Experience white water paddling in Ontario Parks

In our recent Paddler’s Paradise post, we talked about learn to paddle programs at Ontario Parks but what if you are looking for a bit of white water excitement? So we took our question to Dave Sproule who works for Ontario Parks in northeastern Ontario and here are some of his ideas.

“In northeastern Ontario, one of the best tripping rivers that is also novice-friendly, especially with a guide/instructor, is found in Spanish River and Biscotasi Lake Provincial Parks.  It has two branches that meet at The Forks – the East Branch is a nice chain of lakes connected by swifts that give the novice paddler a chance to experience moving water without any big rapids. Further down the river, below The Forks, there are more rapids, generally Class 1 and 2, with lots of moving water as swifts and current, which build on that experience gained on the East Branch. The trip can be a four  to six day paddle. The West Branch is more remote and more challenging from a whitewater perspective, and has the added bonus of travelling by train (the Budd Car – a VIA Rail whistle-stop train that looks like there’s no engine). The train stops at the village of Biscotasing (Bisco for short around here), and then you start your trip on the lake.  It’s a big lake with lots of islands and bays and, by itself, makes a great flatwater paddling destination too.

Another good novice trip is the section of the Missinaibi River Provincial Park between Missinaibi Lake and Peterbell on the rail line.  It’s only 60 km, has good wildlife viewing opportunities, lots of history (a 200+ year old Hudson Bay Company post, logging history, etc), a real wilderness feel, and a train trip at the end. It can be an easy whitewater trip with a guide.

The French River Provincial Park offers fairly good novice stretches of moving water. Most of it provides a wilderness feel, but there are lots of cottages, lodges and even homes along part of the river. There are a couple of routes – one in the delta, which can take in a little bit of whitewater, and another in the central part of the park on a route called Eighteen Mile Island, which is a circle route through the North and Main Channels (this is the one with cottages along part of it).  There is some big whitewater, like Blue Chute, but there are good portages around them all. Some of the big whitewater sections are good for learning, especially with a guide.

Another popular teaching spot for whitewater is the Madawaska River, near Palmer Rapids.  There are the rapids themselves, which trainers use for most of their courses, but there’s also the Lower Madawaska River Provincial Park section – a non-operating park. This is a great whitewater stretch for a long day of paddling, or an overnight trip with lots of time for playing and learning in the rapids near backcountry campsites.

The Petawawa River in Algonquin Provincial Park is one of my favourites for long weekend trips.  It has some serious whitewater  and novices definitely need to use portages for a number of them.  It has great scenery, although it can get a bit busy on long weekends.”

Know your skill level!  The Ontario Recreational Canoe and Kayak Association is a good source of information and courses.  And for guided whitewater paddling and instruction, visit http://paddlingontario.com/