In the summer of 1970, student Joe Kowalski read JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Like the hobbits in the story, Joe sought adventure and someone suggested running wild rivers. Joe tried it, survived and got hooked. Wanting to share the magic found in whitewater, Joe founded an outdoor club while at university. The highlight was a trip to Canada. Joe’s dream of running more Canadian rivers was put on hold because of a military obligation. Honorably discharged as a Captain in 1975, Joe headed to Canada to begin Wilderness Tours.
His mission then as it still is today is to share the magic found in whitewater. From just a handful of enthusiasts then to thousands today, Wilderness Tours has become Canada’s premier whitewater adventure company and a national treasure. Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was on hand for the 5th anniversary and more recently Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for the 25th anniversary. Wilderness Tours’ expertise has been sought after by Hollywood with WT providing the support for several Disney films. Wilderness Tours and the Ottawa River are featured in the Canada Pavilion in EPCOT at Walt Disney World.
To fulfill its mission, WT has concentrated its efforts and built its reputation on programs, facilities, and staff. Because of the unique geology of the Ottawa River with its many islands, a high adventure raft trip can put in along side a gentle family trip. After launching, the high adventure trip goes through an island section with class 3-5 rapids while the gentle family trip chooses a run with class 1-3 rapids. This situation is unique world wide. With all the variety, WT offers not only rafting but sportyaking in inflatable kayaks and touring kayak excursions.
Not only is the Ottawa Canada’s top rafting river, it is also the same for freestyle kayaking. In addition to pioneering rafting on the Ottawa, WT also pioneered kayaking on the river with the first Ottawa Kayak School. In 2007, the eyes of the world will be on Ottawa as WT hosts the World Freestyle Kayak Championships.
Recognizing the Ottawa River was special, founder Joe Kowalski has worked continuously to preserve the river for future generations. Of 1,100 km of river, only 10 km of original wild river remain that would be recognizable to Champlain today. So far, WT has preserved almost 4,000 acres of river. Joe calls this conservation effort “Living with Champlain’s Ghost” after Samuel De Champlain, the river’s first explorer. Because the land is as spectacular as the river, WT has added hiking and biking to its programs as well as x-c skiing in the winter.
Not only did WT pioneer rafting, it also pioneered Canada’s first ever “Adventure Resort”. Not only can WT guests choose from a variety of programs, they can do it in comfort. WT has the finest adventure resort facilities in Canada complete with hot tubs, swimming pool, beach, water slide, rope swing, fireplace lounges, dance club, sports courts, playing fields, and even a bungee jumping tower. With so much to do, WT guests work up an appetite and to satisfy it there is French Chef Claude Dubourg.
With so many programs and an extensive facility, WT concentrates on making it all work with the industry’s best staff. WT employs more year round professionals than any other adventure company in Canada. Don’t take WT’s word for it. Just ask the folks at Algonquin College who chose WT to run all of their outdoor education programs including their prestigious 2 year diploma program in Outdoor Adventure.
For more information about Canada’s Flagship Adventure Company call 1.888.RAFT.NOW or go online at www.wildernesstours.com