (In a few cases, they’ll even get you in a comfortable theatre seat, dreaming of being in a boat.) So start scrolling, and when you’ve found a few to jot on the calendar, use a pen, not a pencil.

FEBRUARY

Paddling Film Festival Premiere

February 20, 2020
Toronto, ON

Kick off Ontario’s paddling season with a night of inspirational paddling films. The Paddling Film Festival travels to 120 cities across Ontario and around the world to show the very best paddling films. Local hosts select each evening’s lineup from the festival’s shortlist of category winners. This year’s premier is hosted by The Complete Paddler at Royal Cinema, 608 College St. Proceeds go to the Duke of Edinburgh Award for youth development. Tickets are $14 in advance or $17 at the door. See the website for upcoming screenings in Sault Ste. Marie (March 13), Atikokan (March 21) and Dryden (April 25).

Wilderness Canoe Symposium

February 21-22, 2020
Toronto, ON

Since 1986, the Wilderness Canoe Symposium has been an annual celebration and exploration of ambitious canoe tripping. The festival has a new venue at York University (4700 Keele St.) but retains its tried and true formula of presenting a speaker roster that’s heavy on first-person accounts of recent adventures. Tickets are $30-$90 and you must register in advance.

MARCH

Paddling Film Festival

March 13, 2020
Sault Ste. Marie, ON

March 21, 2020
Atikokan, ON

The Paddling Film Festival travels to 120 cities around the world to inspire audiences with the very best paddling films. Local hosts select each evening’s lineup from the festival’s shortlist of category winners. The Sault Ste. Marie screening is hosted by the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy at the Sault Community Theatre Centre, 1007 Trunk Road. Tickets: $15. The Atikokan screening is at Little Falls Recreation Centre on Little Falls Road and there will be draws for prizes to support local conservation efforts. Tickets: $12-$15.

Credit River Downriver Race

March 28, 2020
Mississaugua, ON

The 62nd annual Credit River Downriver Race will see paddlers take 20-30 minutes to paddle 10 km of class I and class II rapids between Streetsville (1814 Barbertown Road) and Erindale Park in Mississauga. $20 to enter one of the many different classes of kayak or canoe races.

APRIL

Ontario Backcountry Canoe Symposium

April 4, 2020
Waterloo, ON

This ninth annual gathering will celebrate traditional canoe tripping in Ontario at the Theatre of the Arts, University of Waterloo. Tickets are $11-$15 with a list of speakers available on the website before the event.

Thames River Classic

April 4, 2020
Ingersoll, ON

This race is traditionally the kick-off for the Ontario Marathon Canoe and Kayak Race Association (OMCKRA) season and features a very technical downstream-and-back course with lots of twists and turns. The race will take under two hours, before a social lunch and, to give you a taste of the scene, everybody wins a jar of jam. Racers should expect cold water conditions and should have moving water experience for recreational or pro classes.

Upper Jock River Race

April 11, 2020
Ottawa, ON

The Upper Jock River Canoe Race is a fun, 12-km canoe race with a history dating back to 1971. The course is tame enough for families and recreational paddlers to use it as a first opportunity to get out on the water. The shallow, current-aided course is generally free of portages and runs though the beautiful Richmond fen with several swifts or class I rapids.

Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny

April 11, 2020
Port Hope, ON

This 10-km race on the Ganaraska River might be overshadowed by the build-your-own Crazy Craft race that follows it, but is a good fit for novice to intermediate paddlers who want to try a race. It welcomes double or single canoes and kayaks and, now, SUPs. Participants can opt to take out above the more difficult section through town.

M.A.C.K. Fest

April 17-19, 2020
Marmora, ON

The ever-keen Kawartha Whitewater Paddlers club waits all winter for this kick-off to the spring whitewater season. Strictly speaking, the actual event is off-river Saturday night at Iron Grille (239 Station Rd.) where paddlers enjoy dinner, drinks, music and raffle draw prizes. By day, the assembled organize themselves into unofficial groups for trips down local rivers like the Salmon, Beaver, Moira, Skootamata and Black, plus local play spots. Find your own local lodging or pitch a tent at Iron Grille (price yet to be set but is always affordable).

