Take Me to the River

5 Great Ontario River Rides for your PWC

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You can cover a lot of distance on a daylong Sea Doo tour, clipping along at a brisk pace on Ontario waterways wherever there’s no speed zone. Even given rest breaks, sight-seeing and fuel & food stops, racking up a couple of hundred kilometres is easy in Ontario, where there’s a lot of navigable water to ride. Unlike with snowmobiling, where there are so many trail options that we can usually ride loops, PWC rides tend to be linear, there and back on the same waterway (although one shore never looks the same as the other). 

So one of my favourite places to ride my personal watercraft is on a navigable river. But there aren’t that many fully passable ones around. By the time you factor in dams, rapids, shallows, sand bars and other such obstacles, only a handful of rivers are suitable for longer distance PWC riding. 

River running has many advantages:

  1. A navigable river can run for quite a distance without having to encounter big water, whereas a large lake with similar distance usually means battling big waves somewhere.
  2. It’s tough to get lost with a shore on both sides to guide you.
  3. Rivers are generally more sheltered and protected than lakes, so winds tend to be less of a factor.
  4. On a river, you’re closer to shore (and likely roads) if something goes wrong and you need to make an emergency landfall.
  5. Every river is unique. 

So if you’re looking for a great location for a Sea-Doo tour, try one of these five great Ontario PWC river rides, each of which has fuel en route (listed alphabetically)…

Lower Ottawa River

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Navigable Water: Montreal to Ottawa

Ride Duration: 2 days 

Starting Point: Lefavre

One-Way Distances:
Day 1 - Lefavre to Ottawa 71 km
Day 2 - Lefavre to Montreal West 104 km

Where to Launch: Lefavre Marina - free public launch and parking

On The Water Fuel: Lefavre Marina, Ottawa 

On The Water Food with Dock: Rockcliffe Boathouse (Ottawa), various (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue) 

Locks: Carillon and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue

Where to Stay: Motel Rouleau, Alfred (11 km from launch)

Special Note: Carillon is Parks Canada’s tallest lock and may take a while to get through.

More Info: Check out my tour article to help plan your own river ride.

Otonabee and Trent Rivers

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Navigable Water: Peterborough to Healy Falls

Ride Duration: 1 day

Starting Point: Peterborough

One-Way Distances:
Peterborough to Rice Lake on Otonabee - 30 km
Rice Lake to Healy Falls on Trent - 52 km

Where to Launch: Free public launch at foot of Mark Street with free parking next door at Rogers Cove Public Park, Peterborough

On The Water Fuel: Peterborough Marina, Bensfort Bridge Resort, Terrace Lawn Cottages & Marina

On The Water Food with Dock: Peterborough Marina, Terrace Lawn Cottages & Marina

Locks: Scotts MillsHastings

Where to Stay: Comfort Inn, Peterborough

Special Note: If it’s a windy day, just ride the Otonabee River to Rice Lake and back again to avoid big waves.

More Info: Check out my tour article to help plan your own river ride.

St. Lawrence River 

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Navigable Water: Kingston to Cornwall

Ride Duration: 2 days 

Starting Point: Ivy Lea

One-Way Distances:
Day 1 - Ivy Lea to Kingston 42 km
Day 2 - Ivy Lea to Cornwall 121 km

Where to Launch: Free public launch and parking beside the Motel Capricorn Royal

On The Water Fuel: Portsmouth Olympic Marina (Kingston), Gananoque, Brockville Marina

On The Water Food with Dock: Confederation Basin Marina, Kingston (Day 1), take shore lunch (Day Two)

Locks: none

Where to Stay: Motel Capricorn Royal, Ivy Lea

Special Note: This ride includes the famous 1000 Islands, but don’t land on the American shore without your passport!

More Info: Check out my tour article to help plan your own river ride.

Severn River

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Navigable Water: Sparrow Lake to Port Severn

Ride Duration: 1 day 

Starting Point: Sparrow Lake

One-Way Distance: Sparrow Lake to Port Severn 43 km

Where to Launch: Lauderdale Marina on Sparrow Lake

On The Water Fuel: Sparrow Lake, Severn Falls, Port Severn

On The Water Food with Dock: Port Severn (various)

Locks and Transfers: Swift Rapids, Big Chute

Where to Stay: Comfort Inn, Orillia

Special Note: The view from the top of the Big Chute Marine Railway is awesome!

More Info: Check out my tour article to help plan your own river ridetour article to help plan your own river ride.

Upper Ottawa River

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Navigable Water: Pembroke to Mattawa

Ride Duration: 2 days

Starting Point: Pembroke 

One-Way Distance: Pembroke to Mattawa 142 km

Where to Launch: Pembroke Marina

On The Water Fuel: Pembroke, Chalk River Marina, Rapides des Joachim, Mattawa Marina

On The Water Food with Dock: Rapides des Joachim (chip truck)

Transfer: Rapides des Joachim

Where to Stay: Best Western, Pembroke; Valois’ Motel & Restaurant, Mattawa (with docks)

Special Note: Make time to climb to the top of Bird Rock where there’s a secluded, spring-fed lake for a refreshing swim! 

More Info: Check out my tour article to help plan your own river ride.

About Craig Nicholson—The Intrepid Cottager

Popularly known in the summer as “The Intrepid Cottager,” Craig Nicholson is a freelance journalist, writer and communications consultant who specializes in motorized recreational activities, including personal watercraft. As an avid Sea-Doo rider, Craig logs over 100 hours and 3,000 kilometres (1,800 miles) on the water most summers on many waterways in Ontario and Quebec. His one-of-a-kind Intrepid Cottager website features his Sea Doo tour articles, PWC riding tips, product reviews and comment.

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