Changes to City of Ottawa Whitewater

I have updated the blog in a number of aspects. If you have been coming here often some of the changes might be a surprise:
1) Myself and much of the paddling community have made some mistakes of the named rapids on the Ottawa in the city.
-Remic Rapids are actually located at the Champlain Bridge.
-what has often been referred to as Remic Rapids are actually known as Little Chaudière Rapids.
2) There is a new Britannia Gauge for water levels. At this moment I am posting what we estimate that the water levels for certain features are. We should be adding 55 to the previous gauge readings. As such, proceed with caution and scout things out before you head out on the river.

Remic Rapids: Champlain Bridge - The Wall

High water levels produce the best playspot that the City of Ottawa has to offer. Every spring paddlers flock to The Wall playspot at the Champlain Bridge for a series of surf waves with abutting eddy access that are great for playboating.
The Wall playspots at the Champlain Bridge are located on the river right shore abutting Bates Island. There is ample parking and, at times, it can become quite a spectator sport. Every spring the Level 6 Cup whitewater festival takes place here.
The Wall playspot as seen from the Champlain Bridge.

What's it like: At high water The Wall is a class III rapid that consists of a series of 3 to 4 surfable wave-holes that have eddy access, are retentive for all boat lengths, and allow all wave and hole freestyle tricks to be done. However, as the water levels fall, the waves become smaller, some disappear, and the eddy becomes unattainable from below.
Using the Britannia Gauge for water flow - the following are the characteristics of the playspot:
Below 58.5 - eddy is small, you have to portage up island for each ride, waves are small.
58.5 - the eddy is in, but rope needed to reattain the top
58.7 - you can paddle up the eddy with effort
59.0 - the eddy is full with little effort needed to paddle up, the waves are steep and retentive
Above 59.1 - you are recirculated to the top of eddy and the waves continue to be great. The higher the water level the more the the playspots become breaking waves and lose their hole character.

Champlain surfing at 59.3 on the Britannia Gauge.

Safety Concerns: In the spring and fall the water is cold so make sure that you are wearing the appropriate insulating equipment like Farmer Johns, dry pants, a dry top, gloves / mits / pogies, and head insulation to prevent those ice cream headaches. Make sure that you carry the appropriate rescue equipment like tow-lines, throw bags, and a first-aid kit. Moreover, the water is flowing through here quite fast and, as such, you should never paddle alone! Paddle with a group of experienced paddlers. Every year someone paddles there alone or with someone that doesn't have rescue training or the appropriate rescue gear, and there is a swimmer that gets taken far downstream and is in the water for a long time. This is a risk for hypothermia, hospitalization, and even death. If you are not an experienced paddler this is not the time of year to learn here. Wait until the warm summer water is around.

How to get there: The Champlain Bridge is located in the western part of the City of Ottawa, in Ontario, Canada. The bridge links Ottawa with the Aylmer section of Gatineau Quebec. To get there from Ottawa take Island Park Drive north and it eventually becomes the Champlain Bridge. Exit at Bate Island and park. The waves are right beside the parking lot. From the Quebec side of the river take Boulevard Lucerne or Boulevard D'Aylmer until they intersect with the Champlain Bridge.
Click on the above map to interact with it.

Below are a few videos of the Champlain Bridge Waves at high water.

Remic Rapids: Champlain Bridge - Center Waves

Remic Rapids at the Champlain Bridge have offered the most popular playspots and learning areas for whitewater paddlers in the Ottawa area. At high water levels "the wall" is one of the best playwaves on the whole Ottawa River. At low water levels the Center Wave and Training Wave are popular spots to play.
Remic Rapids at the Champlain Bridge are a popular after-work learning area and play area for whitewater paddlers in the Ottawa area. At low water levels Remic Rapids offers a couple of play spots in the middle of the river between Bate Island and the Quebec shore: the Center Wave and the Training Wave. Moreover, there is a large eddy and beach on Bate Island that is great for teaching beginners how to roll and basic paddling technique.

How to get there: The Champlain Brigde is the western most bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau. It can be accessed fom Island Park Drive or the Ottawa River Parkway on the Ontario side of the river. On the Quebec side of the river it is accessed from Boulevard de Lucerne or Chemin d'Aylmer. Once traveling over the bridge exit halfway across the bridge onto Bate Island. All playspots are located between Bate Island and the Quebec shore.

