Image 02First Descents are a remarkable rite of passage. They represent an experience that many can repeat but no one can take away. Claudia Van Wijk and her father Hermann had the honour to be the first kayakers to paddle the Ottawa River. They had heard about the rapids from local farmers. The series of dams that were installed in the Ottawa River through the mid 1900’s served to change the path of the water and reveal the gem of a whitewater playground that we enjoy today. Read more in the Rapid Magazine Archive Article by Neil Etienne and Kyle Dickman.

What a great summer!  2015 saw the return and re-return of of our RAFTING GUEST; some started with Family Rafting and returned to grab a paddle for High Adventure, some guests came back to enjoy a different water level, a different River Channel, and some just to relive the fun on the Ottawa River!  The weather was fantastic, hot, humid, and wet.  We want to look back at some  highlights from the season:

  • A longer summer; 18 weekends vs 16 in past summers – May Long weekend wasn’t even on May 24 ???
  • Photos are back!  – An exciting new media feature to our rafting trips; high quality photography! This summer we teamed up with Ottawa River Photography which is owned by Jane Johnson and Lisa Utronki; two past staff members of OWL Rafting and Madawaska Kanu Centre. These two have been diligently snapping photos of our smiling guests and promptly uploading them to their website (no longer running – now you can purchase photos from OWL Rafting directly)  where you can still find all those pictures taken throughout the summer.

Many of those photos are featuring our spring rafting trips run on the Middle channel of the Ottawa River. Excitement on Garvin’s rapids lasted until  June 11th at which point the water was low enough to start running the Main channel!

  • High-water Coliseum is a favorite rapid of our raft guides here at OWL but early this summer became a fan favorite of some of our lucky June rafters. Coli was roaring at high levels briefly from June 15th to June 24th. A Cold winter with less snow meant a shorter high water season this summer but meant we could start running Black Chute and the infamous Garborator wave.
  • Garborator wave was also the competition site for the 2015 International Canoe Federation’s World Freestyle Kayak Championship. We saw whitewater athletes from all over the world join our  town of Foresters Falls for a week while they battled it out at Black Chute. The river was busy with a surplus of paddlers here to spectate some outstanding athleticism but our rafting trips leaving OWL still sailed past the spectators stands, announcers, and under the world flags.
  • Another display of epic athleticism was taking place this summer in Toronto and around Ontario as the Pan American Games were hosted in our backyard. OWL Rafting and Madawaska Kanu Centre owners Claudia Kerckhoff-Van Wijk and Dirk Van Wijk were honored to be torch bearers for the opening ceremonies of the slalom kayak and canoe event in Minden, carrying the flame down the Gull River in a tandem kayak.

This summer has been a hot and busy one for OWL Rafting. Record breaking heat waves in the Ottawa Valley complemented the most family rafting trips we have had leaving OWL in the last 5 years! Having family groups has been a highlight for us as we get to share our love of the Ottawa River with lots of eager young faces.

Overall the summer of 2015 has been an outstanding season for OWL Rafting. With plenty of new staff eager to learn the ropes it was a successful four months resulting in many happy customers on the river, dinning at our resort, and enjoy all that OWL Rafting has to offer.

Thank you for spending time with us this summer!



the OWL Rafting Crew

wolds raftsElevator Shaft at Garvin's

Family RaftersClaudia carries the Pan Am torch down as Dirk paddles their kayak down the Gull


OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River is proud to say that we have been selected by Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC) as an Ontario Signature Experience (OSE). The Ontario Signature Experience designations are part of a newly launched program to promote the best of what Ontario Tourism has to offer.

OWL Rafting is a part of the Ottawa River Rafting Experience, while our sister company Madawaska Kanu Centre has also been designated for Theme-Badge_Signature-Experience_frtheir Canoe and Kayak Courses.

Check us out on the Ontario Travel Website – OWL MKC

Canada’s beautiful capital region is home to white water rafting which has recently received the title of “Ontario Signature Experience” from the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC). The Ontario’s Signature Experience designation authenticates and promotes the best and most unique Ontario tourism experiences. The majestic, rolling Ottawa River is highlighted with exceptional rafting experience of OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River.

The Ottawa River boasts some of the World’s best, biggest and warmest white water – a combination that provides an unforgettable water adventure that should be on everyone’s BUCKET LIST. A quality experience so unique that visitors from around the world will travel to Ontario just to partake in it, along with the other Signature Experiences. The Ottawa River is renowned for its scenic views and the remarkable white water. Located just 90 minutes from the nation’s capital, OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River offers exceptional rafting from mid-May and runs until mid-September.

What makes OWL so special?

Unique in the world of white water rafting the OWL experience on the Ottawa River combines a full-day descent of the famous Rocher Fendu rapids, with a return cruise aboard our Pontoon Boat enjoying a freshly grilled BBQ meal.

