The Ottawa River Runners (ORR) offers summer camp programming that teaches the basics of whitewater kayaking skills in a fun safe environment. Campers start on the calm flat water learning all the basic strokes before progressing to the moving water. Qualified kayak instructors will teach participants self rescues, ferries, eddy turns and the first steps of whitewater paddling running the rapids. Each camp is geared toward a specific age range and skill level to ensure good group dynamics and similar skills progression. We also have a number of fun off-water activities planned.
There is a small amount of flexibility on age ranges; please contact us if you have a question about age eligibility. Also, for those outside of these age ranges please read our Courses and Programs General Overview
All equipment for the camps and courses is provided.
Please email us if you have any questions.
Level 1 summer camp participants should be a minimum of 8 – 10, or 10 – 13, depending on the offering chosen. The term Kids Level 1 and Kids FUNdamentals is used interchangeably. No previous paddling experience is required, however participants should be comfortable in the water and have some basic swimming skills.
Youth – Level 1
This is a Level 1 program for participants ages 13-16. No previous paddling experience is required, however participants should be comfortable in the water and have some basic swimming skills.
Youth – Level 2
This is a Level 2 program for participants who have previously taken a full Level 1 program with ORR, or another whitewater kayaking instruction program, and are a minimum of 12 years old.
We have 5 day camps with the last day being a river run on the Ottawa River. (See the note later on about river runs for 2021).
Other Kids/Youth Courses & Clinics
For those children, who have some prior experience (possibly Minnows, parent-taught, a course elsewhere, have taken a FUNdamentals Camp/Level1 or Level2), there are some other options for short courses and clinics. Those courses and clinics are geared towards those children or youth showing an interest in continuing in kayaking and are not intended as a one-time camp experience. Please see our Youth Paddling Programs page for more information
Online Registration and Availability
To register please click here. It will take you to our Level 1 & Level 2 registration form at Zone4. Please note that there is an admin fee of about $10 added on top of the camp fee, as we use an external company to process the registration and take care of credit card transactions.
To check availability, please start the registration process, and exit out of the registration before coming to the payment section. This is the preferred method of checking availability as opposed to sending us the question by email. You can also add your name to waiting lists as camps become full.
Overview of All 2023 Summer Camps and Courses
The primary location for all camps and courses is The Pumphouse, our paddling site in the heart of downtown Ottawa, at Lebreton Flats, fully equipped with a newly constructed clubhouse. It is a site that relies on pumped water, and so we use a second alternate site when there are scheduling conflicts with the pumping station maintenance shut-offs. These are scheduled in advance, and we maintain contact with the City of Ottawa to plan our programs around this. The alternate site is the Bate Island beach & rapids, accessed from Champlain Bridge (via Island Park Dr). We may hold up to 1-2 days of our level 1 camps, and 1-4 days of our Level 1 & 2 courses at this alternate site. Advance notice will be given if this is necessary, and all parents would be required to drop off and pick up the participants from the alternate site on the designated days.
The full-day Level 2 camps may include a River Run on the Ottawa River up near Beachburg on the Friday. Assistance with transportation is needed and organized by parents and volunteers.
- The minimum age for participation in the majority of our camp program is 10.
At 10 years old, children usually have the mental and physical development to truly enjoy learning to kayak in a group setting. Having said this, there is a small amount of flexibility on age ranges; please contact us if you have a question about age eligibility.
For 2023, we will be trialing a summer camp week geared toward children aged 8 – 10 the first week of July.
- Participants must have basic swimming skills.
We do not require a specific Aquaquest Level, what is important is that the child is comfortable in the water environment, and can swim well enough to guide themselves in moving water. All participants will be wearing PFD’s while on the water.
- Every child will be taught to do a ‘wet exit’ from a kayak, this is an essential safety skill.
Participants must learn this skill before they can try paddling on the class 2 whitewater course. A wet exit is when a paddler wearing a spray skirt flips their kayak upside down in the river, pulls the release handle, and ejects from the kayak. Click here to see a demonstration video from Youtube.
- Participants should be prepared to try whitewater kayaking.
The purpose of our program is to teach whitewater kayaking skills, and to give kids the opportunity to try out paddling in rapids. Those with an adventurous spirit, who are ready to try new things are best suited to this type of program. We ask that you please consider the suitability of this camp for each child, they do not need to be fearless, but they should be prepared to come with an open mind. If you are not sure if your child would enjoy this activity, please refer to the attached ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ download.