Click on the above map to interact with it. This map shows the loaction of the Champlain Bridge Rapids off of Bate island. The Center Wave and Training Wave playspots are marked in the middle of the river at the Ontario/Quebec border.

What it's like: At low water there are 2 main playspots:
1) Center Wave: These are actually 2 waves at the front of a wave train. The water here is deep. Traditionally this has been the best playspot in the summer in the City of Ottawa. However, in 2003 there was a shift of some sort on the river bed that made the first wave much more difficult to catch and very flushy. The first wave here is definitely a wave for longer boats. It is fast, flushy, and green. Right behind the first wave, the second wave can be caught by short boats for short but really fun and dynamic surfs.

This is a picture of a paddler surfing the first wave of the Center Wave at Remic Rapids.

2) Training Wave: This is a very small wave / hole that can be surfed in short boats. The wave part is good for front surfs and the hole is OK for a cartwheel or loop at medium water levels. This are is quite shallow so make sure that you stay upright at low water.
This photo shows the Training Wave which is located to the river left of the Center Wave. In this picture the Training Wave is the pile that is closest to the camera.

Both of these playspots are accessed from a very large mid river eddy.

Safety: When heading out here, make sure that you head out with someone else because a swim here would be very long.

Little Chaudière Rapids: Dessert Wave

Little Chaudière Rapids are located downstream from the Champlain Bridge in on the Ottawa River adjacent to the Tunney's Pasture government complex. This rapid has 2 playspots: the Sewer Wave which is in at medium to high water in the spring, and the Dessert Wave which is around at all water levels.

The Dessert Wave at Little Chaudière Rapids is bitter sweet. It is the best playwave in the City of Ottawa but it doesn't have eddy access. The Center Wave playspot at Remic Rapids by the Champlain Bridge, until recently, was the best playspot at low water in the summer in the city. After the 'main course' of paddling at Remic's Center Wave, or if the line-ups got too big, you would paddle down to surf the wave at Little Chaudière Rapids for dessert. Thus, the wave was given its name.
Dessert Wave photographed from the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.

How to get there: Little Chaudière Rapids is about 500m downstream of the Champlain Bridge adjacent to the Tunney's Pasture government complex. Click on the map below to interact with it and get directions:
The Dessert Wave is in the middle of the Ottawa River which is probably 300m to 400m wide in this area. There are 3 main access points to the Dessert Wave:

(1) If you go to the "Remic Rapid Lookout" on the Ottawa Parkway near Tunney's pasture, look to the middle of the river and you will see the wave. It's the biggest white foam pile out there. Put in above the rapid.

(2) You can paddle downstream from the Champlain Bridge Rapids. As you are paddling downstream line up the Peace Tower of Parliment Hill and the train bridge closest to the Ontario shore and that will take you too approximately where the Dessert Wave is located.

(3) The prefered access to Little Chaudière Rapids is at the end of Rue Begin at Parc Brebeuf in Gatineau. Put in above the rapid. The Sewer Wave (another playspot out at medium to high water) can be accessed from here as well.

What it's like: You will see the Dessert Wave coming as you approach it from above. The wave is big and glassy, with pile on the top. It is a slower moving wave. The higher the water level, the bigger the wave. It will hold 2 or 3 paddlers easily at higher water levels. At medium to high water you have one shot at catching the wave on the way down. If you miss it or get blown off you have to paddle to shore, walk up, and put-in again. The Dessert Wave is great for any wave move... spins, blunts, backstabs, donkey flips / air screws, loops, etc.

Water Levels: At low water below 57.7 on the Britannia gauge, the Dessert Wave can be reattained by paddling to the river left immediately after you come off of the wave. There is a rock shelf almost adjacent to the wave on the river left. Paddle left after coming off the wave. If the water is low enough you will beach yourself on the rockshelf then you can get out of your boat and walk up to reattain the wave. There is still water running over the shelf so beware of foot entrapement! Above 57.7 you have one shot at hitting the wave. Once you're off you have to paddle back to the Quebec shore to try again. This can take 20 minutes or more.

A paddler dropping onto the Dessert Wave
Surfing and setting up for a blunt on the Dessert Wave
Surfing the Dessert Wave

Safety: It's location and lack of eddy service means that it is not often that you will see paddlers there. It's best to head out with another paddler because a swim there could be really long. The Chaudiere Falls are 1km downstream and going over these would mean certain death. Moreover, it may be difficult to find so it's always good to paddle with someone that knows how to get there.