Sydenham River Race

April 19, 2020
Alvinston, ON

This race offers three distances (7, 12 or 16 km) and 11 classes, so will welcome competitive or more fun-loving paddlers of all sorts. All classes finish at the Shetland Conservation Area on Lambton County Road 2.

MAY

That Dam Hespeler Race 

May 3, 2020
Cambridge, ON

This race attracts plenty of locals and lots of paddlers from further afield to ply its course of moving flatwater. Registration of $25-$30 will get paddlers in for distances of 5, 10, 15, or 20 km. Whatever distance you choose, awards and prizes plus hot food and cold beer wait at the finish line.

Hell or High Water

May 9, 2020
Petawawa, ON

Billed as Canada’s largest whitewater race, Hell or High Water also features standup paddleboard demos, flatwater paddling, camping, photo contest, and loads of family events including inflatable fun. No experience or equipment necessary, and most activities are free of charge. It all takes place at Petawawa Centennial Park at 18 Park Drive.

Paddling Film Festival

May 9, 2020
Kenora, ON

The Paddling Film Festival travels to 120 cities around the world to inspire audiences with the very best paddling films. Local hosts select each evening’s lineup from the festival’s shortlist of category winners. This screening in Kenora is hosted by Path of the Paddle Kenora Regional Trail Committee at the Trylight Theatre, 510 2nd St S. There will be door prizes in support of local causes. Tickets: $12-$15.

High Water Run Race

May 9, 2020
Kirkland Lake, ON

This is a recreational race, suitable for all skill levels. It runs 13 km on the winding Blanche River, with two small portages and no whitewater. Organizers describe the race route as family-friendly and often more of a marathon than a race. Classes are solo canoe, kayak, mens canoe, ladies canoe, and mixed couples canoe.

Marsh Mash Canoe Race

May 9, 2020
Bradford, ON

The Marsh Mash Canoe and Kayak Race uses as its course the New Canal of the Holland Marsh. It’s a very safe course, with no rocks, no rapids, or portages and forms a circle so the start and finish are in the same spot. There are enough classes and choices of race distances to suit a range of paddler abilities. Sanctioned by the Ontario Marathon Canoe and Kayak Racing Association (OMCKRA).

Palmer River Fest

May 15-17, 2020
Palmer Rapids, ON

This lively weekend festival on the Madawaska River is a great way to introduce the kids to whitewater paddling or keep in touch with paddling friends. The weekend schedule consists of two days of instructional clinics, with a party in between. Pitch your own tent and cook your own food or take advantage of food vendors. $220 for the weekend of instruction with rentals available, or $30 for those who want to enjoy the scene but not attend classes.

Paddlepalooza

May 29-31, 2020
Parry Sound, ON

Ontario’s largest annual sea kayak event is intended as a spring stroke tune-up and the impressive assembly of instructors is up to the task. It takes advantage of its setting at Parry Sound to offer the protected waters of the Sound, the open water of Georgian Bay or the moving water of the Moon River. Meals are included and rentals are available. Registration: $329-$369.

JUNE

Women on the Water

June 5-7, 2020
Parry Sound, ON

Women on the Water tries to bring together some of the most celebrated kayak and standup paddleboard coaches in the Ontario paddling scene. It’s open to all women, from beginners to advanced paddlers, kayakers and SUPers. The $429 price includes two night’s accommodation at Camp Tapawingo, meals and gear.

Canoe The Nonquon

June 6, 2020
Port Perry, ON

This well-attended race has a history in the community that dates back half a century. The 20-km course starts with 12 km of river paddling, complete with tight turns and dead end channels before entering the lake for an 8-km sprint along the shore of Lake Scugog. There are no portages, but the beavers can usually be counted on for a few liftovers. There is also a shorter 12-km course. Classes include marathon or recreational tandem or solo canoes, kayaks, and SUPs. All funds raised benefit the Scugog Shores Museums.

