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Madawaska River

Madawaska River

Algonquin Park Whitewater Route
  • Location
    Flows through Whitney, Madawaska and south to Combermere and Palmer Rapids
  • elevation
    375 metres
    (1,230 feet)
  • length
    230 km
    (143 miles)
  • access by waypoint
    Upper Madawaska - Whitney Access
    N 45° 29’ 20” W 78° 14’ 31”
    Middle Madawaska -Siberia Rd Access
    N 45° 25’ 04” W 77° 47’ 22”
The Madawaska River is 230 km long, originating at Source Lake in Algonquin Park. It flows east, draining into the Ottawa River. The name comes from the local Algonquin band, and means “people of the shallows.” In the1960s, sections of the river were dammed for hydroelectric power. While partially tamed, it is still a defiant river, mostly undeveloped with some great whitewater sections. In addition to some exhilarating whitewater runs, the Madawaska offers some good fishing for smallmouth bass, walleye and northern pike.



The Upper Madawaska links Algonquin Park with Bark Lake. One access point can be found off Highway 60 in Whitney at the south side of the river. A second access point is located east of Whitney, off a short road from Highway 60, just after the power lines cross the highway. The take-out is located down river, off Major Lake Road, north of the town of Madawaska



The Madawaska is a long river that passes through a number of towns along the way. Its headwaters are in Algonquin Provincial Park, where there are a number of campsites, day use areas and lodges in the area. It also flows through two other less developed provincial parks. Both the Upper and Lower Madawaska Provincial Parks are mainly accessed by canoe and provide limited facilities. The towns of Whitney, Madawaska, Barry’s Bay and Combermere offer accommodations, food and gas, while Algonquin Bound Outfitters offers shuttles and supplies for those looking to run the river.

Whitewater Routes

Upper Madawaska

The Upper Madawaska River is an exhilarating whitewater river. The river has a number of Class IV and V rapids, although all rapids can be portaged around via the old rail bed that follows the river. The river can really only be travelled in spring until about the end of June. After June, the water level drops to a point where many areas are impassable. The first portion of the river is lined with several difficult rapids that require whitewater experience.In the last 5 km (3.1 miles), the river begins to slow considerably leading to the take-out.

Middle Madawaska River

This stretch of the Madawaska River runs about 5 km (3.1 miles) between Bark and Kamaniskeg Lake The route is rated a Grade II-III difficulty, although during high water there is a stretch of Class IV whitewater at the Staircase Rapids. All of the larger rapids can be portaged around. Scout all whitewater before attempting to run it.