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Over the last several years, I've paddled a few different stretches of the Nith River, in Southern Ontario. This page contains information on paddling this great little river in the hopes that more people will get out to enjoy it!

Wilby Road to Christner Road, Wilmot Township:

Today (April 19, 2003), Matt and I decided to check out part of the Nith River again. We decided to start one concession north of Phillipsburg, and parked by the bridge on Wilby Road (UTM 523213E, 4809104N). We found that the water was high enough to paddle with little problems. The water flow level was around 3 cubic metres/second at Phillipsburg. There was one spot close to the start where we had to lift around a shallow spot where there was some broken-up concrete in the river. We saw a few people out fishing along the river, and a couple kids sitting along the shore.

We saw quite a few birds (geese, ducks, kingfishers, red-winged blackbirds...) and a muskrat. At one point, we went under a home-made suspension bridge that was pretty impressive. We also went through 2 culverts which were just barely large enough to fit through. These obviously would require a lift-over in either higher or lower water levels. The first is immediately after the suspension bridge, and the second is shortly after the first. Be on the lookout for these if you paddle this section.

Our take-out point was on Christner Road (UTM 522118E, 4804697N). We parked the car on the shoulder there with no problems, as it's a quiet road.

Overall, I'd say that this section of the river was a very good paddle, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. It took us around two hours to paddle this stretch of the river. Matt and I plan to paddle more sections of the Nith in the future.

Todays portage distance = 0 m
Total portage distance = 0 m
Todays paddle distance = 12.8 Km
Total paddle distance = 12.8 Km

South of New Hamburg to South of Plattsville, Wilmot/Blandford-Blenheim Townships:

Mike and I decided to paddle some more of the Nith River today (April 25, 2003.) I was up at 8:30, and had the canoe on the car and was all packed up by 9:30. I called Mike and he was at my place shortly. We headed into Woodstock, and picked up some subs from Subway for our lunch. Then we took off for our take-out point, which was the same as our put-in point from last spring, located on the first road South of Plattsville, Township Road 12 (UTM 531200E, 4793250N [Based on NAD 83, Zone 17N]). We dropped the van off there, then Mike got in the car and we drove to our put-in point, located on Holland Mills Road, just south of New Hamburg (UTM 526003E, 4802581N). There's a nice parking area beside the river on the north side of the bridge there. We loaded up the canoe and locked up the car. At this time it was about 11:15 am. There was a man on the other side of the river on an Arco ATV thing. He shut off the engine and asked us where we were headed to. He then watched us paddle downstream and around the corner before I heard him start up the engine again.

We paddled downstream for a bit, and soon turned a corner to find a deer crossing the river. Mike got a picture of the deer with his digital camera. We decided that we would take a picture every kilometre along the river, so Mike kept watching the GPS and took a picture every kilometre. Wildlife consisted of the deer, lots of Canada Geese, ducks, red-winged blackbirds and muskrats. Just before Haysville, we saw two llamas in the field next to the river, and just past Plattsville, was saw a bunch of Swans crossing the river.

We stopped for lunch at around 11:45, and sat down on some busted-up concrete along the edge of the river. We had our Subway subs and cookies, and were soon back on the water. I hiked up to the top of the bank, which was pretty steep, and found a large farmers field, with a couple farms and a road not too far away.

At around 19 kilometres from our put-in, we saw a greenish thing floating in the middle of the river. We couldn't tell what it was until we were closer to it, and soon saw that it was a canoe! It looked like it was in pretty good shape, until Mike got out and turned it over. The seats were made of plywood and were pulled off from the gunwhales. The gunwhales were broken through (they were aluminum) and there were two large holes in the side where I presume a yoke was once attached. We decided it wasn't worth salvaging, as it was a cheap "Sportschief" fiberglass, and was busted up pretty badly. We left it floating in the river, wondering if someone would come to look for it once they realized it was missing. It started to follow us downstream since we had righted it, but it soon go hung up in some rocks and was stuck again.

The water level throughout this section of the river was quite low, and I wouldn't want to paddle this stretch if it was any lower. According to the GRCA website, the river flow was just under 1 m3/s at New Hamburg. I would recommend around 2 as a minimum if you don't want to scrape at every rapid. Mike and I found that many of the shallow spots were impossible to pass through without scraping bottom, and I think we left a lot of yellow paint along the way from my canoe. At one point, there was a concrete slab across the river, which was impossible to avoid, and we couldn't see it until it was too late, so we painfully scraped our way down and then hit a rock pretty hard at the bottom. It was not a good ride. This was located at approximately the 17km mark. We had to get out and wade six or seven times, and the water was still pretty cold. The high temperature for the day was 15.9oC, and it was nice and sunny, with only a few clouds and almost no wind for the entire day.

