Monday, July 20, 2009

Kayaking on the Petawawa

Certainly, a hydro dam project will impact on every resident of this community and area. Taking water from the top of the rapids and putting it back in is still very destructive. Be it through environmental damage in road construction, hydro lines, damage to the walking trails, unslightly buildings, reduced flow rates in the river, sediment build-up in eddies and at the mouth of the river, swampy stagnant swimming areas.... the list is long. However,the whitewater kayaking and rafting community may suffer the worst blow. Here is a little primer on kayaking the Town Run of the Petawawa.

Level: Gauge found here under Ontario / Petawawa River Near Petawawa. Look for levels of 2.8 - 4.0 but can be run lower and higher. 3.2 is medium.
Time: 1-2 hours first run, 15 - 20 minutes second run.
When To Go: March through June, rain events, and low flow runs all year.
Other Beta: Hell or High Water, Petawawa River Race
Map: Click here
PDF: Click here
Other: Petawawa River Rats Kayaking Club

The Petawawa is a beautiful river, draining much of Algonquin Park out into the Ottawa River, about 30 river miles upstream from the Rocher Fendu section of the Ottawa. Bordered on the river left shore by Canadian Forces Base Petawawa the river has been kept somewhat free of development for many years. It is a real gem of a river offering a long season, a variety of boating from surfs to boofs, and perfectly easy shuttles and access.

There are two sections to the Petawawa that are commonly run for whitewater enthusiasts, although the river is a popular canoe camping / tripping river as well for Algonquin Park 'goers. The Town section is described in this post, and the "Upper Pet" in another.

The Petawawa is easy to find; look for the town and the Town Run is dead smack in the middle of it. Most of the major rapids can be scouted from roadside stops or park space, and with a little ingenuity you can figure out the shuttles no trouble at all.

The common put in is either upstream of Hwy 17, just off of Rantz Rd (Murphy Rd exit) or the shorter run - no warm up to this one - begins at Railroad Rapid just off of Wilson Ave. The clearings for parking are easy to spot on Google Maps, and easy to find on arrival.

The Take Out is located at Golf Course Rapid - a great little play hole at medium and high flows. It is located on Tall Pines Rd, a dead-end street found by following the river downstream or by turning off of Albert Street.

By putting on at the highway start you get a nice little class 2/3 warm up drop and a 2 km moving flatwater section before arriving at Railroad. This is a big, long rapid and worth scouting for most. There are significant holes - easily avoided - at most flows. Heaps of line choices here to keep you entertained.

Following Railroad is a 1-km section of Class 3 wave trains with a few surf spots, before arriving at Lovers. This is a very straightforward rapid, and a great chance to scare your friends by having them "blue angel" or "ducky" down it. There is a monster rooster tail at the run out that makes for a wild ride. Immediately after comes Catwalk, offering a sweet playwave at level of 2.9 and up, and a decent spinning hole below this level.

Zack Boles throwing back on Catwalk Wave, level 3.35.

The next major rapid before the Golf Course take out is named Suicide. Although not really deserving of the deathly moniker, it also present a range of line choices, some more difficult that others, and is routinely run on both the right and left channels. Also worth scouting. Portage right. Then run out to the play waves at Golf Course, where the Pet reaches the Ottawa River.

Nice recovery May!

Now it's almost over but note that the second run takes only a fraction of the time of the first, so head up the 4-minute shuttle and whip off another run. Your wife, husband or significant other will understand... Enjoy the Petawawa while it lasts. This wonderful river is threated by a micro hydro project that would ruin this public resource forever. Also, be sure to check out the Hell or High Water Race each spring. The link is in the header section, or check the video!