Ottawa is one of the few cities in Canada that I can never get enough of. It seems that no matter how many times I visit I discover something new and wonderful that I had no idea existed. So at the tail end of my family’s tour of indigenous experiences in Quebec, I figured that my family would swing by Canada’s capital to see what we could discover this time. And when my friends at Ottawa tourism suggested that the city now features urban white water rafting in Ottawa, and it’s open to all ages, I was pumped! We spent our first day in the city exploring new and exciting things to do in Ottawa with kids. And before long we were registered for the Ottawa City Rafting tour and the boys were pumped for a day on the water.
What Is Ottawa City Rafting
When I first heard the term “Ottawa City Rafting” I assumed that it meant the epic whitewater tours. The ones that flow down the Ottawa River braving world-class Level IV rapids. Boy was I wrong. Ottawa City Rafting is actually the first urban white water rafting experience in Canada. This family-friendly white water rafting experience starts and ends within the borders of the city.
Urban rafting in Ottawa combines a series of wonderful experiences. It gives you an entirely unique view of the natural beauty of Ottawa. The tour starts and stops at Brittania Beach. Brittania Beach is one of the most popular parks in the Ottawa area. The Ottawa rafting route extends from Brittania Beach to Nepean Bay. Along the way, visitors are brought along on a series of adventures that include white water rapids, river floating, and cliff jumping. The family-friendly rafting in Ottawa is at a perfect pace. And before we knew it, the three-hour tour was over before we wanted it to be.
This is a completely different experience we had than when we did our cultural Voyageur Canoe ride with Indigenous Experiences in Ottawa. It’s wetter, wilder, and all about getting outside and having a good time.
How Does The Rafting In Ottawa Experience Work?
The Ottawa City Rafting experience starts in Brittania Beach Park which is about a 20-minute drive from Byward Market in downtown Ottawa. Once you book your experience through the company’s website, you’ll need to get to the park for your start time. The group tours are sized up for safety gear including helmets, floatation gear, and wetsuits for those who want to rent them. Once our family was all geared up we sat through a 15-minute demonstration outlining safety instructions and proper white water rafting paddle strokes. The instruction was fun and energetic. The Wilderness Tours crew did a great job of keeping even the young children engaged.
After the presentation, we walked as a group towards Brittania Beach. The rafts for the tour were already set out for us near the water. The boats were loaded into the water where we all hopped on and found ourselves a seat. Children have the option of sitting in the middle, where the risk of falling is smaller or sitting on the edge and helping with the paddling. I really appreciated that there was no expectation of either. D, as one of the youngest on the tour, was happy to paddle for a while before he got tired of it. And having that option is a big confidence booster for a 5-year-old.
Once the rafts have been launched from the beach, the journey down to Nepean Bay is a very relaxing one. Beyond a few paddling areas where the current or rapids or strong, much of the urban rafting experience is very calm. This gave us plenty of time to learn about the incredible sights along the Ottawa river.
Where Do You Visit On An Ottawa Urban Rafting Adventure?
City rafting in Ottawa floated us down the Ottawa River from Brittania Beach to Nepean Bay. Along the way, we had the opportunity to see local treasures. Including some that often only a handful of locals were aware of. The Ottawa rafting excursion begins with a paddle out of Brittania Bay. This stretch brought into focus the city’s yacht club and some of the multi-million dollar houses that line the river. As we rounded the corner into the flow of the Ottawa River the current picked up and begun ferrying as quicker speeds through the water.
As we rowed gently down the river our Ottawa City Rafting guides gave us a running commentary on all the different areas that we passed. This included all the great Ottawa city beaches along the way. It wasn’t too long before we saw the Champlain Bridge. Our guide warned us that the river was about to get rough and we were instructed on both where and when to paddle. It was at this point that D decided that he would leave his paddle and migrate to the middle of the boat where it was a bit calmer. C, however, was right on the edge of the boat, daring the raging Ottawa River to give him its best.
It wasn’t long before we dropped into the Deschenes Rapids. The river quickly began to toss us around with its Level II waves. These rapids are big enough to add a little fun to your day, but not really strong enough to buck you out of the boat. It’s really the perfect sized rapids for those who are experiencing white water rafting for the first time. As the big swells died down to smaller rapids we were all given the option to jump in for a little body surfing down the smaller rapids. C and I jumped almost immediately. We were looking for a way to cool off in the hot August sun. D, seeing that we didn’t immediately sink, and having gained some water confidence from our recent snorkeling experience in Maui, Hawaii, jumped in shortly afterward and we quickly joined up in a floating caterpillar.
When we exited out at the base of the rapids we were hauled back on board the rafts. This was a much easier experience for the boys than it was for me! Shortly afterward we passed the mysterious bunker that is rumored to have once held a nuclear backup generator to power the city in the case of war. Before we knew it, the view of the bunker disappeared as we passed between bird-filled Bate Island and Cunningham Island. Here we learned about some of the quirky locals who sometimes use these islands as a second-home during the summer months.
Besides the Ottawa city rapids, the highlight of our Ottawa City Rafting adventure came near the end of the journey. We came upon a series of beautiful small islands, that, in all my visits, had no idea was there. This small series of islands comprising Lumpe Denomee’s Island, Merrill Island, and Nichols Island is a little sanctuary of paradise just minutes from downtown Ottawa. It was here that the boats pulled into Nichols Island where we got to have a go at cliff jumping into the Ottawa River.
The boys and I got off the boat and checked out the three, progressively taller, jump spots. It was here that D gave a hard “no” and decided that this wasn’t for him. C, however, stood on the edge for the better part of 10 minutes. But he finally gained the courage to leap off of the tallest cliff. As he came to the surface he let out a whoop of delight and swam back to try it again. We had about 30-minutes to experience the Ottawa River cliff jumping before we had to swim back to the boat and we made our way under the retired train bridge near Onigam St. which, during high water levels, rafters sometimes hang off of.
As we pulled in to Nepean Bay we pulled the rafts up from the water’s edge. We all stood for a moment watching the view of the parliament buildings and downtown Ottawa in the distance.
Returning To Brittania Beach And Park
When we arrived we deflated and reloaded the rafts onto the Wilderness Tours trailer. Next, we all took a moment to appreciate the experience that we had just had. During the three hours we spent together, 12 strangers on a boat had become friends. We had witnessed some of the most beautiful scenery in Ottawa. We had braved the mighty waters of the Ottawa River. And as we were dropped back off at Brittania Beach, we still had loads of time to grab a mighty Baja Burger at the beachside burger hut for lunch. And we still had the afternoon to explore more great things to do in Ottawa.
Have you gone rafting on the Ottawa River? Did you bring your kids? Tell us about your experience in the comments. Or head over to our Facebook page and share a photo of your trip. We would love to share in your adventures.
Disclosure: We were invited on our Ottawa City Rafting adventure by Ottawa Tourism and Wilderness Tours. As always, all opinions remain our own. Wandering Wagars is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.