Struck by wanderlust after reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, Joe Kowalski decided to kindle his own passion for adventure by exploring the uncharted rapids of the Ottawa River with a group of fellow college students. There they discovered a multi-channel paradise—the six-mile-wide river churned through dozens of islands, jutting rocks, secluded beaches, and gorgeous waterfalls, as well as calmer paddling runs. Their stories and videos attracted guests, spurring the loosely organized group to band together in 1975 to become Wilderness Tours. To date, they have guided more than one million people safely down the river.
Today, the guides spend most of their time on white water rafting day trips, pausing in their runs to lead body-surfing and cliff-jumping adventures at some of the river's calmer spots. A riverside lunch is also provided to refuel paddlers for the second half of their run.The main resort also makes use of the stunning topography and forests that surround the river during rock-climbing, bungee jumping, and mountain biking excursions. The Wilderness Tours Adventure Resort offers luxury accommodations alongside a restaurant and bar.
After a three-year renovation by renowned course architects Graham Cooke and Stan Brigham, Gatineau Club de Golf unveiled a sleek new course layout in 2010. The site boasts championship-calibre credentials, including a total distance of more than 7,000 yards from the back tees and large bent-grass greens that punish poorly struck approaches with treacherous putts. Generous fairways reward precise bifurcation with excellent lies, but players guilty of errant drives will be pleasantly surprised to find plenty of room to make a bold go at the green. Water makes its omnipresence known as early as the 395-yard second hole, where players must tee off over a pond, negotiate with a creek that crosses the fairway 100 yards in front of the green, and avoid the water that buttresses the green to the left and rear. The 18th hole makes a 90-degree dogleg right around a massive reservoir and a pond stretching alongside the entire right length of the fairway, demanding the same precision as the moat around a driveway.
Bonnechere Caves give explorers a rarely seen glimpse into early days of the earth. Encased within the limestone walls lie fossils of coral and other marine life that are estimated to be between 400 and 500 million years old, predating both dinosaurs and the Walkman. Despite their advanced age, the caves were [unknown until 1955, when the subterranean channels of the Bonnechere River were cleared, revealing the ancient passageways carved out by eons of currents. Today, tour guides lead explorers of all ages into the caves' earthly halls, home to a sinkhole, a waterfall, and stalactites?rock icicles that form at a rate of 1 cubic inch per 150 years?all illuminated by electric lights. Occasionally, a snoozing bat makes an appearance or steps out to take in his trash cans. To heighten the experience, guides sometimes host special events such as fossil hunts, and visitors can also take advantage of the picnic grounds just outside the caves, as well as activities such as dining, golf, and museums in the surrounding area.
Stretching across the tree-lined shores of the Ottawa River, Les Vieux-Moulins' 18-hole course spans 6,511 yards of immaculate fairways and greens. Stone faces hem a circuit of ponds that come into play on seven holes throughout the course, forming a rigid barrier between dry and peacefully drowned balls. The strategically incorporated water hazards create memorable shots on multiple holes, including the par 4 13th, where dimpled orbs seemingly pause in midair to gaze at their reflections in the large pond below, which players must carry if they hope to reach the green in regulation. A moderately difficult course when played from the farthest tees, the course caters to players of all abilities with three tee options.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 6,511 yards from the farthest tees * Course rating of 70.5 from the farthest tees * Slope rating of 116 from the farthest tees * Three tee options
Ranked by National Geographic as one of the world's top adventure outfitters, Esprit Rafting proves that the great outdoors is just a giant playground. In the summer months, the experienced guides lead rafts, canoes, and riverboards down the Ottawa, Petawawa, Kipawa, Magnetawan, and Gatineau Rivers, running the gamut from speedy whitewater gauntlets to relaxing sightseeing expeditions, where participants might spot local wildlife or trees posing for photo ops.
A fleet of shuttle vehicles carries equipment and rafters on trips, which might lead to churning 14-foot waves on the Main Channel or through the narrow funnel of Butcher's Knife and Coliseum. Esprit's team also maintains a base camp, where guests sometimes spend nights in the calm company of Canadian pines. When cold weather creeps into the air, Esprit packs up and migrates to sunnier climes, leading multi-day adventures along the rivers of Mexico and Costa Rica.
For more than 30 years, the guides at Irish Creek Outfitters have explored Ottawa's local waterways and woods in search of trophy fish and game birds. During guided fishing trips along the Ottawa River trip leaders equip anglers with necessary equipment and hard-earned techniques for catching wall-worthy catches. In addition to using digital maps and Aqua-Vu underwater video cameras, fishing experts select lures that resemble seasonal food sources such as bugs, minnows, or limited-edition rib sandwiches. During the winter, they duck the chill wind inside portable shelters with propane heaters while wrestling and winning finned fighters such as walleye, northern pike, and lake trout.