At km 22.2 we were at the van, and soon had the canoe tied up and all of our gear loaded in the van. At this point it was 4 pm, so we had been on the river for about 5 hours. We then drove back up to our put-in and I got in the car, and we drove home. We stopped for some gas at the truck stop, then unloaded the canoe and gear at my place. Overall, it was a pretty good trip, but I wouldn't recommend doing it with the water being any lower than today.

Todays portage distance = 0 m
Total portage distance = 0 m
Todays paddle distance = 22.2 Km
Total paddle distance = 22.2 Km

South of Plattsville to north of Hwy 401:

On Friday, March 29, 2002, Mike, Matt and I decided we wanted to check out the mighty Nith River. In fact, it was mostly me who decided and no one else seemed to complain. :) I look at the river every time I drive over it near Phillipsburg, and had always wanted to paddle it. So this weekend I decided to do something about it.

The plan was to be on the water at around 10, but for some reason I was up at 6:30am (and those of you who know me know just how odd that is...) I put my canoe onto the car and was at Mike's place at 8:40 am. Mike couldn't find the keys to his van, so I left him to find them and took off for Matt's place. I got to Matt's at around 9 (it may have been a little bit earlier) and we loaded his paddles and stuff into my car. Mike showed up shortly (turns out his dad had his van keys, so he had to find the spare set) so we loaded Matt's canoe onto the van and we were ready to go. It was grey and cool while we were packing up, so we hoped that the weather would get better.

We drove to where the Nith crosses Township Road 12 (the first road South of Plattsville) (UTM 531200E, 4793250N [Based on NAD 83, Zone 17N]) and decided it looked like a good enough place to put in. Since we were doing a shuttle though, we kept driving straight on Township Road 12 to our take out spot (UTM 540990E, 4795410N). There, we parked the car on the side of the road, took the canoe off of the top and tied it with the other canoe on top of Mike's van (yay for huge vans!). We threw all of our stuff into the van, turned around, and drove to our put in.

As we were getting the canoes off the van and our gear organized, we saw two other canoes come around the corner upstream of the road. They we going very slowly and we thought that they might be hunting ducks. We put in at 10:15, which was 15 minutes behind schedule - but hey - it's a long weekend who cares! I was going to paddle solo for the first while, and we planned on switching up later. I had the new Nashwaak Paddles "Solo Strap" which I hadn't had a chance to try yet, so was happy to be trying it out. The water was plenty deep to paddle in almost all areas of the river, and with the exception of one spot where I purposely went throught the shallow channel, I never got hung up anywhere. Matt and Mike got stuck only once I think, although they did scrape bottom more than the lighter solo boat, and had to choose their course more carefully.

Since this was my first time on the Nith (and first for Matt and Mike too) we had no clue what to expect, other than what I was told on the
Canadian Canoe Routes forums. It turned out that it was a fanastic little river to paddle in the spring! I'm not sure why it's not more popular, but I suppose that's because it's too dry in the summer. Anyway, the river goes through some open areas with fields on both sides (mostly cow pasture, but some corn fields) and then through some lightly wooded areas of mostly hardwoods. Further down towards the end of our little trip there was a swampier section which had cedar along the banks for a ways. The river bottom was often silty and soft, but sometimes had small rocks and gravel. The rapids in the section we paddled were class one if you stretched it - I'd just call them swifts (at this water level anyway). We came across one ledge which we paddled, but scraped bottom. It would likely be tough on the boat if the water was any lower than it was when we did it.

For wildlife, we saw tons of ducks (Mallards and some other kind we didn't know with lots of white on the back of their wings), geese and killdeer. Final count of muskrat came out to 3 I think, but it may have been 4, I forget. Lots of red-wing blackbirds also. As for people, the only paddlers were the two canoes we saw when we put in (who we passed almost immediately). We also say a father and two kids skipping rocks, but that's it. There are a few houses and camps visible from the river but most of the time it's not too bad. We crossed under 3 road bridges and one other bridge which must be some kind of a trail (looks interesting... may have to check it out some day...) Because there are so many bridges, it's easy to make the trip as long or as short as you want. The banks at the bridges are often steep and muddy, but still doable. Since most of the roads are quiet, I don't see a problem with just parking on the shoulder (which is all we did).

