Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Rafting on the Ottawa River

Somehow it is already July 1st! Happy Canada Day! Instead of a long list of excuses for my absence, I offer the following...just one of the many activities that have kept us busy these past few weeks.

"Cruising down the river, on a Sunday afternoon…"

There’s a new show in town. And I’m not talking CFL football. No, it’s rafting down the Ottawa River, right here in the city. For years I have wanted to go on a rafting expedition but simply never got around to organizing a trip out of town to do it.

Now, if rafting is your wish, there is no need to leave Ottawa. Wilderness Tours has recently expanded operations to include their Ottawa City Adventure trips. On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, nine members of my family celebrated my sister’s 60th by paddling, sightseeing and talking our way from Brittania Beach, in the west end to Lemieux Island, which is just before the War Museum.
Along our way we went through the Deschenes, Champlain and  Remic Rapids. If that sounds dangerous, it isn’t; not when you are in the hands of an experienced paddler like our guide Cameron. It’s true that on that very same day, a family had to be rescued from the Deschenes Rapids. However, that family was not in a large, inflatable raft with a seasoned guide. You have to know and understand the rapids in order to navigate them successfully. Although it was fun to bounce through the rapids, at no point did we feel uneasy. As promised at the outset, this was a gentle introduction to rafting. The only time we got wet was when some of us chose to cool off with a quick swim when we were in a quiet section of the river. Cameron hauled us back in by the straps of our lifejackets. 

Cameron sat up higher than us and steered our craft with a pair of high tech oars. We were all issued paddles and although we contributed to the paddling effort, it was no big deal if you decided to take a break and simply enjoy the passing scenery. Cruising down the river affords you a unique vantage point. In the middle of the river, the sounds of the city disappear as you take in both natural and manmade landmarks on both the Quebec and Ontario sides.

Along the way we passed Westboro Beach where we took swim lessons as kids in the 60’s. Then we passed The Point, and Remic Beach where our mom swam as a youngster. We reminisced about the days when the log booms were still along that stretch of the river. They were huge squared timbers, chained together to keep the logs floating down to the EB Eddy plant from going ashore. As teens, we used to swim out to the booms and see how far we could walk along before falling off. Remnants of those days can still be seen. On our ride we passed an upturned log. That visible end was notched, where a chain once attached it to its place in the boom.

Our journey ended among the tiny islands around the water filtration plant, a very peaceful, picturesque section of the river. Just past the bridge that goes to the plant on Lemieux Island, we went ashore, where a van waited to drive us back to Brittania Beach.

Hopefully before the summer is over we'll go again but this time we will take our mother along. It would be fitting for her to go along this historic river, as her grandfather made that trip many times as a river-man, working on the log drive.     

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