 The River Trip: At the top of every rapid, the guide explains the run, requests a ‘thumbs-up’ before steering the raft into laughing waves, where everyone will get wet. Quiet pools intersect the rapids – a great place to relax, take in the wilderness scenery, spot a blue heron or swimming beaver and recharge for the next ‘Big One’. Body surfing, raft surfing, cliff jumping, sandy beach lazing are a part of every raft trip. Taking in two more rapids, OWL meets up with the infamous Pontoon Boat where you change into dry cloths for a delicious homemade grilled meal. Afternoon trips get to enjoy a golden sunset for the cruise back to the OWL Resort.

 OWL’s 25 acre Lakeside Resort is the hub of all our activities that culminates the day on the river with a truly special holiday experience for our guests. We offer affordable overnight accommodations in rustic cabins or waterfront camping, buffet style, home cooked meals, a sandy beach with kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, SUP’s, disk golf course and new pump-track for bike enthusiasts.

 OWL runs two Family Trip options: Madawaska River just east of Algonquin Park is a 2-hour trip for all ages – even 2 year olds enjoy the introduction to moving water. Ottawa River trips are a full day and include the Pontoon Boat BBQ, waterfront activities and ‘Rafter Wrap-up’ – a video presentation of your trip to music.

If you want to paddle white water in your own boat, the best place to go is just north of Toronto at Madawaska Kanu Centre – also an “Ontario Signature Experience” for a Weekend ‘tester’ or a Week-long immersion in Kayak or Canoeing. Located on the dam released section of the Madawaska River just East of Algonquin Park, MKC is internationally renowned as the ‘Hot Spot’ for learning how to paddle white water. We call it a RAPID EDUCATION!

Carly vs. Ontario’s Highlands’ White Water – Challenge Accepted!

My week on the water kicked off on Eagle Lake with SUPNorth. I joined in on a SUP and Swim session which consisted of an introduction to Stand Up Paddle boarding followed by some fun in the mermaid lagoon. For a first timer I was quite pleased with myself, I didn’t fall off once, not even during our mini yoga class sun salutation progression. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my GoPro. If anyone has diving gear and wants to go for a swim to look for it at the bottom of Eagle Lake, let me know. The moment I put my mermaid tail on though, I forgot all about my GoPro troubles, it was THAT MUCH FUN! It didn’t take long at all to get the hang of it. We swam and splashed around, enjoying the afternoon sun, until it was time to go.

I had worked up quite an appetite, so before leaving Eagle Lake, I stopped at Smokin’ Jake’s BBQ Shack and stuffed myself with some absolutely delicious pulled pork and sweet potato fries! Man, this guy does it right, using grandma’s original recipes with a few twists of his own. My taste buds have never been so satisfied.

Early Monday morning I headed West, to Barry’s Bay, for more on-the-water action with the Madawaska Kanu Centre. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with them. If I could describe MKC in one word, it be quality – quality instruction, quality facilities, quality food, quality staff, quality everything. The resort is nothing short of perfect. Its rustic beauty creates a tranquil environment that has a real charm about it.

While sitting around the table at lunch, I joked about how the lack of WIFI was a double edged sword – it was difficult to be away from the virtual world, but such a refreshing escape at the same time. One of the instructors replied by simply stating that WIFI was, “a distraction in a place like this.” I thought about that for a while. What a fantastic way to put it. People travel internationally to MKC to immerse themselves in one of the best white water programs out there. It’s like a working holiday – best of both worlds – after spending 8 hours on the white water improving your skills and conquering the day’s lesson, you return to the resort for relaxation, incredible food and great conversation. What else could you possibly need?

The people I met during my stay had the most incredible stories, each inspiring in their own way. I had a couple in their late 60s, George and Marie Christine, in my class who were at MKC to prepare for a 12 day canoe trip in Yellowknife. I can only hope to be as excited about life and thirsting for adventure as they are at that milestone in my life. Another colleague, Darlene from Indianna, was taking on a solo canoe class for the first time. Her animated and detailed stories of past travels gave me goose bumps and stirred my interest to see the world.

Something I noted throughout all of these stories is that it was the experiences and the unexpected moments that were the fondest memories for these folks, not the attractions. This is something I have found throughout my Great Escape Road Trip. I’ve said it before, and it is a theme that has become more and more apparent as the summer progresses, the people truly make your experience.

At OWL Rafting, MKC’s sister company, I was in a raft with four young teens from Winnipeg. Upping the ante from my last rafting experience, I was in a ‘sporty’ 6-person raft rather than the 12 seater. Obviously, we had an absolute hoot! My co-paddlers from the prairies were always stopping to take in the scenery of the Ottawa River. They were in awe of our tall trees and endless green space – something I find so normal. It is easy to take our beautiful, vast landscape for granted.

