June 5, 2023 // By David Goulet

The Madawaska Kanu Centre is worth a visit. While up for a visit to the Bay recently, I found myself looking for local activities to do with my teenage kids and their older cousins. With Covid still rearing its ugly head, there wasn’t a whole lot going on that didn’t involve eating.
Then I saw the signs for the Madawaska Kanu Centre’s rafting trips. We’d done the family float excursions a few years ago and had a blast. But now that my brood is older, I figured they’d find it all a bit tame. Nonetheless, I checked out MKC’s website to see what was shakin’. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered they had a new river trip called Adventure Rafting.

We trekked out Siberia Road to MKC, keeping one eye on the weather. It stormed overnight and more thunder and lightening was expected. We checked in and got fitted with our lifejackets and helmets, then stepped on the bus that would transport us to the drop point on the river.

Cabin in the trees at Madawaska Kanu Centre
We shared the bus with a large extended family from Ottawa who were taking their kids for a family float. When they learned our group was doing the adventure rafting, the kids all begged our excursion coordinator, Emily, to switch them to that option. Emily had to explain that they were all a tad under the 90lb weight requirement but maybe in a couple of years they’d be ready for it. It reminded me of when my kids were too small to ride the big coasters at Canada’s Wonderland. “I’ll never be tall enough!” my son would moan in disappointment.

Overview of the Ottawa River with people in raft
It was raining heavy as we reached the drop point but, as Emily noted, “You’re going to get wet anyway.” Just as we were about to hop out of the bus, a bolt of lightening flashed in the near distance and the thunder cracked. “Stay on the bus!”

Fortunately, the sky calmed enough for us to get the green light to hit the river. My group hopped in our small raft with our guide Jerome (from Montreal). He gave us a very quick intro on how to hold and use the paddles, as well as to how to paddle in unison to ensure maximum efficiency (that proved wishful thinking). We drifted down the river toward the rapids, thunder still rumbling in the distance.
People in a yellow raft on the Ottawa River
Jerome did a great job of tailoring the trip to our group. He could tell we had a couple of daredevils on board, but also some more ‘chill’ participants. He was able to walk the tightrope of providing a wild enough ride to get the heart rates going, but not so wild it made anyone really uncomfortable (so it was a ‘no’ on the offer to deliberately flip the raft).

Jerome led us through the teeth of the rapids, letting us take some measured bumps as we pinballed from side to side. At a slower point he showed us how to surf the raft on a small rapid. We were suspended motionless in the middle of the river then, as we all leaned forward, almost seemed to be flipping the raft arse over tea kettle.
Rafters touching oars in a raft
When we bounced hard through some choppy white-water, I heard a “Holy sh…” It may have been me.

My gang all agreed the trip was fantastic and they’d do it again. It was just the right intensity level. For me, adventure rafting with MCK is as exhilarating as any ride at Canada’s Wonderland. And it’s right in your Valley back yard. You don’t have to deal with traffic, long lines, and over-priced food.
Madawaska Kanu Centre Dining Hall
CanaDream Guests can receive preferred rates on both camping and rafting at Makawaska Kanu Centre when they book through CanaDream Club.

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