The Madawaska (nicknamed the Mad) is a paddler’s playground. This trip includes a variety of whitewater challenges, many of which can be run by the experienced whitewater canoeist. All rapids, however, also have portages and many can be easily lined if you prefer. There are a few mandatory portages like Slate Falls, so care and proper scouting should always be observed before attempting any rapids.
As for photographic opportunities, they are somewhat limited when compared to other areas like Algonquin, Killarney or the French River.
The Madawaska runs from Algonquin Provincial Park to the Ottawa River. Parts of it can be run as day trips, weekend trips or longer. The trip we chose is commonly known as The Lower Madawaska and most of the trip was in the Lower Madawaska Provincial Park.
Our trip was in June, when the water levels weren’t too high, but high enough to make it exciting. The bugs, however, were extremely harsh at times. One of the drawbacks of the area was that it appears to be heavily used. There is evidence of vegetation destruction and firewood can be somewhat scarce. There is also an ATV trail that runs along the parts river, which may add to the high usage and may attribute to some vegetation destruction.
We started our trip Aumond's Bay. To get there, follow Hwy 515 from Palmer Rapids to Quadeville. Turn right at the T Junction continue straight up the steep hill on the Green Lake Forest Access Road (gravel). Travel about 7 km until you find an Aumond's Access sign. Follow this rough and narrow bush road to the parking area. We left a second vehicle at Griffith.
We spent our first night at the campsite between the Island Rapids and Dog Rapids. We chose this site for a good reason. Our group was somewhat new at whitewater canoeing so our plan was to set up camp early, then spend the rest of the day playing and practicing in the nearby rapids. It was here that we discovered that one of our parties had forgotten their tent in the trunk of the car left at Griffith. It looked like two of us were forced to really rough it. We MacGyvered a make-shift tent from our tarps and the “outsiders” had to sleep outdoors with their bug jackets on. We then spent the rest of the day playing in the rapids and trying our luck at fishing.
The next day we continued down the river and dealt with each the 10 oncoming rapids. One of our canoes was poly and the other, a Kevlar. The paddlers in the poly could be a little more daring on some of the bigger rapids. On our second night, we camped at Crooked Rapids. The site was well used and was connected to ATV trails. Firewood, of course, was very scarce.
The next morning we proceed on down the river running non-stop through all the rapids until we came to High Falls. After a quick portage we were on the home stretch to Griffith.
The Highlights of the trip were the playful rapids. There are many rapids of various sizes requiring an variety of technical skills. It's a great place for beginners, like us, to learn and practice their skills and a great place for experienced whitewater enthusiasts to play in rapids and to just "giver".