The day of rafting was a drastic change from the canoe course at MKC. After learning how to read the water, control my direction and ride the waves myself, I wanted more of that. This is how I see it. There are strategic steps involved in the world of white water.

Step 1: Family rafting with MKC

Step 2: Family rafting with OWL

Step 3: Big boat rafting with OWL

Step 4: Sports rafting with OWL

Step 5: Canoe or Kayak course with MKC

Rafting is the perfect first step – it’s a fun, exciting, thrilling introduction to white water. If you fall in love, like I did, than you just keep going back and ‘step it up’.

If you are feeling adventurous from the get-go and looking for a fun, outdoor experience that incorporates personal growth, challenging yourself and accomplishing something then MKC should be your next summer destination! You won’t regret it.

A special thanks to Terri Matthews-Carl for using #OHletsgo and suggesting that I check out SUPNorth. Keep the suggestions coming! Remember, you can be entered to win a GoPro by simply using #OHletsgo in your summer social media posts!

See you out there!

Travel Bloggers Dave & Deb came rafting with OWL in 2014 – read on to see what they had to say about their experience and visit their travel blog “PLANET D” to hear about all of their adventures!!

“The water is huge right now” our whitewater rafting guide KT said with a giddy smile. “I love hitting it big, so we’re going to try to catch every big rapid we can.”The Ottawa River is world renowned for it’s big white water. Guides from all four corners of the earth come to play in its rapids. It seems that wherever we’ve been in the world, one guide or another has been on the Ottawa River. For the next two days, we’ll be conquering rapids with OWL Rafting and we’re not afraid to admit, we’re a bit nervous!owl-rafting-ottawa-river-29

Staying at Owl Rafting in one of their chalets was an excellent way to relax and unwind before hitting the waves. With Muskoka Chairs lined up on the lawn over looking the calm portion of the Ottawa river, a sandy beach, an all inclusive meal package and hot showers, it’s the perfect weekend getaway for people looking to escape the city of Toronto and face the world class rapids.

Our day two whitewater rafting team

We suited up in thick wetsuits and a paddling jacket to help protect us from the chilly waters. Even though Dave and I have done the polar plunge in both Antarctica and the Arctic Circle, we weren’t too keen on getting in cold the water, so we hoped and prayed that we didn’t have any boats capsize on the river today.

Whitewater Rafting, Nerves and Excitement

I am always nervous before every adventure and today was no different. There’s that fear that you’ll fall out of the raft or capsize. But once we got on the water, all my nerves disappeared and I was ready for a great day on the raft.

We signed up for a two-day rafting trip and each day was completely different. Day one started on a larger 12 person raft and day two took us out on a small sporty raft.  I thought that the larger raft would have been less exciting, but it was actually a crazy ride. It seemed to hit the rapids with brute force and we skyrocketted into the air. Surprisingly, the small raft seemed a little more tame. Or maybe I was just a little braver on the second day.


When rafting the Ottawa River, it isn’t long before you hit the first set of rapids. As soon as we launched the rafts, we started practicing our strokes and listening to our guide’s commands. During our quick training session, we could hear the rapids fast approaching. Just a few minutes into the trip, we were lining up for our run down white water.

We hit every big wave and the boat felt like a wild amusement park ride. KT wasn’t joking, the water was huge and she loved hitting it big. Nobody fell out but we all got soaked. Surprisingly the cold water didn’t feel as bad as we expected. It helped that the sun came out just as our excursion began.

The next couple of hours went on with more thrills and spills and facing some of the most gigantic rapids we’ve seen before. Our largest run came when we hit The Staircase. This run had guides get out of their rafts to act as safety for rafters going through one by one. “Only one boat at a time can run this one” We were warned, “this is not a rapid you want to fall out of.”

The Staircase

So we were ready to hang on for dear life. After going through one last set of instructions we set off for The Staircase. KT yelled at us all to paddle hard. We went in with all our might and as soon as we hit the rapids she yelled “Get down” hanging on to the rafts ropes, we went through the massive rapids. At one point we got stuck and felt like we were surfing for a bit. I was at the back nearest to KT and felt a surge of water go over my head knocking me down and if I didn’t have a grip, I’d be out of the boat for sure. When I looked back to see what was going on, KT was gone! She had catapulted out of the back of the raft and was dangling by her foot. All the guides on shore scramble to help out and in no time we were in a quiet eddie and KT was back inside the boat laughing like it was just another day at the office.

Rapids so big, it takes two guides to steer

We all whooped and hollered, the biggest beast had been conquered and it was an awesome thrill.

Day 2 on the Ottawa River

The next day we moved to a sport raft. We faced all the same rapids again, but this time, our tiny raft was manned by only four of us and our guide. The giant rapids were going to look a lot bigger today.

