Whitewater for All: the Ottawa River’s Middle Channel

Matt Hamilton in the Middle Channel. Photo: John Rathwell

words:: Carmen Kuntz

The Middle Channel of the Ottawa River is for playful whitewater kayakers and canoeists, with multiple rapids and lines. Whether you paddle a creek boat, playboat or open boat, there are surf features for all experience levels. Each rapid can be scouted or portaged, but the pool-drop nature of this river segment makes it an ideal classroom for those wishing to polish basic whitewater skills like combat rolls and ferrying. “With gentle surf spots and pool drop rapids (and lots of room for clean-ups), the Middle is a whitewater playground,” says Graham Ball, long- time Ottawa River raft guide and kayaker.

The Middle Channel is like a less extreme little sister to Ottawa’s Main Channel, but it is not a run for whitewater virgins. Prior to putting in, you should have a solid roll and the ability to read whitewater and make decisions based on your skill level. Paddlers should carry and know how to use all safety equipment including a throw rope and river knife. The difficulty of whitewater varies greatly on water levels, but grade 2-3 competence is recommended.

A lap can take as little as two hours or a whole day depending on water levels, and how many surf stops you take. Paddlers must set shuttle in advance and pay a takeout fee for use and maintenance of roads. Use the public put- in off Grants Settlement Road and enjoy the 11km whitewater section of this mighty river historically used for fur-trading and moving logs to the St. Lawrence. The run starts with the sizeable rapid called McCoy’s that is easily portaged from river right. Take advantage of many riverside perspectives and watch kayakers throwing tricks, and rafts barrelling through massive holes and waves. If you’re lucky, you might even catch some carnage.

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Midway through the run, keep your eye out for waterside picnic tables and a great pool drop rapid for whitewater swimming lessons. Take- out on river left to portage Garvin’s Chutes and take in the grandeur of this impressive cascade and watch experienced kayakers drop Elevator Shaft, Dragon’s Tongue, S-T Chute or Staircase. “Walking and scouting options for each rapid make the Middle Channel a wonderful family trip with ample opportunity to challenge skill level,” says Ball. End the day with a cool pint at Whitewater Brewing Company on the riverside not far from the take-out. –ML

DIY: Take Grants Settlement Road To McCoy Chute Trail for the public put-in.

This is an excerpt from our award winning magazine, Mountain Life Blue Mountains. Pick up the issue in the finer establishments in the Blue Mountains region, or visit our online store— to purchase a copy.