The Grand River Conservation Authority has an excellent website which provides real time river conditions. The river flow at the time of this trip was approximately 6m3/s, while the average summer low flow is 2.6m3/s. I had been told that the best time to paddle the river was when the flow is between 4 and 6 times the summer low flow. Obviously it was lower than that when we did it, so at least for this stretch those numbers are high. There was evidence of much higher water levels, since the banks showed water lines at least 2 feet above what we had! There was also lots of weedy junk in the branches at least a couple feet above water. I wouldn't want to mess with the river when it was that high for sure!

We stopped at one of the bridges and Matt got in my boat solo, and I paddled bow with Mike in the sterm of Matt's boat. At some points Matt had a little bit of fun in the current, and he managed to execute an excellent cross draw to save himself from ramming into the bank :) The weather had improved slowly during the day so it was quite pleasant at times, with the sun coming out from behind the clouds occasionally. This was good, as the forecast had been crappy for the entire weekend. I just love it when the forecast is wrong :) According to the University of Waterloo Weather Station, the high for the day got up to 10.49oC - but I could have sworn it was 10.50oC!

In the slower moving swampy section just upstream of our takeout point, we found a duck decoy which had been tangled in some trees on the side of the river. Matt cut it off and it's now at my place. It may someday end up on the fence post or something :) At around 2 o'clock we found ourselves back at the bridge where we'd parked the car, and climbed throught the mud again. Mike and I hopped in my car to retrieve the van while Matt carried the stuff up to the side of the road. When we returned with both vehicles, we tied a canoe on each and loaded up our stuff. At this time we were all pretty hungry, so we headed off to Wendy's for a good meal. After that, we dropped off Matt and all his stuff and went home.

Overall, it was an excellent trip, and a fantastic way to start a new paddling season!

Todays portage distance = 0 m
Total portage distance = 0 m
Todays paddle distance = 18.4 km
Total paddle distance = 18.4 km

North of Hwy 401 to Wolverton:

On May 7, 2005, Matt, Hil and I paddled yet another stretch of the Nith River. We put in at the Township Road 11 bridge--the first road north of Hwy 401 (UTM 541,070E, 4,793,970N). We paddled through Ayr and into Wolverton, where we had parked the other car for the shuttle. Just before Ayr there is a dam across the river, although it is not really much of a dam, more like a low concrete barrier just under the water. We scraped our way over without too much problem, although it was a bit rough on the boats! At the time of out trip, the water level was 6m3/sec at the Ayr guage. This is enough water to get through the river without too much trouble. This stretch could probably be done with a bit less water, although there may be some spots to wade through in this case. We took out on Township Road 8 at Wolverton (538,803E, 4,789,199N.)

Overall, this was a pretty nice stretch of the Nith, and we had a great time.

Todays portage distance = 0 m
Total portage distance = 0 m
Todays paddle distance = 18.1 km
Total paddle distance = 18.1 km

Canning to Paris:

On June 24, Matt, Mike and I paddled the Nith from Canning to Paris (where Mike now lives.) We started our day in Canning, and put in just past the bridge there (UTM 543,160E, 4,782,760N.) The water level at the time of our little paddle was just above 3m3/sec at the Canning guage. I would say that this is pretty much the minimum level that you want for paddling this stretch, as we were scraping the bottom a few times.

This is a very nice stretch of river, and so far is my favourite part of the Nith. There are more rapids in this section than any of the others, which provides a bit more excitement and some moving water practice. The final couple of kilometres into Paris are the best stretch for whitewater. I have heard that some of these rapids can be a bit hairy in spring, so please don't attempt them if you don't know what you're doing! Our day was very hot, and the deer flies were out in full force--I'd definately recommend taking some sunscreen and bug repellant!

In total, we spent a total of three and a half hours on the water, including some breaks where we stopped paddling but continued drifting downstream. We ended up with an overall average paddling speed of 4.9km/hr and a maximum speed of 11.3km/hr. Upon reaching the Nith River/Grand River confluence in Paris, we attempted to paddle up to the takeout point on the Grand River, just downstream of the dam. However, we found that we were unable to paddle upstream against the current, so ended up walking/wading up the Grand to the parking lot (UTM 550,220E, 4,782,810N.) In higher water, this would not be possible at all, and you would have to continue downstream on the Grand to another take out. However, Mike and I were unable to scout out a good takeout on the Grand which was within a short distance of the mouth of the Nith, so you may need to paddle quite a way to find an takeout.

Todays portage distance = 0 m
Total portage distance = 0 m
Todays paddle distance = 17.1 km
Total paddle distance = 17.1 km

Maps and Info:


  • Water levels change dramatically in the spring - be careful! Don't trust what anyone tells you (including me!) and make up your own mind based on your ability.
  This page was last updated on December 18, 2007 at 01:05 AM