If there is one great thing that lockdown has taught us, it is that we can have fun right here in our own backyards. Staycations have become the new vacations and stand up paddle boarding and kayaking has become an overnight fan favourite. It’s no wonder that these floating devices have become so popular. You don’t need any sort of license to paddle down a river. Anyone can do it and it is such a fun way to enjoy the outdoors. Getting out onto the water is one of the best things you can do in the summer on a hot day. With these devices, you can explore so many interesting areas that you couldn’t get by means of a motorboat. We are lucky to live in the Ottawa area because there are all kinds of great places to try out these personal watercraft's!
As you may know, Scott and I rent out stand up paddleboards and kayaks. We have built up a collection of rentable paddleboards over the last 4 years. Our boards and kayaks aren’t just any boards and kayaks... they cater to those who don't have the space for full sized boats. That's right, our paddleboards are inflatable! Our boards are made out of ArmorStrength PVC and are designed to withstand rocky shores and surprise shoals. There are so many benefits to owning an inflatable SUP, but the biggest one of them all is how compact they are. You can throw these puppies into your backseat and they won’t take up much space at all! No need to secure anything to the roof racks! By mid-summer 2021, we will also be adding the Oru Kayak to our rental fleet which is a foldable kayak that you can you can store just about anywhere. It’s compact enough to stash in your trunk, closet, boat or garage, and lightweight enough (20lbs) to bring with you everywhere.
Many of our customers have asked us where we recommend launching these non-motorized boats in the Ottawa area. We have a few of our favourite places that we have checked out and I want to share them all with you! There are a few great spots located right inside the city of Ottawa and Gatineau.
Stay tuned for more places to paddle in the Ottawa Valley - coming soon!
It is a good idea to plan and map out your adventure for the day so you have a bit of an idea as to where you are going and what you want to see. You will want to bring a cell phone with you and be sure to travel with a buddy! Always check the weather conditions before embarking on your journey. Happy paddling!
*Be sure to click on anything I have linked in the blog for an exact location.
Dow’s Lake -
I think the most popular spot to take out a SUP or kayak in the city of Ottawa would be Dow’s Lake. This centrally located lake offers stunning views of Little Italy, The Glebe and the Dominion Arboretum. You can easily launch your personal watercraft from the stairs by the Dow’s Lake Pavillion. Enjoy a relaxing paddle around the lake, or for a bigger adventure, try paddling down the Rideau Canal. If you go south on the canal, you will quickly make it to *Hartwells Locks, but going north will take you all the way downtown to the Locks 1-8! This is a great choice if you are looking for a full day paddle. You will pass Lansdowne Park, go underneath the new Flora Footbridge, as well as many more historic bridges and architecture downtown. Don’t forget to make a pit stop along the way at *Patterson Creek. The beautiful willow trees against the century homes of The Glebe create such a picturesque backdrop! With almost 7kms of water to explore, you certainly won’t be bored if you decide to paddle at Dow’s Lake!
*Hartwells Locks also offers a great launching spot at the wooden docks. Just be sure not to launch along the blue line when the locks are open!
*Patterson Creek also has a perfect spot for launching your watercraft. There is a dock in front of the skating chalet.
*There is another set of stairs that provide a nice launching spot near the The Corktown Footbridge. The stairs lead down to the canal near Waverly Street on the west side of the water.
Rideau Canal -
If you head to the south above Hartwell Locks, you can safely launch (and park your car!) at the docks by the parking lot. I really love this stretch of water between Hartwell and Hog’s Back. There are a couple of really cool little inlets that stretch into really beautiful luxurious neighbourhoods.
If you continue south, you can either portage over the *Hog’s Back Lock, or you can also launch at Mooney’s Bay Beach or Mooney’s Bay boat launch (there is a dock for easy access). There is another small inlet here called Nesbitt Creek, this creek offers another close-up look at some beautiful properties, you won't want to miss it! If you are feeling adventurous, you can continue the Rideau River south all the way to *Black Rapids Lock. The stretch between Hog’s Back and Black Rapids is 6.5kms so be sure to pack a lunch if this is the route you want to take. You will paddle underneath a train bridge, along residential areas as well as pass by the Ramada Inn. From Black Rapids, you can go all the way to Manotick’s Long Island Locks. This stretch will wind around lots of farmland until you get closer to Barrhaven. Once in Barrhaven, you will pass underneath the Vimy Memorial Bridge. I thought this was really neat to go under. I have always really loved the architecture of this bridge and seeing it from underneath is pretty spectacular!
It also offers some well-needed shade if you are paddling on a sunny day. If you are planning on doing the entire paddle from Black Rapids to Long Island, you are in for a long paddle! This stretch winds for 8.3kms so be sure to plan accordingly.
*Hog’s Back Lock also has a dock on the upper level at Mooney’s Bay where you can safely launch your watercraft.
*Black Rapids Lock also has docks on the upper and lower levels of the water where you can safely launch.
*Chapman Mills Conservation Area offers another dock for easy access into the river.
The north part of the Rideau River can also be accessed with a SUP or kayak, you just need to be mindful of the areas with rapids. If you are an extreme and advanced kayaker or paddleboarder, you might want to try this out, but I wouldn’t do it in an inflatable or fold-up kayak! There is an easy spot to launch your watercraft at Stanley Dog Park in New Edinburgh. Just be careful not to go north from this spot. There are rapids and it is very dangerous due to fast-moving water from Rideau Falls. You can go south from here, but it gets rocky as you approach Strathcona Park. The rapids begin just after the park. The water gets calmer on the south side of Gee-Gees Field, but there is nowhere to safely launch until right beside the Billings Bridge. Ottawa SUP is also located here. From this launch area, you can paddle north towards the Gee-Gees Field or, you can try a bit of an adventure heading south. This is a pretty rocky area and I don’t recommend it on any sort of inflatable watercraft or if you are a beginner. If you do want to check out this area, there are some pretty neat islands you can paddle around. I wouldn’t go any farther than the Bronson bridge though as it gets very rocky all the way to Hog’s Back Falls.