Level 1 Camps
For schedule and cost, please see the table above.
The Spring Level 1 Refresher is for participants aged 12-16, who already have taken a level 1 course/camp or have some introductory whitewater experience, and want to practice the basic skills in order to take a Level 2 Camp with friends or to join an ongoing club program. Participants registering for this course should be strong swimmers and ready to paddle!
Paddling Skills Taught and Other Activities:
- forwards, backwards, turning and bracing strokes in a kayak
- paddling games and races for improving kayaking skills
- lessons on current flow and paddling in moving water (Class I)
- wet exits, ferrying, eddy turns, edge control
- introduction to Class II moving water on the last day of camp, but varies with the skill levels of the participants
- Youth Camps: By the Thursday/Friday the youth are learning how to safely swim in moving water, and are moving up to trying the class 2 rapids of the Pumphouse.
- Non-Paddling Activities
- land based games and activities
- some indoor craft activities in the Clubhouse (mainly for the Kids Camps not the Youth Camps). For 2021 most other activities will be outdoors, although some activities may occur indoors if this can be done in a manner following safe COVID protocols. (The Clubhouse is a fully ventilated porous wall structure, and has an open-air 2nd floor covered balcony.)
Full day camps are run as part kayak course, and part traditional day camp, and will include games on land, arts and crafts (for Kids Camps), swimming and other activities. Specifically for the Kids Camps, it is not beneficial nor possible to have children paddling all day, due to their limited endurance, strength and the environmental conditions. Our instructors break up the day to allow rests, and time out of the sun/rain. The Youth Camps will also provide some off-water activities, but to a lesser extent than with the Kids Camps.
Campers MUST bring shoes (in addition to water footwear) so that off-water games or sports can be played safely.
We offer a discount of $30 off each camp fee for multiple campers. This is available for selection in our registration form.
Camps hours can be extended by 30 minutes in the morning or afternoon (for full day camp program only). The fees are $15 for early drop-offs (from 8:30 am) and $15 for late pick-ups (until 4:30 pm) and cover all 5 days. If you know that you will need to drop-off or pick-up early or late for the week, please let us know when registering.
Level 2 Camps
Participants who have completed a Level 1 Camp or Course have the opportunity to continue by taking a Level 2 Camp. These programs are for ages 12-16 and focus on spending more time on honing paddling skills and improving whitewater paddling. Each camp is one week of full day sessions, and includes working on whitewater skills, rolling, and having fun at the Pumphouse. This year there is also a short Intro to Slalom Kayaking camp (navigating the hanging gates and using different specialized kayaks) at the end of summer, and more may be added during the summer weeks.
The last day of the week-long camps may consist of a full day river run in the Ottawa area, which is often the highlight of an amazing week of paddling. See the table above for schedule and cost details.
Due to limited availability, please do not register your child for multiple Level 2 camps, without first contacting us to request an exception.
For those who have already a level 2 camp, we may offer Open Development Sessions which provide fun sessions on the whitewater in very small groups. Monday or Tuesday evening Open Sessions are also an option. In addition, graduates of level 2 camps may be interested in joining the club and coming on river runs that are organized ~weekly during the summer.
Participants MUST have taken a whitewater kayaking program before. If your child has not taken an ORR full Level 1 camp, or if you are unsure about your child’s skills, please contact us to check eligibility.
Photos From 2017 Camps
Some photos from 2017 camps including river run pictures from Level 2 camps
Ongoing Programs and Afternoon Paddling Opportunities
For those children or youth with prior whitewater kayaking experience, or who have previously taken a Level 1 or 2 camp or course with us, there will be ongoing advanced programs for developing whitewater skills, called the Youth Development Paddling Program.
For ongoing programs for youth and adults, please explore the other sections of our “Courses & Programs” menu or drop us an email.
Camp Instructors & Support Staff
The Ottawa River Runners employs qualified and certified whitewater kayak instructors to teach our summer camps and courses. Full time staff are certified by CanoeKayak Canada as whitewater leaders and instructors on moving water up to class 2, and also hold first aid qualifications. Part time assistance is often provided by club athletes, who are experienced whitewater paddlers.