KITC would like to welcome back guest blogger, Stephen Johnson.. Stephen Johnson is an Ottawa writer who loves to write about family travel. During the summer, you will most likely find him and his family at a local fair or festival. During the winter, a beach in Mexico is a likely bet.
Last summer, one of our family highlights was going on the Ottawa City Rafting Tour. Once the warm weather hit this year, we decided to relive our whitewater adventures. We wanted to go further afield and chose Wilderness Tours which is located about an hour and twenty minutes west of Ottawa along the Ottawa River.
Arriving on-site, the first thing I was impressed by was the size of the facility. They have a restaurant, overnight accommodations, bungee jump and basketball courts amongst numerous other features. We signed up for the family gentle rafting day trip and were quickly processed.
Our guide, Drew, quickly instilled confidence as he briefed all participants about the safety aspects of the trip and introduced the other guides. He had a laid back attitude, not about the safety, but made everyone feel at home and excited about the experience.
Soon enough, we were hopped on a yellow school bus and were ferried to our drop-off point on the Ottawa River. With lifejackets on, we met up with Drew and were heading down the river in our raft. The trip started off with a bang as we took a rapid appropriately called Initiation. Drew called out for everyone to get into our safety positions as we hit the rapid. It was exhilarating but I never felt in danger.
After getting through the first rapid, what would come next was incredible. We passed through a second smaller rapid and then saw a few people on the other rafts pointing. We came around the bend and saw two majestic eagles. One was perched on a rocky outcrop while the other was further back in a tree. The closest bird was only about fifteen metres or so from our raft. It is the closest I have ever felt to being in a wilderness documentary. After about a minute, the bird flew off leaving all of us with our jaws still in the water.
It was hard to top what we had just seen but the rest of the day was amazing as well. At a calm point along the river, everyone had a chance to get out of the raft and go for a relaxing swim.
After cooling down, we were back inside the raft heading to our next big thrill. We took the Butterfly rapid at full tilt offering up a lot of excitement. Next, we headed to an area of the rapid called Caterpillar Hole where it was possible to position the raft as if we were surfing. This was David’s favourite part of the entire trip. He loved having the waves crashing into him as the guide expertly managed our raft. I was happy I was on the side furthest from the waves only getting mildly drenched.
Before lunch, participants also had a chance to get out of the raft and take one of the rapids on their back. I am not the strongest swimmer in the world so passed but it looked like everyone was having a good time.
Once all the raft and body surfing was done, it was time for lunch. We landed on shore at the scenic Garvin’s Chute with huge appetites. I’ll be honest, I was expecting perhaps warmed over hot dogs or floppy burgers as we were in the middle of the wilderness. Instead, we got super tasty sausages and chicken burgers. It was as good as anything you would get in a restaurant.
With our hunger satisfied, it was time for the final leg of our journey. We took a couple more smaller rapids. My family and the other people in our raft playfully teased me as I dropped down to the safety position for each rapid.
We wrapped up the day by landing our raft on shore and being offered a glass of water, mango juice, lemonade or craft beer which was brewed at the nearby Whitewater Brewing Company.
It was time to get back on the bus and head back to the headquarters. Everyone looked exhausted but happy from an exhilarating day on the river.
I would highly recommend the family rafting tour for almost any age. There were certainly a few thrills but the guides were very safety conscious and kept us in good shape. The day was also seamlessly organized. We never had to wait for the bus, lunch, etc. It was obvious they have been doing these tours for a long time and also know what they are doing.
For more information, visit www.wildernesstours.com