by Stephen Johnson
Water has always defined Ottawa. Whether it was the Algonquin using the Ottawa River as means of transit or the construction of the Rideau Canal, the waterways of the city have had a far greater impact than any mayor or prime minister. What more perfect way to learn about the city’s storied past than to take a rafting trip on the Ottawa River within sight of Parliament Hill?
That’s why we set out for Britannia Beach, in the city’s west end, for an adventure with Ottawa City Rafting. The company offers family rafting trips on the Ottawa River that last about three hours. Upon our arrival, the staff members were very friendly and provided us with the proper safety equipment. Soon other members of the group joined us and we were ready to hit the water.
Our trip started off with a bang and a splash, traversing the wild Deschenes Rapids. Wow! And this was at the beginning of our raft ride. The trip guide, Jim, expertly steered us through the less-challenging portion of the rapids making it family-friendly but still providing a thrill.
Things calmed down after the rapids. During the quiet portion of the trip, Jim provided us with interesting anecdotes and historical information about the Ottawa River. Having lived in the city for seventeen years and working at a library, I thought I knew many things about the river but learned several new facts.
Our son, David, enjoyed the tranquility but was soon ready to rock ‘n roll again. When Jim said that people could hop out of the raft and let the current carry them, David was the first to volunteer. He jumped into the frosty Ottawa River and went on a ride with several others. We briefly stopped at an island to pick up our water-bound passengers and were on our way again.
We passed through two more sets of rapids, Remic and Little Chaudiere, with the second being more challenging. We were near our final destination but not before a couple more thrills. The raft stopped at an island where participants could jump into the river from two different cliffs. Of course, David wanted to jump from the higher cliff. My heart stopped for a second but David was fine. He expertly jumped off the cliff as if he had been doing it for years. Everyone gave him a round of applause.
Soon enough, we arrived at Lemieux Island where the water filtration plant is located. The boats were loaded up on to the trailer and we came comfortably back by van to Britannia Beach.
After the experience, David wanted to explore more of the shoreline and found a turtle. He was respectful of the turtle and did not disturb it. He also found a snake skin which immediately set off Sandy’s radar. He wanted to bring the snake-skin home but that was a no-go.
I would highly recommend the rafting trip to anyone who wants to see the city from a different perspective. We are lucky in this city to have a resource like the Ottawa River providing recreation and clean drinking water.
The trip is also fun to do for people of any age. There are enough thrills to make it interesting but you do not have to be an Olympic athlete to participate. I also found the staff members to be very professional and welcoming.
For more information, visit, www.ottawacityrafting.com.