Canoe and kayak rentals on the Grand River offer a huge choice of services. Today paddling on the Grand River watershed attracts over 30,000 people a year. This river system is southern Ontario’s largest watershed with 300 kilometers of paddling. A person can do a 2-3 hour day trip or a one week trip… it all depends on the time window. The river is open from April to November and offers some of the best canoeing experiences one hour west of Toronto.
The greatest feature attraction of the Grand River is the ability to drive one hour from Toronto and have a day’s wilderness experience… and still be in your own bed at night. Or if looking for an overnight weekend adventures… it is easy to fill in two days of paddling on this river.
Renting a boat to explore the Grand River is an excellent option because the day rental prices are inexpensive. All the companies on the Grand River use plastic ABS boats which are versatile, safe and almost indestructible. People can rent by the trip, which means you pay a set price to paddle a specific route on your own. Or rent a canoe/kayak by the hour or rent by the day if doing a multi-day trip.
The “trip” rentals works as follows… the customer parks their vehicle at the trip exit point and then shuttled upstream to paddle back to their vehicle. In 2007 a three hour canoe trip costs about $60 per canoe for two people with all equipment supplied, plus the upstream shuttle ride. Extra people in the canoe cost an additional $5-$10 each depending whether child or adult. Individual kayaks can be rented for around $45-$49 per person with all equipment and shuttle ride included. An important terminology used by outfitting companies for a boat day rental is called a “self-guided trip”. A self-guided trip is where you paddle the route without a guide… and is the cheapest way to go.
There are six outfitting companies offering paddling excursions in the valley and all have websites. Three of the outfitting companies specialize in self-guided canoe and kayak trips. The other three companies specialize in guided kayak, canoe or rafting trips. The three companies offering self-guided canoe/kayak trips are:
“Heritage River Canoe and Kayak” operates from Cambridge to below Brantford on the Grand River. They rent a large selection of kayaks & canoes. They have river kayaks, sea kayaks and tandem kayaks. They have 14-16ft canoes that are extra sturdy for supporting people over the 250 pound weight class. Heritage River also offers self-guided paddles on the serene Oxbow section of the Grand River. This canoe rental company offers promptness and excellent customer service. (heritageriver.com)
“Canoeing the Grand”, which operates from West Montrose/Kitchener/Paris sections of the Grand. They rent kayaks & canoes… and offer 15ft canoes that are extra sturdy for supporting people over the 250 pound weight class. They offer a good customer service and are the only ones doing canoe rentals on the northern section of the Grand River. (canoeingthegrand.com)
Another company offering rentals is “Grand Experiences” located in Paris. This company is located on the Grand River below the Paris dam. They operate from Cambridge to Brantford and offer a rental variety of canoes and kayaks. (grand-experiences.com)
There are four key things to consider when doing a self-guided trip… the weather, the paddling distance, the boat’s weight capacity and the paddling skill level.
The weather is first and forefront to consider. All the outfitting companies accept cancellation due to inclement weather. If unsure about the weather always check with the outfitter before arriving. The weather at home may not be the weather on the river. When calling the outfitter for a weather update, tell them your skill level… be honest so that they can give the best evaluation of risk for a safe paddle on the river.
Don’t get caught up with paddling maximum distance for maximum dollar. This mindset is a big mistake. Long hours on the river combined with the use of different muscles… lack of steering skills… a bright sun or an unexpected head wind create exhaustion. Many “dollar for distance” customers find themselves crawling out of their boat eager to feel the steering wheel for their homeward journey. If inexperienced or new to the river… always choose the shorter trip to enjoy the day.
Remember to ask about the boat rental weight capacity and length. If you are above 250lbs it is good to let the self-guided outfitters know your size. Most rental canoes are at the 8oo pound capacity with good seat support. Canoe lengths range from 14-16ft and length is not critical for day trips. On overnight trips the longer canoe holds more gear.
Concerning paddling skill level… the Grand River is perfect for beginners with a taste of everything… quiet pool sections, gentle swifts and navigable fast moving water. The river averages 2-3 feet in depth between West Montrose and Brantford. The Grand can be like two different rivers with fast to slow moving water above Brantford and very slow moving water below Brantford.
Self-guided day trips can vary from 3 to 7 hours. The prettiest wilderness section to paddle on the Grand River is a 3 hour trip between Glen Morris and Paris. All three companies offer this route. For a unique 6-7 hour paddle… the trip from Glen Morris to Brant Park offers the best of the Grand. Below Brantford there is a calm water section called the Oxbow… this is a relaxing 3-4 hour paddle of serenity. If new to the Grand River… why not ask the outfitter what type of water is comfortable for your paddling skills and let them recommend a trip.
The Grand River is known for its near wilderness experience and is always a pleasure to paddle… but it is the information and customer service that makes or breaks a trip.