Madawaska White Water Kayaking Trip Log

In my quest to kayak the Grand Canyon, I joined the KCCNY in order to improve my paddling skills. Improve is probably the wrong word since at the time I joined the skills were nonexistent. None the less, I journeyed with the club to Massachusetts and there I found out just how much I sucked. So, I took my friend Joe’s advice, and took a 9 hour drive from Jersey City to Barry’s Bay Ontario Canada and took a 5 day kayak class with the Madawaska Kanu Centre. Yeah, I don’t get where they got the spellings for ‘canoe’ and ‘center’ but hey, I’m from Jersey!

Needless to say, I did not keep a journal because I was there for a hard core boot camp. But I did remember enough to let the 2 people who come to this site every once in a while in on what goes on there. And I was able to get a few pics that I have posted.

As always, check out the web site and definitely give the centre a call if you have any questions.


The drive was long but not nearly as bad as I expected. And Barry’s Bay was much farther inland than I expected, but not that difficult to find….in the light! I would not suggest getting there after dark since a lot of the signs that direct you there at the very end would be difficult to see and that last hour or so you are in the BOONIES!

TIP #1:: Do not camp: The dry room and comfortable beds are worth the extra charge. Especially by day 3 when you want to kill yourself. (Or your instructor depending on who you get!!)

TIP #2:: Do not cook: The food is really good and well worth the extra charge. Especially when it comes to that lunch break. There is NOOO way you could cook for yourself the same quality of food for even close to the price they charge.


The first day is a little daunting for some beginners. You go right down the hill to the river where there are 25 or so gates set up on the river. It’s usually then that you understand just what you are getting yourself into. This place is serious about execution. But that makes sense when you realize it was started by a champion slalom kayaker.

OK. I thought, no problem… I can hit the 5 gates they told me to hit.. Ok… Ferry across and hit……Dammit… missed that one. Ok, Peel in to this eddddddd… dammmmn. I missed it. Ok slalom these 3 gates….. Ok. One out of 3 isn’t soooo bad! : ) Man I suck. If there was any question before whether or not I needed this class, it was no longer. So I’m basically in the group just above beginner.. And I was starting to question whether I should just pack it in and move to the beginner group. But I had faith that the little experience I got in 1 2day class 3 years ago,, and one weekend on the river in Mass would kick in and I would start to get it.

So after the “placement test” where they try and get a sense of how to divide the groups, I met with my group of 4 people and an instructor. My group consisted of Mike (my roommate) who was from Toronto, Bobby from I forget where, Eric, the Francophone (that means he speaks French??? Not sure why they don’t just say that??!!) from where else…Quebec, and Katrina, the cute little Kiwi (that’s New Zealand!! ). Our instructor is Mike Smith (Smitty) a compact guy who reminds me of me had I chosen to never get a real job! LoL. He does a little of everything. Video Kayak, Safety Kayak, River Guide, Rock Climbing, Mountaineering, Aikido… you name it. I’m impressed. But let’s see if he can get me rolling.. then I’ll really be impressed.

The great thing about the school is that they understand 2 things. 1: It’s your vacation so they’re not like some kayak Nazis who want to push you until you break. 2: It’s important that you have a say in what you focus on during the 5 days. So the first thing we do is go over the rules, who we are and our goals for the week. Everybody in my group is pretty alike in our goals. Rolling is a priority. Getting comfy on basic river maneuvering like peel ins, peel outs, ferrying and river running and boat control is the next big desire. Consensus is a good thing in these situations because an unhappy student is a pain in the ass. As is a person who is way out of his/her comfort level. And from the first day, we can all see that we are pretty much in the same class of paddling.

We practice the same way I did in the last class I took, but this time I know from experience that a C to C roll is not my best option. Smitty agrees and shows me a sweep hybrid that he thinks is great fro 2 reasons. 1. You are still tucked so you are protected from hitting your face with a rock!! I Like that. 2. You start your hip snap immediately, which makes it fast. This is great for big water because the less time underwater the better.

We go through the usual…step one. Practice hip snap on somebody’s boat. Step two. Go under and he shows you the sweep a few times. Step three. Do it.

My first attempt is successful. I can’t believe it. I gotta do it again to prove I just did it. Again. I go right up.
I’m excited. Then…I can’t do it the rest of the day?????????? Crazy


We practice eddying and a little rolling. I get a couple rolls, but really start to understand the concepts of eddying in and out. My legs are killing me


By the third day, I’m a little soar in the arms, but that’s because I’m trying to muscle my way through he roll and I know it. My legs are really killing me today and by lunch I’m so tired that after I take a nap and don’t wake up until about 6:30! So I miss the mid week barbeque at the lake. But to make up for it, I take a sauna and an outdoor shower. I now realize what my dream house will include! There is nothing like taking an outdoor shower!

And Roxanne (love her) fixed me a plate of chicken and potato salad which is really really good. And that’s coming from a BBQ connoisseur. A couple of Grolch’s and some good conversation, and I’m ready for bed and day 4.


I really felt like I was starting to see progress. I had yet to swim a rapid and I was felling less and less tippy in the boat. And now I was committing to the edge and getting into the eddy MUCH higher. It did take some coaxing from Smitty….. “POINT AT THE EDDY. POINT AT THE EDDY.” Some of us even got the admonishment…. “THERE”S NOTHING MORE I CAN DO FO YOU!!” LOL. Funniest words ever.


The final day was finally there and while I was excited to do the Ottowa, I was also a little tired and ready to go home. But that feeling went away once I got to the river and started paddling. I never start quickly and I was a little slower than everyone else, which was poor planning on my part. It was finally HOT. And I had wayyyy too much clothing on. So I had to stop and strip almost completely. But once I did that, my comfort level went up and I was moving at a normal pace.

The Ottawa is HUGE and it’s packed today. The first bend where the river merges with another branch is packed with about 9 or 10 rafts, 5 or 6 canoes and at least 20 kayakers. It’s a freaking zoo. We move on down the river and go through some rapids but nothing really big. Until we get to Butterfly. It’s the biggest we’ve done so far and my luck finally runs out. I follow the line almost perfectly, but almost doesn’t cut it. I try to roll but I put my head up and go back over. Dammit. Pull the hatch and swim.

Just around the bend is our lunch stop and I’m starving. The spot is on a ledge that at higher levels is a class 5 chute. Next to us is a bonafide class 5 rapid that makes me think twice about this sport. Black people from Jersey are just not supposed to be out here. But my white half pipes up and I get over it! LOL : ) Off we go and there’s more rapids. I can’t believe how comfortable I am now on some of these rapids. I find it much easier to peel in and peel out. I feel the flexibility in my legs coming. And I’m no longer scared to be sideways because I am comfortable with my brace and so I commit to that edge! My last big rapid is the best of the week. I take a line a little different than the others but I feel really comfortable and nail it. I’m now officially addicted.

I meet the rest of the students for ice cream after the river but leave right from there to start my long drive home. Great week. I will definitely come back next year, but at the beginning of the year so I can spend the whole summer working on my progress. I would recommend this school to any newbie trying to get into paddling.


"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."    — Robert A. Heinlein

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