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Grand River Canoe & Kayak Rentals – Who Do You Pick?

Canoe and kayak rentals on the Grand River offer a wide variety of services. Today, rowing in the Grand River Basin attracts more than 30,000 people a year. This river system is the largest watershed in southern Ontario with 300 miles of paddling. A person can make a trip of 2 to 3 hours per day or a trip of a week … it all depends on the time window. The river is open from April to November and offers some of the best canoeing experiences an hour west of Toronto.

The Grand River’s biggest signature attraction is the ability to drive an hour from Toronto and experience a day in nature … and still be in your own bed at night. Or if you are looking for weekend overnight adventures … it’s easy to complete two days of paddling on this river.

Renting a boat to explore the Grand River is a great option because the rental prices per day are cheap. All Grand River companies use ABS plastic boats that are versatile, safe and nearly indestructible. People can rent per trip, which means you pay a fixed price to paddle a specific route on your own. Either rent a canoe / kayak by the hour or rent by the day if you’re on a multi-day trip.

The “trip” rentals work as follows … the customer parks their vehicle at the trip departure point and then moves upstream to row back to their vehicle. In 2007, a three-hour canoe trip cost about $ 60 per canoe for two with all equipment supplied, plus the bus trip upriver. Additional people in the canoe cost an additional $ 5 to $ 10 each, depending on whether it is a child or an adult. Individual kayaks can be rented for around $ 45- $ 49 per person with all equipment and transportation included. An important terminology used by equipment companies for a day boat charter is called “self-guided tour.” A self-guided trip is where you paddle the route without a guide … and it’s the cheapest way to do it.

There are six equipment companies that offer rowing tours in the valley, and they all have websites. Three of the equipment companies specialize in self-guided canoe and kayak trips. The other three companies specialize in guided kayak, canoe or rafting trips. The three companies that offer self-guided canoe / kayak trips are:

Heritage River Canoe and Kayak operates from Cambridge to below Brantford on the Grand River. They rent a great selection of kayaks and canoes. They have river kayaks, sea kayaks, and tandem kayaks. They have 14 to 16 foot canoes that are very sturdy to support people over 250 pounds. Heritage River also offers self-guided paddles on the serene Oxbow section of the Grand River. This canoe rental company offers speed and excellent customer service. (heritageriver.com)

“Canoeing the Grand”, which operates from the West Montrose / Kitchener / Paris sections of the Grand. They rent kayaks and canoes … and offer 15 foot canoes that are extra sturdy to support people over 250 pounds. They offer good customer service and are the only ones who rent canoes in the northern section of the Grand River. (canoeingthegrand.com)

Another company that offers rentals is “Grand Experiences” located in Paris. This company is located on the Grand River below the Paris Dam. They operate from Cambridge to Brantford and offer a variety of canoe and kayak rentals. (grand-experiences.com)

There are four key things to consider when taking a self-guided trip … weather, rowing distance, boat weight capacity, and rowing skill level.

The weather is the first and foremost thing to consider. All equipment companies accept cancellations due to inclement weather. If you are unsure of the weather, always check with the supplier before arriving. The weather at home may not be the weather on the river. When calling the supplier for a weather update, tell them your skill level … be honest so they can provide the best risk assessment for safe river rowing.

Don’t get sucked into the max rowing distance for the max money. This mindset is a big mistake. Long hours on the river combined with the use of different muscles … inability to steer … a bright sun or an unexpected headwind create exhaustion. Many “dollar-for-distance” customers find themselves stepping out of their boat eager to get behind the wheel for their trip home. If you are inexperienced or new to the river … always choose the shortest trip to enjoy the day.

Remember to ask for the weight and length capacity of the rented boat. If you weigh more than 250 pounds, it is good to inform the self-guided providers of your size. Most rental canoes have a capacity of 800 pounds and have good seat support. Canoe lengths range from 14 to 16 feet and length is not critical for day trips. On night trips, the longest canoe has more equipment.

Regarding paddling skill level … the Grand River is perfect for beginners with a taste of it all … calm pool sections, gentle swifts, and fast moving navigable water. The river averages 2-3 feet deep between West Montrose and Brantford. The Grand can be like two different rivers with fast to slow moving water above Brantford and very slow moving water below Brantford.

Self-guided day trips can range from 3 to 7 hours. The prettiest section of nature to paddle on the Grand River is a 3-hour drive between Glen Morris and Paris. All three companies offer this route. For a one-time 6-7 hour paddle … the trip from Glen Morris to Brant Park offers the best of the Grand. Beneath Brantford is a calm water section called the Oxbow … this is a relaxing 3-4 hour palette of serenity. If you are new to Grand River … why not ask the supplier what type of water is comfortable for your rowing skills and let him or her recommend a trip.

The Grand River is known for its up-close desert experience and it’s always a pleasure to row … but it’s the information and customer service that make or break a trip.

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