I had never been to Lac Leamy until a couple years ago and I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. Not only does the lake offer a great walking path all the way around it, but it also has some amazing water for paddling! You can safely launch by the northwest parking lot at Lac Leamy or on the beach at Lake Leamy Park. Both places offer parking as well as cafes so you can stop and get lunch before or after. Parking costs $2 per half hour or a daily max of $10. Enjoy a leisurely paddle around this beautiful lake and then venture underneath the 2 bridges at the casino towards the man-made Lac de la Carrière - a former quarry that is now linked to Lac Leamy.
This area is extra special because of the unique rock formations from the quarry as well as the famous casino water fountain! These 2 lakes really are a paddler’s paradise. There are always lots of people out enjoying these waters. There is also a kiosk where you can rent boards and kayaks by the northwest parking lot. If you are looking for more adventure, Lac Leamy also flows into the Gatineau River which then turns into the Ottawa River. There are tons of possibilities from here!
The Ottawa River is so large, it spans over 1,200kms. There are tons of very open areas that can be difficult for a beginner paddler or if you are on an inflatable kayak. Remember to stay inland if you are new to this sport. That being said, there are tons of great spots to paddle along the Ottawa River! The river can either be a lion or a lamb depending on the wind, so be sure to check your local weather conditions before venturing out onto this particularly large body of water.
A great spot to launch is at Britannia Beach. There is lots of parking here as well as a small restaurant where you can stop at for a snack. From Britannia Beach, you can go for a short paddle to the east, but you won’t want to go past Britannia Yacht Club as the rapids begin here.
If you want to head to the west from Britannia, you can go along the shoreline beside Andrew Haydon Park and paddle around the bays in and around the Nepean Sailing Club. You'll want to check out the beautiful sandy beach at Crystal Bay as you continue along the river’s edge. You can even get to Fitzroy Harbour from here if you are daring! I don't recommend making a trip this size unless if you are an experienced paddler. Remember that the water is very open along this part of the river, so be careful and stay inland if you need to. The wind can change at any moment!
Another great spot to launch from is Westboro Beach. There is a parking lot here as well as a cafe. The river is quite wide at this area so you will want to stay along the shoreline unless it is a very calm day. Deschênes Rapids is just to the west, be sure to stay clear of that area. You can go as far east as Island Park, but you won’t want to go any farther as this is where the rapids start up again. If you are looking for an extreme ride, check out Ottawa City Rafting or their latest attraction - tubing! I do not recommend taking the SUP’s or kayaks this way!
Ottawa River East
If you want to launch right from downtown Ottawa, you can safely do so at the bottom of the Rideau Canal Locks 1-8. There is a long stretch of docking at the bottom of these locks where Capital Cruises takes off. From here, you can explore as far west as the Portage Bridge. You can also check out the narrow inlet that goes up to Mill Street Brew Pub for a cool vantage point of the pub.
If you head east, you can go underneath the iconic Alexandria Bridge and pass by landmarks such as: the Ottawa Rowing Club, Earnscliffe Historic Site, Rideau Falls and the Official Residence of the Prime Minister. A really cool little inlet you can explore in this area is Décharge du Lac Leamy. When you venture into this little canal, you will pass by the ruins of Ville de Vanier. A cruise ship that used to conduct illegal crap games along the Ottawa River. Along with the ruins, you will also find lots of fish and plant life. You will go under a walking bridge as well as the Boulevard Fournier bridge. The waterway ends just on the other side of Lac Leamy.
Ruisseau de la Brasserie is another small creek that stretches from the Ottawa River to the other side of Lac Leamy. If you take this creek, you will pass by Parc Desjardins as well as go underneath 5 bridges.
Petrie Island features a massive, beautiful sandy beach with numerous places to safely launch your watercraft from. You can park your vehicle at one of the many parking lots for free until pay machines are installed. This stunning island has so much to offer from an abundance of amazing wildlife to fabulous sunsets down the river. Once you have launched from the beach, head west around the island. Keep going until you find an opening. Paddle your way through the opening and from here, you can check out all kinds of fun little inlets and canals right within the island. The water is very calm and flat, which makes paddling exceptionally easy - this is a great spot to head out to if you are a beginner to the sport. If you are looking for something a little more thrilling, you can also rent jet ski's at Jet Ski Ottawa right here at Petrie Island!
Back out on the Ottawa River, If you head east, there really is no stopping you all the way until just past Hawkesbury!
You can also safely launch your watercraft in Constance Bay. This charming town offers a large beautiful beach perfect for swimming and launching from. You will want to head west and stick close to the shore so you can venture into Buckham’s Bay. This bay will be nice and calm and you can check out all of the waterfront homes and cottages.
You can also launch at Fitzroy Harbour. You can safely do so at the Fitzroy Beach, this beach is located within Fitzroy Provincial Park, so you will need to pay the $12.25 for a day pass. There are also docks here for easy launching. Enjoy a paddle around Kedey’s Island as well as Alexandra Island but be sure to steer clear of Chat Falls Generating station to the west.
There are tons of areas along the Ottawa River that you can explore. Remember that this is a very large body of water and it is best to be an experienced paddler if you are embarking on large adventures.
So there you have it! Those are our top places to paddle in and around the city of Ottawa. Stay tuned for more awesome paddling areas, particularly the Ottawa Valley - coming soon!