Little Chaudière Rapids: Sewer Wave

Little Chaudière Rapids have a playspot on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River that is seldom used. It is generally best in the spring when the levels are falling. A storm drain empties out into the abutting eddy and hence the playspot gets its name "Sewer Wave".

Sewer Wave at 58.6 on the Britannia Gauge.

What it is like: It is a forgiving breaking wave with eddy access on the river left. These waves are great for all types of wave moves like spins, blunts, and backstabs. If the water temperature is right it is a decent spot for beginners to learn. It is very comparable to Pushbutton on the upper Ottawa River but it is wider.

Water Levels: The waves are best between 58.4 and 58.7 on the Britannia Gauge. As levels fall the waves further downstream become shallower and there is the potential of hitting rocks.

Safety: This is a class II-III playspot. It is a close swim to shore, however, make sure that you are wearing the appropriate cold water gear in the spring. Gloves, pogies, warm headgear, a drytop or drysuit, and farmer johns are necessary for a swim here in the spring because the water is cold and hypothermia can set in quickly. Make sure you wear earplugs because rolling in the eddy where the storm drain effluent is released can cause an ear infection.
How to get there: Cross the Champlain Bridge, take Boulevard Lucerne or Alexandre-Tache east until you get to Rue Begin. Make a right here and park at Parc Brebeuf. The Sewer wave is right behind the large statue. Click on the map below to interact and get directions.

Below is a video shot at a level of 58.6 on the Britannia gauge. My thanks to mmmpaddle's youtube site:

Rideau River - Back Bacon Hole at Hogs Back Falls

As an alternative to the Ottawa River in the City of Ottawa, the Rideau River offers a few play features. Below Hogs Back Falls on the Rideau River is the Back Bacon Hole. This playspot is more rain dependent and, as such, is playable all year.

Hogs Back Falls is a popular recreational spot with families. There is a picnic area nearby, there is swimming upstream at Mooney's Bay, and there is plenty of green space for summer sports. The waterfall itself is beautiful and, depending on what line you take, is a class V rapid. That being said, the waterfalls are extremely dangerous and should never be run.
This is a picture of the Hogs Back Waterfalls.

About 200m downstream of the waterfalls, upstream from Carleton University, lies a series of 2 to 3 holes depending on the water level. The main hole has been given the name Back Bacon Hole because of it's depth at low water levels.Paddler Mark Dubois ferrying out to the Back Bacon Hole.

How to get there: Click on the map below to interact with it. Get to Hog's Back Road and, if you are heading east on it, make a left into the parking lot. Walk down the hill and put-in BELOW the waterfalls. You cannot see the hole from shore so go with someone that knows where it is. Never go out alone. Paddle over to the river left channel and the holes are located on the river left shore about two-thirds down the rapid.
There is a class III rapid above the hole that you have to run. The hole itself really varies with the water level. It also has eddy service. Overall, it is generally retentive and is great for all types of hole moves like cartwheels, splits, spins, loops (at higher levels), and side surfing.
Water Levels: Click here to access current Rideau River Water levels. Click on "Rideau River at Ottawa".
1) High water in the spring or after significant rainfall: the hole varies from a large crashing wave-hoel to a hole that is about 4 feet wide, retentive, deep, but you have to roll up fast to catch the eddy.Back Bacon early spring 2004. Paddler: Chris Davison Photo: Kevin CookClose up image of Back Bacon Hole in the spring.

2) Medium water (usually in the days following significant rain): this hole gets wider, more retentive, shallower, and the eddy is easier to catch.
3) Low water, the hole is a shallow, end-banging, helmet scraping spot.Throwing ends at Back Bacon

