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Ottawa river, Rocher Fendu, Middle channel ***

View Middle channel in a larger map.
  • Grade: 3-4(5)
  • Level: Any! Can be paddled anytime it is free of ice
  • Gauge: The physical gauge is below the first rapid (McCoys chute), and is the one that all other sources reference. There is an online gauge now, maintained by Shaggy Designs.
  • Length: 9 km
  • Gradient: 2.8 m/km
  • Time: Can be run top to bottom in a couple of hours, but why rush?
  • Put In: The OWL public put in off McCoy Chute trail
  • Take Out: Black's access (1298 Grant Settlement road)
  • Shuttle: 9 km
  • Character: Pool-drop playboating heaven

Probably the best and certainly the most popular boating destination in Eastern Canada. The Ottawa has something for everyone. There are eddylines and waves small enough for beginners, big ones for the hotshots to practice their wonkyflops, and some seriously large rapids in the springtime. The section is just short enough for two runs in a day. The access is good for park 'n' play and there are usually other boaters around to hook up shuttles, cheer you on or pick up the pieces below the rapids.

The river is deceptively flat from the takeout, but follow the roaring sound (and the hordes of kayakers and rafts) towards the first rapid, McCoys Chute. McCoys can be a float down a simple wavetrain or the thundering nemesis of many a beginner boater. It all depends on water level. Inspect or portage on the right. The waves that form in this rapid (Corner wave, Horseshoe hole, Babyface) offer some great playboating. If you are new here, just follow the crowds to figure out what is best. Keep an eye upstream for boaters and rafts bearing down on you - they can't stop!

Lars Romeskie surfing Satlers hole, McCoys chute
Lars Romeskie surfing Satlers hole, McCoys chute

Once you have tired yourself out spinning and blunting at McCoys, head downstream, past the outflow of the Sullivan dam on your left. The gauge should be visible in the middle distance. Going right here will take you down the Main channel, but the Middle channel lies straight ahead and just left of the gauge.

About 1 km past the gauge, there is a choice of routes to take in high water. Left leads down the Magical Mystery Tour (purple line on the map), a pleasant float with some swifts that bypasses Iron Ring and S-Bend rapids. A few hundred metres straight ahead lies Iron Ring, a fairly straightforward chute in low water. Inspect on the right if you are in any doubt, as Iron Ring becomes quite staunch in higher water.

If you decide that Iron Ring is not for you, then the portage is easy, or follow the channel heading right (yellow line on the map) just upstream. This channel leads to Little Trickle and Angel's Kiss rapids and bypasses Iron Ring, S-Bend and Butterfly rapids. Little Trickle has a number of routes, but most will start far left and move right for the clearest line. Angels Kiss is a fun, friendly breaking wave with a clear run-out below.

If you have paddled or portaged Iron Ring, The shallow rapid immediately downstream is aptly named S-Bend, and has a small surfwave just downstream. This is followed by Butterfly rapid, with some playboating opportunities in most waterlevels.

A small lake below Butterfly has the most impressive set of rapids at the far end. Garvin's chutes make up most of the height drop in the Middle channel, and are certainly the crux. There are 4 channels, some of which dry up in low water. They are from left to right; Staircase, S.T. chute, Dragon's Tongue and Elevator Shaft. Inspect or portage on either bank.

After Garvins, there are a number of choices of route around a few islands. Most people follow the main flow through Upper No-Name and Lower No-Name, stopping to surf whatever wave is available. The last, easy rapid is called Black Velvet and follows shortly. Again, several routes around islands are possible on the way to the take out. If it is your first time down here, stick to the main flow and keep a look out for the take outs on the right. Blacks public take out is visible as a track down to the river.

To get to the take out; Coming from Ottawa on highway 17, about 95 km from Ottawa turn right onto Storyland road. This becomes Queens line, then take a right onto Kohlsmith road (signposts for rafting). This turns into Grants Settlement road, and Blacks take out is just past RiverRun rafting.

To get to the put in; Continue on Grants Settlement road and turn right onto McCoys Chute trail. There is a parking lot on the left, and walk down to the river.