Tubing through rapids at the Elora Gorge is awesome. Located within the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, about a half hour drive from Waterloo or Guelph, Ontario (an hour or so from Toronto), this activity offers visitors a chance to travel down the Grand River in a very cool way.
As scenic as it is exhilarating, the two kilometre stretch through the gorge takes you through some pretty breathtaking natural areas. When you’re not hooting, hollering and hanging on for dear life as you shoot through several sets of rapids, you’ll get the chance to enjoy the spectacular scenery as you turn in lazy circles in the slower sections of the river. Surrounded at points by 22-metre high cliffs, you’ll wend your way downstream, enjoying the sights and smells of the indigenous flora and fauna (and have an occasional laugh as you watch fellow riders fall out of their tube).
About the gorge
While water and amusement parks offer lazy rivers and rides through man-made rapids, there’s something special about being out in nature, shooting through a real gorge formed tens of thousands of years ago. Here’s a brief history lesson to help give you an appreciation of what you’ll be tubing through:
“Tens of thousands of years ago the climate in this area began to get colder. The polar ice caps began to grow and instead of being covered by a tropical sea, this area was covered by the Wisconsin glacier that was more than a kilometre thick over the Elora Gorge. As it grew, the great glacier worked like a bulldozer, smashing everything in its way. It was so large, it went from the Rocky Mountains to Newfoundland.
Finally about 16,000 years ago the ice began to retreat. Lots of fast-moving meltwater streamed down from the glacier. The water carved the deep passage through the limestone and Irvine Creek and the Grand River are a record of the erosion caused with time and water. By about 10,000 years ago, the giant glacier was gone, leaving behind the unique rocks and fossils from the past.” – Elora Gorge 2012 Information Guide
Expect to be on the water for about an hour to complete the 2 kilometre stretch. For me, it took a wee bit longer, mostly because I’m incompetent.
I originally planned to go tubing for this story on a Tuesday with my friends, Shaun and Tina. “Good idea to use the buddy system,” the organizer told me.
However, Tuesday morning brought temperatures of 7 degrees Celsius, and the sissy in me decided to reschedule for Friday. Unfortunately Shaun and Tina were not available Friday which meant I would be tubing alone. With a helmet, lifejacket and years of outdoor experience, I wasn’t too concerned.
I arrived at the launch site, armed with my big inflatable tube and excited for the adventure. Dropping the tube in the river, just above the first (and strongest) set of rapids in the gorge, I hopped on and kicked off from the rocky bank.
As the current got stronger and I was pulled toward the rapids, I thought to myself, this is great! But before the first “yahoo!” could escape my lips, I fell off my tube and into the water. Clutching the tube with all my might, the powerful current shot me through the rapids. As I vainly attempted to get back atop my tube, and with no one else around, the words of the organizer echoed through my head: Good idea to use the buddy system, Good idea to use the buddy system, Good idea to use the buddy system, Good idea to use the buddy system, Good idea to use the buddy system.
A few seconds later the river slowed down enough for me to dog-paddle my way back to shore and get my drenched self together. Hopping back on my tube, I held on a little tighter and successfully navigated the rest of the gorge without incident. Looking back, I wasn’t in any real danger. But yeah… good idea to use the buddy system.
Tubing the Elora Gorge is a fantastic way to spend the day. You can rent all the gear there and can tube the river as many times as you want for one fee. In July and August, a shuttle bus is available to bring tubers from the end point, back to the launch site.
The Elora Gorge Conservation Area also offers several scenic hiking trails, picnic areas, campsites and a swimming area at an old quarry.
- Adult (over 14 years) – $5.50
- Child (ages 6-14) – $2.75
- 5 years or under – Free
Tubing registration and equipment rental rates:
- Registration fee: $2.75, applicable to all participants
- Tube only: $15, deposit $10
- Helmet only: $10, deposit $50
- Personal flotation device only: $10, deposit $40
- Complete package: $24.25, deposit $75
- An imprint of a VISA or MasterCard is acceptable for equipment deposit.
- All rentals are for the current day only and must be returned by 7 p.m. on the date of rental
Visit the Elora Gorge Conservation Area website for more information.