Come Wander
Canoing on the Madawaska River

There’s something magical about the rushing waters of a river that make you want to sit back and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds. Spending some time on the water is the perfect way to explore a region’s natural beauty, while also getting away from the nonstop barrage of modern life. On the water, there is no wifi, email, or social media, nothing but you, your companions, and miles and miles of nature.

In Ontario’s Highlands, canoeing and kayaking are something of a tradition – here, we’re surrounded by such beauty it’s impossible not to long for a chance to explore it at your leisure. Looking back, some of my best experiences have been on the water, but it’s been a few years since I’ve had a truly epic paddling adventure, and I’m determined that will change this summer.

Far from a whitewater expert, I do enjoy paddling in Class 1 or Class 2 whitewater conditions, but am not ready for anything more than beginner to intermediate, so when planning my paddling getaway it’s important to choose my destination carefully. In the past, my husband and I have paddled the Mississippi River between Sheridan’s Rapids and Playfairville, a quick day-trip adventure with manageable whitewater, depending on the season, and also took a weekend whitewater kayaking course with Madawaska Kanu Centre – MKC.

So where should our next paddling adventure take place, and are we looking for a whitewater or flatwater experience? For the answers to these questions, and more, I turned to Madawaska River Rentals’ resident experts (and owners) Deedee Sanderson and Trevor McGarry.

The Experts

With more than 20 collective years of experience, Deedee and Trevor seemed like the perfect people to ask for the inside scoop on some of the best paddling spots in Ontario’s Highlands, along with any tips and advice for my husband and I. Deedee has been running Madawaska River Rentals for more than six years, and this year is transitioning to her new, flatwater business, Boondock Bliss.

Trevor, on the other hand, purchased Madawaska River Rentals from Deedee in 2019, and brings to the business his experience as a whitewater expert, with more than a decade spent guiding in the Madawaska area, along with certifications as a teacher, guide, and instructor/trainer. As of 2019, Trevor has taken over the day-to-day management of the outfitting operations, and has plans to branch out into guiding in the future.

From the Experts: When to Start Planning

When I approached the pair to feel them out about my plans, straight away Trevor told me I was on the right track, not only asking all the right questions, but asking them early enough that I would be able to plan a memorable paddling adventure.

“You want to figure out the basics of what you want in advance, to have an idea of the kind of experience you’re looking for, and what you want to get out of it,” Trevor said, “The more information you have, the more we can help you have the adventure you’re looking for.”

Planning a paddling trip calls for a high attention to detail, and logistics like overnight accommodations, food, and equipment should be planned out in advance to ensure smooth sailing when the day of your trip comes. Trevor and Deedee recommend starting the planning process as early as possible, in order to ensure equipment and accommodation rentals aren’t already booked up on your dates.

From the Experts: Choosing the Right Water

Now that I knew I was on the right track, I explained I was looking for a beginner to intermediate whitewater experience of three days, with two nights spent on the river either camping or in some other accommodations. No problem, I was told, there are plenty of locations in Ontario’s Highlands that will allow for the kind of trip I was looking for. It was so nice to get some advice from someone with so much experience; I felt like I was in good hands.

Although I was looking for some whitewater, there was one experience Deedee couldn’t rave enough about for flatwater paddling that nearly convinced me to try a flatwater adventure instead. According to Deedee, Conroy Marsh is the place to go for a stellar flatwater experience – a more than 3,000 ha of conservation area with a complement of three rivers.

“The Little Mississippi, York, and Madawaska Rivers all converge in this bowl in Conroy March,” Deedee explained, “It’s a peat bog and fend, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful, so full of life, especially migratory birds, it’s unbelievable. If you look at it on a map you’ll see the vast maze of wetlands that support so much wildlife.”

I considered changing my plans to a flatwater trip, especially when I found out there were two fantastic accommodations at Silgrey Rustic Resort at Conroy Rapids and also Pinecone Forest Nature Sanctuary, but in the end, the whitewater experience was what I was looking for the most.

For whitewater, most of Deedee’s and Trevor’s suggestions naturally included locations along the Madawaska, Opeongo, Ottawa and Petawawa Rivers, for what they called “an experience on the greatest whitewater water around.”
Given my limited experience, I was a little worried that we would be outclassed by the rapids, but Trevor was quick to assure me that there’s always plenty of time to scope out a set of rapids in advance (always recommended for any paddler) and if it looks too much for us, there are portage trails around the rapids.

They recommended we bring a river guide published by the Friends of Algonquin Park to refer to as we paddle. Trevor also assured me that the Lower Madawaska is the perfect place for my husband and I to get our whitewater feet wet again.

“The Lower Madawaska River is a premier whitewater destination for beginning paddlers, we get a lot of school groups through here for that reason,” Trevor explained. “In the summer months, we’re usually running a Class 1 or Class 2 and maybe the odd Class 3 on the Lower Madawaska; it’s really accessible.”