Between the two days, I think we enjoy the sport raft more than the large raft. The larger rafts are definitely a better choice for first timers because you feel more safe and secure, but if you do decide to do a weekend of rafting, make sure to get a taste of both. I was terrified of what was ahead of us on Saturday morning, but by the time Sunday came around I grew more excited with each set of rapids.


I even joined along in the surfing that I’ve always hated so much. Surfing is when you paddling into a standing wave and stay in the wave for as long as they can. We tried surfing when whitewater kayaking in Australia, and we were stuck in it for ages. I thought I was going to drown and vowed to never do it again. When it came time to surf on the Ottawa River, I chickened out on day one and watched from the sidelines. Day two however was a whole different story!

Dave coming up for air after surfing

Our guide explained to us that in Ottawa, the water is so big that you tend to pop out of the surf quickly unlike the smaller waves in Australia. Here it’s a fun quick surf and you get popped out on the other end. No worries about it not being thrilling enough though, you get to do it again and again.

The End of the Day

Whenever we’ve done other whitewater rafting trips, the day ends on a school bus as we sit in our wet clothes for a long drive back to the main office. With Owl Rafting, the day ends on a huge pontoon boat where a hot lunch is served as you take a beautiful 45 minute boat ride down river to the resort. We basked in the sun as we ate a bbq lunch with a selection of salads and dessert. It was so relaxing. By the time we got to the dock of the resort, we were warm and dry and all we had to do was help lift the rafts about 10 feet from the beach to the trailer.


Our day on the water was done and we were free to crack open a beer and watch the sun go down.

Smaller rafts don’t do this run so on day two when we were in the mini sport raft, we joined the people in the big boat that we had today.All your posts recently are reminding me of home. You see I am from Ontario and actually only an hour away from the Ottawa river. I have haven’t been back in awhile now and am definitely missing it. Every summer me and friends would spend a whole weekend whitewater rafting the Ottawa river. The last time we went was for my best friends bachelor party and it was a blast. The Ottawa river is actually some of the best rafting I have every done in my life and is actually known around the world.

VISIT the Planet D Blog HERE!

We will be exhibiting at The Outdoor Adventure Show this February 21st-23rd 2014 & we would love to see you there. You can print this coupon out and receive $4.00 OFF admission.


We hope to see you there

Teva Shoes RaftingThere is no better feeling than ditching those big wool socks for a sleek pair of sandals at the beginning of summer. We want to remind those joining us this summer that proper footwear is needed, no matter how sunny it is.

If you decide to take the plunge in the Ottawa River, you want to make sure you are not left up the river without a shoe. Proper footwear consists of a shoe or sandal that has a back strap … crocs just do not make the cut.

OWL Rafting has partnered with Teva Footwear. Rafters can enjoy a 30% discount off any Teva product sold in our shop.

The creation of the Ottawa River began during the last ice age, 12, 000 years ago. The Ottawa Valley was covered in thick ice called glaciers.  These glaciers took thousands of years to recede leaving behind the Champlain Sea, the Canadian Shield and a wonderful abundance of sandy shores, fertile agriculturalOWL Rafting Resort soil, and the Ottawa River.  The northern edge of the Ottawa River is well defined by cliffs along the Quebec side, the edge of a fault line creating the famous Gatineau Hills.

We are an active earthquake zone along the Ottawa River still today !

The abundance of whitewater in this area is thanks to this active land below us that created dramatic rock formations, and in the end, amazing rapids for whitewater enthusiasts of the modern era.

The 1940’s were a busy dam-building period across Canada and especially in Ontario and Quebec.  The large volume Ottawa River with its cascading waterfalls became a vision to harness the energy for hydro production for the two neighboring provinces. The Chenaux Power Station was built in 1945 creating Lac Rocher Fondue, the lake that the OWL Rafting resort is based on.  Our sandy beach that has become our favorite sun tanning haven was in the middle of a farmer’s field up until 1945.  We are told farm buildings still lie somewhere off our waterfront, sunken treasures still to be explored !  Luckily for the whitewater world, this 144 megawatt production facility did not flood out all the whitewater upstream.  The 12 km section called the Rocher Fondue rapids boast names of early loggers, like McCoy and Garvin – that had spent their final days de-jamming the pile-up havoc that these rapids created.  There are 43 such power facilities along the 1200kms of the Ottawa River.

Ottawa River RaftingWe call the second rapid of the Ottawa River Black Chute. The name came about on the first kayak descent back in 1974, when the founder of OWL Rafting, Hermann Kerckhoff and his daughter, Claudia paddled up to the lip of the rapid, seeing the black tongue or ‘highway to the rapid’ called it such. “Currents” producer of whitewater documentaries, just released a video on the history of whitewater playboating on the Ottawa River, which features Hermann and Claudia reflecting back to that incredible day in May of ’74 – the discovery of a whitewater paradise.