Rideau River: Where to launch your canoe, kayak

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The Rideau River and Canal between Kingston and Ottawa is a national treasure … and it has one huge advantage if you are a paddler or canoe / kayak angler.

There are hundreds of spots to launch a cartop boat for short, or extended trips. This post focuses on the Rideau from the village of Osgoode in South Ottawa, about 8 kms (5 miles) south to Kemptville Creek.

It’s one of my personal favourites, especially if I’m out there early or late in the season, or at another time when powerboat traffic is reduced. It’s only a 20- to 30-minute drive from most of Ottawa, features a variety of different aquatic habitats and lots of places to launch. If you want to avoid paddling far to find fish, it’s a perfect stretch to explore.

The area features everything from shallow, weedy bays to shoals, deeper, sandy bottom channels, islands, some “out-of-the-way” back bays and road bridges — including the massive Hwy. 416 overpass with its multiple concrete footings (aka fish magnets).

Our exploration will work its way southwest from Roger Stevens Dr. to Kemptville Creek.

All the marinas offer ramps and other facilities — but all charge launch fees. I’m guessing most canoeists and kayakers will prefer free options, or those in parks that charge day-use fees for access to expanded recreational facilities. So, while I mention the marinas, this post focuses on the other options.

It is worth noting here that, sometimes, marinas allow kayakers or canoeists to launch for free. But check ahead — the ramps are part of their livelihoods, and you’d probably end up parking on their property too. So, expect to pay for launching at these sites.

Launch from:

($$) Indicates this facility charges boat launching fees.

A) Hurst Marina ($$): A major marina in the city’s rural south end. Convenient location right at Roger Stevens and River Road.

B) Long Island Marina ($$): Accessed from Commodore Dr., at Kars, located just southwest of the Roger Stevens Rd. bridge. Excellent access to Sanders Island area, the bridge and a couple of nice shallow bay areas.

C) Kars Boat Launch: A municipal launch on the Ottawa R. There is no fee but this can be a very busy spot at peak times. There is side street parking, but you might have to walk a ways to get back to your vehicle.

Kars RA Centre boat ramp, Rideau River

The Kars RA launch is just off the Rideau River, on Stevens Creek. Canoes and kayaks have no problems getting under a low bridge between the launch and the Rideau.

D) Kars Recreation Association (Kars RA): Almost across the road from the municipal launch, tucked away on Stevens Creek. Wide gravel launch with a small floating dock. Ample parking. Great for canoes, kayaks and small boats but there is a low bridge you must pass under to access the Rideau River (make sure your fishing rods are stowed horizontally, not upright). Bonus … there is usually a porta-potty on site as well.

E) W.A. Taylor Conservation Area ($$): Very easy gravel ramp access off River Road outside Osgoode village. Day use fee applies but there is also a park and picnic area, washrooms, as well as shore fishing. Ample parking. Can be a bit busy at peak times. Situated on narrow stretch of the Rideau and boat traffic can be heavy.

F) Gideon Adams Park: A rough, gravel/mud ramp launch here for canoes, kayaks and some small boats. Watch the bottom of your vehicle as you make a sharp turn into the steep gravel entrance. Excellent access to James Island area. The nesting ospreys on the site (as of 2016) provide a spectacular distraction as you put-in at the ramp.

Baxter Conservation Area

There are a couple of places in the Baxter Conservation Area where a canoe or kayak can be launched.

G) Baxter Conservation Area ($$): There are a couple of beach access points in the park suitable for launching a kayak or canoe. Day use fee applies, but the park also features a swimming beach, picnic areas, open grasslands and a few trails. Excellent access to McDermott Drain and nearby shallow flats. Good parking.

H) South Gower Rd.: Untended mud ramp at the end of the laneway. Very tight access, suitable only for canoes, kayaks and small boats. On-street parking just a few metres from the ramp. Popular with locals, otherwise not all that well known.

I) Pirate Cove Marina ($$): Our first launch spot just west of the Hwy. 416 bridge. The usual ramp and marina facilities here.

Rideau River Greenline Rd. boat launch

The launch at Greenline Rd. offers a good gravel ramp and ample parking.

J) Greenline Rd.: Almost across the river (north shore) from Pirate Cove. It’s free, features a nice gravel ramp and has a decent-sized parking area. Adjacent to a park. Easy paddle to the 416 bridge, a mid-river shoal, and wide, weedy shallow areas. Short paddle to Kemptville Creek.

K) Rideau River Provincial Park ($$): All the facilities you’d expect in a provincial park, several areas to launch canoes or kayaks as well as a beach area. Day use fee applies if you aren’t camping in the park.

Personally, I love the roughest and most inaccessible launch points I can find. Drop the kayak off the car-topper, load it up for bass, pike, walleye, muskie, catfish, carp or panfish (whatever the quarry will be that day) and drop it in the river. Fewer people, no waiting around and no fees.

Whatever your preference, this section of the Rideau River is worth visiting whether you are an angler or simply heading out for a day of paddling. Ample road access means you can easily put in at one spot and out a few kilometres away, where another car can be waiting.

Enjoy.

Do you know of another spot I’ve missed? Got a comment about any of the sites mentioned here, or the Rideau River in general? I’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts below.

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