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Paddle Boarding on the Ottawa River

Paddling paradise - flatwater fun in Ottawa

From May to October, Canada’s Capital is a water-lover’s dream. Whether you want to try canoeing, kayaking or standup paddleboarding for the first time, or you’re already a paddling pro, there are multiple waterways and innumerable experiences to choose from. Here are some flatwater paddling options in the Ottawa area that will keep you cool and relaxed during the warm months.

Rideau Canal

The historic Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is a picturesque waterway that winds its way through downtown Ottawa. In the warmer months, you can bike or run on the pathways beside it, or for a more intimate experience, paddle on its calm waters.

Dows Lake is a man-made lake on the Rideau Canal, just south of downtown near Ottawa’s Little Italy. Novice paddlers appreciate the wide body of water and the relaxing urban parkland views. There are also restaurants and washroom facilities at the Pavilion and parking nearby. Everything you need for a romantic date or a fun activity with friends!

Fifth Avenue is located between downtown and Dows Lake, near the vibrant neighbourhood of the Glebe. No matter where you start, you can make it a short excursion, or explore all the way to the Ottawa Locks or the Hartwells Locks.

Rentals and lessons

The Marina at Dows Lake Pavilion and their smaller facility at Fifth Avenue rent out a large selection of boats including canoes, paddleboats, kayaks, row boats and standup paddle boards (SUPs).

Local company Urban Ocean offers various stand up paddle boarding lessons on waterways throughout the region, including the Rideau Canal (Dows Lake), Rideau River, Ottawa River and Mississippi River. Options include yoga, fitness, SUPing with your dog, and sunset paddles.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat)

If you have your own equipment, you can put-in at several locations along the Rideau Canal. You might meet residents from the surrounding neighbourhoods who enjoy easy access to these urban boat launches. Access points include Patterson Creek and Dows Lake Pavilion on the west side, Clegg Street and Waverley Street on the east side as well as the Hartwells Lockstation to the south. Parking lots are available at Dows Lake Pavilion, and the lockstation, and street parking is available near other access points.

Rideau River

South of Hartwells and Hogs Back Lockstations, the Rideau Canal merges with the Rideau River. This waterway is lined with green park spaces, multi-use pathways, Mooney’s Bay (a large sandy beach), as well as waterfront residential lots.

Rentals and lessons

Just northeast of Mooney’s Bay, off Bank Street in the Old Ottawa South neighbourhood, Ottawa Sup offers SUP rentals and lessons, including SUP Yoga. 

Paddleboard rentals are available at other locations, including the lovely village of Manotick just south of the urban core at the Long Island Marina and Hurst Marina.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat)

There are various boat launches, including Hogs Back Lockstation, Mooney’s Bay Park, and additional put-ins to the south and north.

Ottawa River

The Ottawa River has a rich history as a key trading route for Indigenous Peoples, a main channel for early explorers and an important lumber trading route in the 1800s.

Now a major recreational waterway, the Ottawa River and its many tributaries provide thousands of kilometers of water activities. In fact, just over an hour’s drive west of Ottawa, the Upper Ottawa is one of the world’s top whitewater destinations! But relatively calm waters surrounding the city are also perfect for flatwater activities.

Rentals and lessons

City beaches along the Ottawa River are great places to relax, swim or paddle. Petrie Island, Westboro and Britannia beaches offer SUP rentals plus many other amenities.

Local companies Urban Ocean and Paddlefit offer lessons on the Ottawa River. Downtown paddling provides stunning backdrops like the Fairmont Château Laurier, the Ottawa Locks and Parliament Hill. Other nearby locations include the beautiful Rideau Falls, or the tranquil Lac Leamy across the river in Gatineau, Quebec. Lessons are also offered in Ottawa’s west-end including at the Nepean Sailing Club and Shirley’s Bay.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat)

Various put-in access points are located along the Ottawa River, including at the aforementioned city beaches. Other boat launches include the north end of Blair Road, the Rockcliffe Yacht Club, Rowatt Street near the Britannia Yacht Club and Dick Bell Park near the Nepean Sailing Club.

Gatineau Park

If you want to feel like you’re a world away from the city, you only need to head 15 minutes north of downtown Ottawa to Gatineau Park, in the Outaouais region of the province of Quebec. In the warmer months, this wilderness wonderland offers hundreds of kilometers of hiking and cycling trails for all levels, as well as easy access to flatwater. The lakes are perfect for swimming and paddling in the summer: they are warm and crystal clear, and since motor boats are not allowed, you can fully enjoy the tranquility of nature.

Rentals and lessons

Lakes Philippe, La Pêche and Meech have large sandy beaches surrounded by forests, and all have parking. Boat rentals are available at Philippe Lake (canoes, solo kayaks, stand up paddle boards, pedal boats) and at La Pêche Lake (canoes, solo and tandem kayaks). Meech Lake doesn’t offer rentals but some local companies offer SUPing events on site.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat)

Each of the lakes mentioned above have boat launches for non-motorized craft.

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