From the Experts: Planning a Route

Both Deedee and Trevor recommended our adventure involve paddling the 42-kilometre stretch of the Madawaska River that runs through Lower Madawaska River Provincial Park, putting in at Aumond’s Bay, where the Lower Madawaska Provincial Park officially begins. From there, we would paddle to Griffith, which would take at least two days of paddling. We would spend the night in the park at one of the first-come-first-served leave-no-trace, paddle-in only campsites, that also happen to be free!

The best part of this trip is once we’re on the water in the park, we can take as long or as little time paddling as we liked to make the trip to Griffith. The whitewater in that area would be manageable for our skill levels, Trevor assured me, which was good to know in advance. And, of course, Madawaska River Rentals would manage the gear rentals and even shuttle us to and from our destination so we could paddle one way without having to worry about heading back up river.

If we decide we want to extend our trip we could put in at Palmer Rapids, tune up our skills, and paddle to Aumond’s Bay, spending the night at Jessup’s Campground or Paddler Co-op Camping for reasonable rates. This addition would add approximately 17-kilometres of paddling to our trip.

From the Experts: Final Words of Wisdom

Parting words of advice from Trevor: Keep your trip small. Smaller days mean less time on the water, and although you might think that you want as much time on the water as possible, a common misconception of canoe trips is you need to be paddling the whole time.

“If you’re doing a family trip and have a shorter day on the water then you have more time to enjoy the campsite and the wildlife,” Trevor explained. “Smaller days mean you have more time to enjoy the experience, without the rush.”
Well said, Trevor! We’ll have to remember those words of advice this summer. I’m already looking forward to the adventure.

Stories

Beer, Butter Tarts & Burritos (By Bike)

Could this be Ontario’s tastiest bike route? A natural backdrop of Canadian Shield, shimmering lakes and lush Crown land forests surround you as you pedal down a 50/50 mix of quiet paved roads and gravel rail trails that traverse a series of communities. These small towns and rural hamlets are now known for art and […]

Cycle Through Fall

In my humble opinion, there is no better time than fall to hop on my bike and hit the roads, gravel, and trails of Ontario’s Highlands. I don’t have to worry about overheating, nor will I find myself pushed to my limit while trying to outrun a swarm of deer flies for 20 kilometres (true […]

Cozy Up to Fall Camping

So you’re not ready for camping season to end? Here’s a tip: It doesn’t! Just because the summer is over doesn’t mean we need to head indoors, when it comes to camping experiences, fall is where it’s at. Fall camping is an entirely different (and some would say better) experience from summer camping –no bugs, […]

The Best Fall Canoeing

Discover these top lakes and rivers in Ontario’s Highlands to discover the beauty of fall colours from a canoe.

Best Highway 60 Hikes

So, you’re ready to hit the road. The King’s Highway 60 is calling your name – and who could blame you? The vistas on this route are stunning, from the Ottawa Valley to the Madawaska Valley. Every kilometre is a captivating experience. It may seem like you could cruise forever on this roadway, but everyone […]

With Love, to Frontenac County

Now more than ever we are drawn to our community, and the places that help us to unwind and get outdoors. To get away from the crowds and reconnect with our roots. Frontenac County tempts us to sit back, unwind and check into vacation mode, to rediscover a world of countless lakes and a region […]

With Love, to Haliburton Highlands

We are so lucky to come from a place that has it all: phenomenal views, rugged landscapes, abundance of trails, and infinite opportunities for recreation, all enticing you to leave your comfort zone and step into the wild. Here, endless forests meet cool, clear lakes and rivers to create incredible vistas that reach out to […]

With Love, to the Ottawa Valley

From the rushing waters of the Petawawa, Madawaska and Ottawa rivers to the unspoiled woodlands of Algonquin Park, the Ottawa Valley is a sultry enchantress, enticing us with adventure. Renowned as a world-class whitewater destination and for the challenges found in its rugged hills and lush dales, the Valley pushes us to do more, live […]

With Love, to Lennox & Addington

Known for its pristine wilderness, incredible views and rugged natural spaces, the majestic beauty of Lennox & Addington speaks to the wanderer inside us all. From the craggy peak of Mazinaw Rock at Bon Echo Provincial Park to the starry skies overhead, there is wonder waiting to be discovered here, a vivid reminder of how our […]

With Love, to Hastings County

The deep lakes and meandering rivers here are ripe with life, both on land and in the water. This land is known as a region rich with minerals, and we haven’t forgotten how our communities were settled by the gold rush, where miners flocked, eager to delve into the earth to unearth its riches. Thick […]

Feel Like a Kid Again

Remember when your whole summer was devoted to swimming, playing, catching frogs, and finding adventures? At one time, this was an entire season fueled by ice cream, Freezies, and hot dogs. August always felt so short, and by the time it rolled around you’d scramble to finish your summer bucket list, savouring each shortened day […]

