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.


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.

Cycle Through Fall

As cooler temperatures arrive and leaves change colour, discover these top places throughout Ontario’s Highlands to cycle in the fall.

The Best Fall Canoeing

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

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.