Canoe, Kayak, SUP, and Raft Events in Ontario in 2024

Pull out a pen and start marking up your calendar. Festivals, events, and races are the best way to share your passion for paddling.

It’s never too early to plan a summer’s worth of paddling events. Whether your preferred scene is a gruelling race or a casual festival, there are plenty of events to choose from. All the events below are designed to get you in a canoe, kayak, raft, or on a paddleboard floating on a lake or river. And in a few cases, they’ll even get you in a comfortable theatre seat, dreaming of being in a boat. So start scrolling to discover the best canoe, kayak, SUP and rafting events of the year—and when you’ve found a few to jot on the calendar, use a pen, not a pencil.

FEBRUARY

Paddling Film Festival Premiere

February 8, 2024
Toronto, ON

Kick off Ontario’s paddling season with a night of inspirational paddling films. The Paddling Film Festival travels to 120 cities across Ontario and around the world to showcase the very best paddling films. Local hosts select each evening’s lineup from the festival’s shortlist of category winners. Each year, the premier is hosted by The Complete Paddler in February in Toronto. See the website for the dates of in-person screenings all over Ontario and the world, or stream the festival from the comfort of your couch. 

Wilderness Canoe Symposium

February 24, 2024
Toronto, ON

Since 1986, the Wilderness Canoe Symposium has been an annual celebration and exploration of ambitious canoe tripping. The festival has a new venue online on Zoom but retains its tried and true formula of presenting a speaker roster that’s heavy on first-person accounts of recent adventures. You must register in advance.

APRIL

 

M.A.C.K. Fest

April 12-14, 2024
Marmora, ON

The ever-keen Kawartha Whitewater Paddlers club waits all winter for this kick-off to the spring whitewater season. Strictly speaking, the actual event is off-river Saturday night at Iron Grille (239 Station Rd.) where paddlers enjoy dinner, drinks, music and raffle draw prizes. By day, the assembled organize themselves into unofficial groups for trips down local rivers like the Salmon, Beaver, Moira, Skootamata and Black, plus local play spots. Find your own local lodging or pitch a tent at Iron Grille (price yet to be set but is always affordable).

Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny

April 13, 2024
Port Hope, ON

This 10-km race on the Ganaraska River might be overshadowed by the build-your-own Crazy Craft race that follows, but is a good fit for novice to intermediate paddlers who want to try a race. It welcomes double or single canoes and kayaks and, now, SUPs. Participants can opt to take out above the more difficult section through town.

Raisin River Canoe Race

April 13, 2024
Cornwall, ON

The Raisin River Canoe Race celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. At 30 km long, it's also one of the longest canoe races in eastern Ontario. The race runs from St. Andrews to Williamstown and is held during spring freshet when the water levels are high. 

Sydenham River Race

April TBD, 2024
Alvinston, ON

This race offers three distances (7, 12 or 16 km) and 11 classes, so will welcome competitive or more fun-loving paddlers of all sorts. All classes finish at the Shetland Conservation Area on Lambton County Road 2.

Upper Jock River Race

April TBD, 2024
Ottawa, ON

The Upper Jock River Canoe Race is a fun, 12-km canoe race with a history dating back to 1971. The course is tame enough for families and recreational paddlers to use it as a first opportunity to get out on the water. The shallow, current-aided course is generally free of portages and runs through the beautiful Richmond fen with several swifts or class I rapids.

MAY

Marsh Mash Canoe Race

May 11, 2024
Bradford, ON

The Marsh Mash Canoe and Kayak Race uses as its course the New Canal of the Holland Marsh. It’s a very safe course, with no rocks, no rapids, or portages and forms a circle so the start and finish are in the same spot. There are enough classes and choices of race distances to suit a range of paddler abilities. Sanctioned by the Ontario Marathon Canoe and Kayak Racing Association (OMCKRA).

Pittock Paddle

May TBD, 2024
Woodstock, ON

Replacing the Thames River Classic, the Pittock Paddle takes place at Woodstock's Pittock Conservation Area and includes lake and technical river paddling. It offers two distances—17 km and 24 km. The event is aimed at paddlers of all experience levels. 

Hell or High Water

May TBD, 2024
Petawawa, ON

Billed as Canada’s largest whitewater race, Hell or High Water also features standup paddleboard demos, flatwater paddling, camping, a photo contest, and loads of family events including inflatable fun. Most activities are free of charge. It all takes place at Petawawa Centennial Park at 18 Park Drive.

High Water Run Race

May TBD, 2024
Kirkland Lake, ON

This is a recreational race and suitable for all skill levels. It runs 13 km on the winding Blanche River, with two small portages and no whitewater. Organizers describe the race route as family-friendly. Classes are solo canoe, kayak, men's canoe, women's canoe, and mixed couples canoe.

Palmer River Fest

May TBD, 2024
Palmer Rapids, ON

This lively weekend festival on the Madawaska River typically happens on the May long weekend and is a great way to introduce the kids to whitewater paddling or keep in touch with paddling friends. The weekend schedule consists of two days of instructional clinics, with a party in between. Pitch your own tent and cook your own food or take advantage of food vendors. $290 for the weekend of instruction with rentals available, or $60 for those who want to enjoy the scene but not attend classes.

JUNE

Mattawa River Canoe Race

June 8, 2024
North Bay, ON

The Mattawa River Canoe Race classic returns in 2024. Racers can do the historic 64-km Voyageur Route or opt for the 13-km Junior/Family course. There is a huge range of team compositions and craft requirements for different classes. No matter your class, make sure you stay for the awards banquet, which coincides with the Mattawa Lumberjack Festival.