Cycle Haliburton

What’s your favourite flavour of cycling? Do you prefer digging in off-road, pedaling hard for speed and distance, or just a light taste with a short meander? A bike ride can be what you want to make of it, which is part of the fun, isn’t it? Haliburton Highlands’ varied terrain calls cyclists to explore […]

Bikepacking in North Frontenac

Imagine a weekend of backcountry camping in a quiet forest just a few hours from Ottawa or Toronto. As you settle down at camp, you think back to the fresh moose tracks you saw earlier that day and the amazing swim you had when you stopped for lunch. The scenery feels familiar but something’s different. […]

Hello Summer! Your Guide to COVID-19 Safe Travel in Ontario’s Highlands

We are happy to see that summer is in full swing here in Ontario’s Highlands, and even happier now that we have seen the lifting of many restrictions here in Ontario. After months of staying home we are eager to get out and stretch out legs and imaginations in a region made for discovery. This […]

Secret Swimming Holes

Shhh…we’re not supposed to tell you about these swimming holes…some of them don’t even have names and you may never find them without a map, but we understand that when it’s 40 degrees out with the humidity and the public beach is packed the hunt is on for the perfect swim spot. Those in the […]

Go Backcountry

You waken slowly in the early morning, the high-pitched warble of birdsong drifting lightly through the trees overhead. The sky is faintly brightening with the coming of dawn, and the natural world is gradually blossoming to life. Around you there is no trace of human activity, no murmurs of voices, clanging of dishes, or whir […]

An Ode to Summer

A throwback to summers gone past, with inspiration for this year’s adventure.

Just Show Up

Hit the water and take advantage of these easy kayaking and canoeing opportunities in Ontario’s Highlands.

Highway 7 Hikes

Stretch your legs by exploring these nature hiking trails along Highway 7.

Coming Home

Discover the story of Sarain Fox and her journey home to the Ontario’s Highlands, relieving memories of ice fishing and snowmobiling along the way.

Spring is Calling

Hanging around the city when the scents of spring are tantalizingly tickling your nose is tough. This is when you yearn to get away from the slush, pack the car and head out for an almost-spring getaway to the countryside, where baby animals, maple syrup, G-rated fun, and fresh air are calling. Get out of […]

Spring Break

The sun is warm, the air smells like spring, and the birds are singing their special warm weather songs. It’s official; spring has sprung. After a long Canadian winter, spring getaways are a time-honoured tradition for families here in the great white north, and haven’t we earned a little fun in the sun? This is […]

Winter Just Got Awesome

Learn to climb or brush up on your skills with an epic ice climbing adventure at SOIceFest 2020 in Maynooth, ON.

Ultimate Après-Ski Experiences

Meet up with friends after a day well spent on the slopes or on the trails. Discover these top places in Ontario’s Highlands to celebrate the Apres Ski!

Fall in Love With Winter

Unique winter experiences in Ontario’s Highlands that will give you something to brag about.

Climb a Wall of Ice

Challenge yourself to reach new heights with an ice climbing adventure at these places across Ontario’s Highlands.

Embrace the Dog Days of Winter

If you can’t beat winter, join it with an epic dog sledding excursion through some of the most beautiful forests in Ontario.

3 Cheers for Mom

Discover ways to give a mom a Mother’s Day to remember, with gift ideas that go above and beyond.

Batter up!

Get a behind the scenes look into the world of baseball at Sam Bat.

Where Am I?

Climb to new heights at the Medeba Ice Wall and enjoy the unique view from the top.

Where Am I?

Make fresh tracks along premium snowmobile trail, the RAP Tour Loop.

Winter? Bring it!

Discover your love for the season with a classic Ottawa Valley winter.

One Last Ride

Watch JR Alli’s video and see what he discovers when he allows himself to just wander.

An Action-Packed Weekend

Read how Will Tang from Going Awesome Places raced muscle cars and experienced thrills on the rapids with whitewater raftering in the Ottawa Valley.

Whitewater Rafting as a Family

Read about how one family took on whitewater rafting on the Madawaska River and why they can’t wait to do it again.

The Freedom Finder

I’m a Freedom Finder. I wander with speed! I seek out opportunities to make fresh tracks, blaze new trails, and get my adrenaline pumping.

Where Am I

Explore the sweet moments and ageless beauty of Perth, Ontario.

Recharge in the Snow

Disconnect from the everyday with a snowmobile trip through Ontario’s Highlands.

All Terrain, All the Time

Pack your saddle bags and press the throttle for an ATV adventure like no other in Ontario’s Highlands.

Raging the Rapids

SUP Instructor Courtney Sinclair takes her passion for paddle boarding to the whitewater.

Hair-Raising Drives

Explore roads of Ontario with these drives that make you reach for your hairbrush.

Roads Worth Riding

Plan your next motorcycle ride along the hand-crafted roads of Ontario’s Highlands. Wind around vast lakes, to fill up on culinary delights, and converse with friendly locals.