The summer of 2020 is like no other. With Covid-19 precautions still rightfully in effect, many Canadians’ travel plans have been disrupted or completely cancelled. However, the craving we have for adventure and outdoors still remains the same! The answer to our wanderlust was just under our noses on the Ottawa River. Everything you need to know for your (Covid-safe) ultimate summer adventure is right here!
Located on the Ontario-Quebec border and just an hour outside of Ottawa, Wilderness Tours Campground and Resort was still accessible to us from Toronto! With tons of different options such as kayaking, rafting, paddle-boarding and more, it was a perfect way to feel adventurous while staying close to home. Read on for our experience, what package to choose, what to pack, and essential tips for your ultimate summer adventure!
We arrived at the Wilderness Tours Resort on a Friday afternoon and were promptly checked in. We chose to stay in The London House cabin on the campground instead of in tents. We had the night to settle in and eat the dinner that we had brought with us (note that all other meals are available with your booking).
Just a 5 minute drive down the road was the main area with a beach overlooking a beautiful, calm portion of the Ottawa river surrounded by evergreen trees. The restaurant, general store, showers and public washrooms for the campground are all located here as well.
The next morning we were up and at ‘em for a provided breakfast in the open air restaurant. No it’s not fancy, it’s a campground after all, but it was clean, yummy and had different options. Mandatory masks when indoors and a single-person serving area made us feel safe. Our morning schedule was as follows:
7:30 am: Breakfast
8:30 am: Rafting briefing with our guide.
8:45 am: Short bus ride to our starting point (masks mandatory here!)
9:00 am: In depth instructions and safety protocols, getting our gear and getting in our rafts!
9:30 am: On the water in our six person raft with our guide!
Our social bubble consisted of seven people so they accommodated us by placing us in a six person sport raft (we fit just fine, although one of us was in the middle not paddling). All groups were kept in their social bubbles, so no cross-contamination took place.
Although some of us were a little nervous for the first set of rapids, our guide Joel made us feel really safe. The rest of the day trip was spent paddling through rapids of different sizes, sometimes going down rapids twice or jumping in and floating down them instead! Our guide Joel was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly and he enhanced our trip by telling us fun historical facts, pointing out wildlife and joking with us the whole time. We even found out he was on a TV show for his insane white-water kayaking skills! The river took us through the beautiful Ontario and Quebec backcountry and we finished the trip off by floating beside our raft in the cool water until we returned to the Wilderness Tours beach. When we got back it was 1:15 pm and we were greeted with lunch at the main restaurant.
The rest of the day was our own. We spent some time resting back at our lodge and then took advantage of the beach and the available stand-up paddle boards and kayaks! The night was finished off with dinner, some drinks and live music in the main area.
We fell asleep easily after all of that action packed into one day. The next morning we followed a similar schedule, but this time, we had booked the Guide Yourself Rafting Tour!
Yes you heard us correctly. Instead of having a guide in your boat, they take you through the river in their own kayaks. Which means, someone in your group steers you through the rapids! In addition to this exciting addition, we also chose to add on a sportyak (a two person raft). Members of our group switched from the raft to the sportyak depending on preference as the sportyak is much smaller and feels much more extreme in the rapids!
Both days were absolutely action packed and filled with laughter. The hot weather combined with the gorgeous scenery and cool water really made for the perfect summer adventure!
What Package Should I Choose?
The Wilderness Tours website (link to website) is quite user friendly and provides extensive information on all packages available. You can customize your weekend by number of nights, how many days you want to raft or kayak and where you want to stay (cabin or campground). There are both Gentle and Adventure rafting options for different activity levels and ages. For reference, we chose the Classic High Adventure Day Trip and the Guide Your Own Rafting Day Trip!
Pricing: Exact amounts can vary depending on demand, so we won’t provide exact numbers. The website does allow you to request a quote so you can get a good idea of your budget.
Budget Tip: Consider choosing days/nights in the middle of the week as the prices are lower than the much busier weekends.
Note: Due to Covid-19 precautions not all options are available and you will be required to stay within your bubble and social distance to the best of your ability.
What to Expect When Rafting
This is an ultimate summer adventure for a reason. You will be paddling, swimming, floating down rapids and most likely pulling yourself back into the boat at some point! Not to worry, as protocols are in place to keep you safe while having fun. Life jackets and helmets are provided, footwear is mandatory and the knowledgeable and very skilled guides give you all the information you need.
It was thrilling, hilarious and the most fun we’d had in a long time! In our opinion, it is completely worth it!
What to Pack
Whether you are camping or staying in a lodge, you’ll still need some essentials for an outdoor adventure. Here is our full packing list for our 2 day, 2 night adventure (adjust accordingly for your timeline).
Keep in mind that though it is very hot, if you are camping you may need to bring some layers to keep you warm in the night.
- 2 shirts or tank tops
- 2 pairs shorts
- 1 pair of light pants (to protect against mosquitos)
- 1 flannel shirt or sweater
- 1 pair socks
- Extra bathing suit
- 1 towel
- 1 pair pajamas
- 1 flashlight – if camping
- 1 pair flip flops/sandals
- Bug Spray
- Waterproof Sunscreen
- Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, brush, hair elastics, face cloth.
- Oh, and don’t forget underwear!
- Portable chargers for camping – have them charged already so you can keep your electronics going during the weekend
- Card games
- Football/soccerball/other games (we brought a Spike Ball!)
What to Bring For Rafting During the Day
- 1 bathing suit
- 1 quick dry top for rafting
- 1 pair quick dry shorts for rafting (or alternatively a full wetsuit if you get cold easily)
- 1 pair water shoes or old running shoes you don’t mind getting wet
Optional for Rafting
- Small dry bag that can be clipped to the raft – this is just a way to bring sunscreen or essential medication. Do not bring anything else you would not want to lose or break. Definitely do NOT bring your phone!
- GoPro – There are helmet clips and tethers available for $15.99 + tax at the general store.
Food: There are vegetarian options but if you are a picky eater or have dietary restrictions, call ahead or e-mail to make sure you can be accommodated. Bring other snacks for in between meals or in case you do not like what they are serving for a meal!
Valuables: Do not bring anything valuable on your rafting or kayaking adventures! You can lock your things in your car and place your keys with the tour guides in a safe box before your trip.
Glasses: If you wear glasses bring a band that keeps them around your neck if they fall off. If you forget there are some available at the general store.
Drinks: There are drinks available at the restaurant for purchase. You can bring your own but keep in mind there are certain areas you cannot bring your own drinks in!
Any more questions? Feel free to contact us!