• Nestled on the mighty Madawaska River, Palmer Rapids is three little sets of rapids, body surfing spots, pebble beaches and campsites that is perfect for a day trip or a weekend-long adventure. Bring the kids for some swimming, rent some boats for the whitewater, and have some fun!!

    Kids and families have fun at the Palmer Rapids beachThe land along on the south side of the river is a campground owned and managed by a local Palmer Rapids farmer named Harold Jessup. There are probably about 100 campsites with some well suited to large groups. There are some picnic tables, a couple pretty rough outhouses, and a pump for fresh water on site, and a general store about in the town of Palmer Rapids about 5k away. None of the campsites are equipped with power.

    Jessup will drive up from time to time to collect the fees:

    • $10-15/pp/night, depending on the size and configuration of your group.
    • He also sells bundles of wood for $10.

    The rapids are the big draw here, with MKC, the Paddler Co-Cop and others using the perfect sets of rapids for training and practice. There is a small beach in the bay beside the rapids where you can swim, and it’s calm enough for kids to wade around too (with lifejackets).

    Body surfing off Piano Rock at Palmer RapidsPiano Rock, which you can usually walk to in medium-low water (i.e. July onwards) is a great spot for body surfing – just launch yourself into the rapids (keep your feet up!) and swim out when you resurface. Body surfing is also fun down at the bottom of the second set, just wade out as far as you can and let the current carry you over the final drop in the rapids.

     

    Campers grouped together at Jessup's Campground on Palmer Rapids

  • The upper set of rapids at Palmer RapidsPalmer Rapids is one of the Ottawa Valley’s best known park and play spots and was the first place I ever set foot in rapids as a kid. With two sets of rapids that range from Class I to Class 3, depending on the water levels, lots of camping on the private land ($10/pp/night), Palmer is one of the best paddle spots around.

    In the spring these rapids run pretty big, with water running through at up to 280 m3/sec through April. In May and early June the rate is a more reasonable 60-120, and that drops quickly to 20-60 come late June. The rapids are runnable in water above about 20┬ácubic metres/sec, which is what you’ll find from July on, if you’re lucky.

    The river is dam controlled with I believe 6 different dams upriver. This means regular releases through the summer can replenish the low water levels, and it also means caution is required whenever on the river. Palmer is immediately after a dam and you’ll see warning signs warning to watch for flooding.

    Visit the Water Office website to view real-time water levels.

    Upper Set

    The upper set is rather technical, beginning with a big, angled drop that can require a hard-left on landing, depending on the water level. Assuming you miss the giant boulder on river right, the rest is 50 metres of giant haystacks with an easy out at the end.

    The outflow of this upper set is excellent for practicing ferrying, s-turns, and generally getting into and out of rapids.

    Lower Set

    The lower set is about 3/4 kilometre long and a little more interesting. It begins with a drop of about 1 foot; there are two approaches depending on water level – both into pretty well-defined V’s. Immediately after is a bit of a rock garden, passable in high water but in low water head quickly to river left to find the channel that starts left and then crosses right.

    The second half of the rapid empties out into a large drop at the end on the right. Depending on water level this this drop can have huge rollers after, and in high water you can paddle river left for a gentler exit.

  • Nestled on the mighty Madawaska River, Palmer Rapids is three little sets of rapids, body surfing spots, pebble beaches and campsites that is perfect for a day trip or a weekend-long adventure. Bring the kids for some swimming, rent some boats for the whitewater, and have some fun!!

    Kids and families have fun at the Palmer Rapids beachThe land along on the south side of the river is a campground owned and managed by a local Palmer Rapids farmer named Harold Jessup. There are probably about 100 campsites with some well suited to large groups. There are some picnic tables, a couple pretty rough outhouses, and a pump for fresh water on site, and a general store about in the town of Palmer Rapids about 5k away. None of the campsites are equipped with power.

    Jessup will drive up from time to time to collect the fees:

    • $10-15/pp/night, depending on the size and configuration of your group.
    • He also sells bundles of wood for $10.

    The rapids are the big draw here, with MKC, the Paddler Co-Cop and others using the perfect sets of rapids for training and practice. There is a small beach in the bay beside the rapids where you can swim, and it’s calm enough for kids to wade around too (with lifejackets).

    Body surfing off Piano Rock at Palmer RapidsPiano Rock, which you can usually walk to in medium-low water (i.e. July onwards) is a great spot for body surfing – just launch yourself into the rapids (keep your feet up!) and swim out when you resurface. Body surfing is also fun down at the bottom of the second set, just wade out as far as you can and let the current carry you over the final drop in the rapids.

     

    Campers grouped together at Jessup's Campground on Palmer Rapids