Deschenes Rapids Medium/High Water Playspot - Near Channel

High water on the Ottawa River in the City of Ottawa brings everyone out to Remic Rapids at the Champlain Bridge for good reason. As "The Wall" at Remic Rapids is just becoming surfable a great wave / hole exists at the Deschenes. My thanks to Phitty for the info and pictures.
Between 58.6-58.9 on the Britannia Gauge the "The Champlain Bridge Wall" waves at Remic Rapids is starting to come in and paddlers flock to the great playspot waves at the bridge. However, at the Deschenes Rapids upstream, a great playspot is already at its prime.Deschenes playspot at 58.6 on the Britannia Gauge (medium/high water)
The Deschenes Rapids are a River wide rapid about 2km upstream of the Champlain Bridge. To get there check out my blog posting below on the Deschenes playspot at low water. Near the Quebec shore there are crumbled ruins of a century old hydro electric project. These ruins are dangerous and should never be run. There are multiple pin spots and hazards such as rebar in this section.
The high water playspot is in the nearest channel to the Quebec shore. There are no rebar concerns in this channel. The playspot characteristics are as follows:
It is a very fun hole at 58.5 - 58.6 on the Britannia gauge.
It is a very fun wave from 58.6 - 58.9.
Above 58.9 its flooded; go to Champlain.
When it is in spins, cartwheels, loops, blunts, backstabs, and just about anything else are easily done.Front and backsurfs at Deschenes
When the playspot is in the water is over 4 feet deep in the pool but you may bang the ends of your boat in front of the pile. There are small eddies on both sides of the hole which are easy to catch if you're upright but harder to catch if you flip. They also get harder to catch as the level goes up... but the wave gets better so it's all worthwhile. Below the feature the water runs cleanly into a small pool. Take out river left and carry up the paved walking trail to the top which is about 100 yards.Above: Throwing ends at 58.5

Below is a video of the spot at 58.8

Deschenes Rapids at Low Water - Lower JJ's Wave

Lower JJs playwave is located below the Deschenes Rapids on the Ottawa River in the city of Ottawa. It's a fun little wave good for spinning and blunting. The wave shows up at low water.

Water Levels: The wave comes out at low water with the Britannia River Gauge reading about 57.7.

Safety: DO NOT RUN THE DESCHENES RAPID from above! The Deschenes Rapids are dangerous at all levels. The rapid along the Quebec shore runs through an old hydro facility that has crumbled. As such, it is full of potential pin spots that can kill if you run it from above (see the pictures below). Never paddle alone.

Location: This rapid is located between Aylmer, Quebec and the Britannia area of Ottawa on the Ottawa River. To get to the surf wave you have to paddle up from below the rapid on the Quebec side.
Click on the map to interact with it. To get there cross the Champlain Bridge turn left at Boulevard de Lucerne. Head west until you get to a set of lights. Turn left here onto Chemin Vanier and follow it to the parking lot at the end.
The pictures above show the furthest channel running through the structures and you can see that there is rebar in the water here.

The remaining structures are essentially big strainers. There are multiple holes and potential pin spots throughout the walls.

Below the structures, near the Quebec shore, is a great little surf wave.

Wave character: The wave is like a small bowl with a pile that keeps even the shortest boats surfing on it. This wave, called Lower JJ's, is great for spins and decent for blunts. You can front surf this thing forever. Right above the wave there is an old fishing boat pinned against the structure which has a rope attached to it. This rope extends downstream to the eddy abutting the wave and could be a hazard. This eddy is quite boily and, at times, you feel that you are being pushed into the wall nearest the wave. About 100ft below the wave is a small shallow pourover and there is some lumber just downstream of the pourover. The wave itself is very deep but there is still potential for rebar under the water there so be careful.

Deschenes Rapid - BYOB Wave

The Britannia Yachtclub Offshore Boating (BYOB) Wave is on the Ontario side of the Deschenes Rapids. It is a small wave with large eddy access good for surfing, spinds, and blunts. My thanks to Mark and Renny for the information.
The put in is at the public boat launch at the end of Rowatt street in Ottawa. From the put in paddle along the shorline , you will see the wave as you go downstream. It is a class II-III depending on the water level. The wave is 15 feet out from shore.

Click here for a map.

There is a large eddy for access on the river right as pictured above.

The take out is half way down Cassels , just look for the hiking path where there is a no bikes/dogs sign, (can't miss it ) just park on the side of the road. When finished your session at the wave, just paddle downstream for 2 minitues , you will see the takeout path in between 2 large trees, follow it for a minute and you are at your car.

Caution: although the wave is small at these water levels, we are unsure of how its character changes with the level. As such, scout it before you run it. As always, never paddle alone.

The photos of this wave were taken at a level of 58.1 on the Britannia Gauge.