Kawartha Paddle Quest

June 20, 2020
Peterborough, ON

This 50-km quest starts on Stoney Lake and includes up to eight short portages around locks on its way to Peterborough. There are shorter courses also (10-km and a 2-km family race). Registration costs $10 to $115 dollars per racer, depending on age and race entered.

Sudbury Canoe Club Marathon

June 21, 2020
Sudbury, ON

The Northern Water Sports Centre at Ramsey Lake is the setting for this three-race event. The 6-km course is free of portages. The 10-km course has two 250-m portages, and the 20-km race has double that since it is the 10-km loop done twice. Classes include men’s, women’s, and mixed races in recreational or open racing tandem canoes, recreational and open racing kayaks and SUP. Registration: $25.

JULY

North of 7 River Run

July 4-5, 2020
Bancroft, ON

Paddle the beautiful and deep York River to the finish area at Riverside Park in downtown Bancroft. The 12-km course is river all the way, with no portages, while the 23-km course includes some lake travel, swifts, and portages.

Making Waves Festival

July 5, 2020
Cambridge, ON

This is an event with a mission: to build a permanent surf wave on the Grand River, below the Parkhill Bridge, in Cambridge. The all-day event includes races, demonstrations, food, drinks, children’s activities, and prizes. Admission is granted with a $5 membership to Surf Cambridge, to help the cause, plus an insurance fee of $10 for those not affiliated with Whitewater Ontario.

Kingston to Ottawa (K2O)

July 18-19, 2020
Kingston/Smith Falls, ON

The K2O is an ultra-endurance marathon race through the Rideau Canal. Racers of all skill levels vie to complete the 100-km, 50-km, or 25-km distances without stopping. The race is open to canoes, kayaks, SUPs and surf skis and can be raced with or without support.

Mattawa River Canoe Race

July 25, 2020
North Bay, ON

Racers can do the historic 64-km Voyageur Route or opt for the 13-km Junior/Family course. There is a huge range of team compositions and craft requirements for different classes. No matter your class, make sure you stay for the awards banquet, which coincides with the Mattawa Lumberjack Festival.

AUGUST

Upper Ottawa River Race and Paddle Festival

August 7-8, 2020
Pembroke, ON

This event is packed. Saturday’s docket includes races (44 km, 13 km, and 4 km, plus a kids’ race), kayak and SUP clinics, live entertainment, and a kayak fishing derby. The festival wraps up on Sunday with the Raise Your Paddle fundraising group paddle ($46) as well as the third annual Heritage Paddle scenic tour and picnic ($35).

Gullfest

August 14-16, 2020
Minden, ON

The Gull River in Haliburton is a mainstay of the whitewater scene. There are rumours the river’s mid-summer festival will return for 2020. Check out the website for updates as they become available.

The Great Canadian Kayak Challenge and Festival

August 21-23, 2020
Timmins, ON

This event is a showcase of kayak and canoe seminars, challenges and workshops. To the side you’ll find arts and culture exhibitors, vendors, live performances, an interactive Indigenous village, and children’s activities.

Niagara2Toronto - Lake Ontario Crossing

August 29, 2020
Port Dalhousie, ON

The 52-km SUP course matches the standard established by the Molokai-to-Oahu crossing in Hawaii and the Catalina Classic in California, bringing an open-water endurance race to the Great Lakes. It is a demanding physical and mental test for those ready to take on the open waters of Lake Ontario. Just head for the CN Tower. Registration fee: $135-$350.

SEPTEMBER

Gull River Open Canoe Slalom

Sept. 12-13, 2020
Minden, ON

Bring your open canoe, your serious race face, your silly helmet, your friends and your family for this welcoming mainstay of the open boating community. For most open boaters, it’s their only race of the year. For others, it’s just their favourite.

OCTOBER

Great Muskoka Paddling Experience

October 10, 2020
Bracebridge, ON

There are many different boat, age, and gender classes eligible to enter the races of 5, 10 and 20 km. All events are out-and-back races, with the start right in Bracebridge and finish area just downriver. There’s also a North Canoe Challenge for groups of four to 10 paddlers who want to race big boats to end the season in style. Registration opens June 1.

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