Ontario SUP Race Series

June TBD, 2024
Multiple locations, ON

The Ontario SUP Race Series is a competitive and fun summer event series aimed at raising the profile of standup paddling in the province. In 2023, the series hosted five races across southern Ontario, including in Muskoka, Niagara, Kincardine, Collingwood and Caledon. Race distances have included 2 km for novices, 7 km, and 12.5 km for elite racers. Registration is typically around $50 per race. 

Canoe The Nonquon

June TBD, 2024
Port Perry, ON

This well-attended race has a history in the community that dates back half a century. The 20-km course starts with 12 km of river paddling, complete with tight turns and dead-end channels before entering the lake for an 8-km sprint along the shore of Lake Scugog. There are no portages, but the beavers can usually be counted on for a few liftovers. There is also a shorter 12-km course. Classes include marathon or recreational tandem or solo canoes, kayaks, and SUPs. All funds raised benefit the Scugog Shores Museums.

Manotick Round The Islands Paddle Event 

June TBD, 2024
Ottawa, ON

Typically held on Father's Day weekend, this fun race event on the Rideau River features a 10 km distance around Long and Nicolls islands with two portages en route. This event is sanctioned by the Ontario Marathon Canoe and Kayak Racing Association (OMCKRA).

Sudbury Canoe Club Marathon

June TBD, 2024
Sudbury, ON

The Northern Water Sports Centre at Ramsey Lake is the setting for this event with three distances. Distance options are 5, 10 and 20 km. Classes include men’s, women’s and mixed in recreational or open racing tandem canoes, recreational and open racing kayaks and SUP. 

JULY

Temagami Canoe Festival

July TBD, 2024
Temagami, ON

On hiatus since 2019, the Temagami Canoe Festival hopes to make a comeback in July 2024. The two-day event includes canoe displays, demos and workshops, historical talks, birch bark canoes, guided old growth forest hikes, live music, food and more. 

Kingston to Ottawa (K2O)

July TBD, 2024
Kingston/Smith Falls, ON

The K2O is an ultra-endurance marathon race through the Rideau Canal. Racers of all skill levels vie to complete the 100-km, 50-km, or 25-km distances without stopping. The race is open to canoes, kayaks, SUPs and surf skis and can be raced with or without support.

Parry Sound 50

July TBD, 2024
Parry Sound, ON

Hosted by the Georgian Nordic Outdoor Activity Centre, the Parry Sound 50 welcomes all self-propelled watercraft and features three event distances: 5 km, 17 km and 50 km. The friendly course is deep water and sheltered from most wind directions with little boat traffic. Registration costs range from $15 to $40. 

AUGUST

Lock & Paddle

August TBD, 2024
Peterborough, ON

The free Lock & Paddle event celebrates the Peterborough Lift Lock National Historic Site. Paddle on the Trent-Severn Waterway with hundreds of other canoes and kayaks before packing into the famous hydraulic lift lock and being raised 65 feet into the air to continue paddling on the waterway above. All ages and skill levels are welcome. 

Water And Dirt Festival

August TBD, 2024
Pembroke, ON

The two-week-long Water And Dirt Festival celebrates the 900 lakes and four major rivers of the Ottawa Valley. It features multiple events, including a fundraising Doggy Paddle in support of the local OSPCA, and an Extreme Slalom Race through Railroad Rapid on the Petawawa River. The festival also hosts the Upper Ottawa River Race, which includes canoes, kayaks, outriggers and SUPs in 4 km and 13 km distance races, and also a kids race. 

SEPTEMBER

Muskoka River X

September 13-15, 2024
Muskoka, ON

The world's longest single-day expedition paddling race is 133 km long and takes racers through two river systems, four lakes and 20 portages in less than 24 hours. No outside assistance is allowed, including support teams, resupplies and electronic navigation. Considered by some to be the toughest single-day canoe race in the world. 

Thessalon River Paddle 

September TBD, 2024
Thessalon, ON

Light up the Thessalon River with this once-a-year paddling event. Launch at 8 pm from the Peace Park in Thessalon with a decorated kayak, canoe or paddleboard and float on the river with style. Battery-powered or solar-powered mini lights and glow bracelets and necklaces are encouraged. 

Gull River Open Canoe Slalom

September TBD, 2024
Minden, ON

Bring your open canoe, your serious race face, your silly helmet, your friends and your family for this welcoming mainstay of the open boating community. For most open boaters, it’s their only race of the year. For others, it’s just their favourite.

Paddlepalooza

September TBD, 2024
Parry Sound, ON

Ontario’s largest annual sea kayak event uses its impressive assembly of instructors to offer skills clinics for paddlers of all levels, from complete beginners to seasoned experts. The festival takes advantage of its setting in Parry Sound to offer clases on the protected waters of the Sound, the open water of Georgian Bay and the moving water of the Moon River. Meals are included and rentals are available. Registration: $349.

About Ian Merringer

After studying journalism at King’s College in Halifax, Ian Merringer started a freelance journalism career that has included a stint as the editor of Rapid, Canoeroots and Adventure Kayak magazines (now combined to become Paddling magazine). Over the last 20 years, he has written for the Globe and Mail newspaper and Canadian Geographic, Paddling, Ski Canada, Explore, Outdoor Canada and Ontario Nature magazines. He’s won multiple National Magazine Awards and lives in Toronto and has two canoes in his garage and another under his porch.

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