Best Place On Earth: Ottawa River!!

“Garb is in” was being echoed throughout the RV as we beelined for OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River … arguably one of the top 3 destinations in North America for our kayaking family! It’s safe to say that everyone in the RV was brimming with excitement. Last year Cardy proclaimed the Ottawa River to be the “most awesome place on earth.” This year would see Maddy joining in on the chorus, having many first descents on the river herself, from running Garb to surfing PushButton and Black’s to actually running the entire river without swimming once, despite some pretty epic beatdowns.


Even the youngest kids were excited because OWL Rafting is nothing short of AWESOME!!! It’s all of 25 acres right on the Ottawa River, which is actually more like a huge lake at OWL Rafting, and they have a really awesome facility.


So while the older kids and often their parents are off kayaking, they have a blast romping around on the grounds. The beachfront offers kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, SUP’s, volleyball, a park, frisbee golf and a dock about 100 yards from the shore with a water SLIDE (my personal favorite activity). There are showers and even a sauna!! No wonder they call this place a resort! Last year Kerry, Kenny, Dally and I SUP’ed across the lake to Quebec!! That was fun to be able to say, “We SUP’d to Quebec!”  🙂




And let’s not forget the enormous catfish that hang out around the dock waiting for the fishermen (fisherboys) with sausage or hotdogs attached to their line! No joke, the kids must have caught about 15 catfish every night. But, per their mom, it’s catch and release!! No fish slaying on my watch.


The way we met the owners of OWL Rafting, Dirk and Claudia Van Wijk, shows the character of the business. Three of our kids were in the WT Keener’s program and we couldn’t find anywhere to camp in the Beachburg Whitewater Region, like the entire region, that we could afford. The prices we were quoted were running into the area of $175 per night!!! Hence, we were camping on a farmer’s land (we still keep in touch with him) and alternating with nights at Walmart in Pembroke. Dirk ran into us at Walmart one night and he took pity on us, inviting us to stay at OWL Rafting for an affordable rate! He didn’t have to do that, he could have gone on home and we would never have known he’d seen us. But he stopped, introduced himself and invited us to OWL!! That’s classy!! And kind!! And very much appreciated.

To say we liked the resort is a bit of an understatement!!


While OWL isn’t a bonafide campground with hook-ups, it’s absolutely, hands down, without a doubt our favorite place to stay, which is why when asked us where we would like to camp for the week, we said, without hesitation, OWL Rafting. It’s beautiful, green, relaxing, fun, exceptionally clean, the staff is amazingly helpful and kind, the guides are respectful and a ton of fun and there is so much to do … I didn’t even mention the Pump Track and the Maze, let alone the two pigs that the kids would help feed!

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And even better … they have rafting tours, and pontoon cruises and offer breakfast, lunch and dinner to their clients!! Breakfast, lunch and dinner!! Seriously, if money was no object, I’d plant us there and never leave. And what’s more, if I was going to vacation somewhere and make Whitewater Rafting part of our vacay, I would certainly choose a place that made my vacation glamorous and fun and exciting and EASY!!!

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At any rate, as luck would have it, Garb, actually, was not in. And neither was Pushbutton. However, Black’s was in and it was epic. Maddy even got out there and got some shove it’s and some pretty wicked beatdowns that eventually ripped her paddle out of her hand twice and she ended up swimming. But she came up with a smile and learned after the second swim to hang on tight to her paddle no matter what is going on under water!! And there is an age old saying amongst kayakers … everyone is in between swims! And if you aren’t swimming EVER, you aren’t pushing yourself!

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You know, Maddy transformed herself this year at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, ID and really proved to herself and to everyone that she had the confidence, the ability, the discipline and perseverance to conquer her fears. Is there any other greater feat in life than to take your fears and squash them? To take the bull by the horns and go after what you want? At nine, Maddy is doing what most adults can’t do throughout their whole lives! Set their sights on a goal, and then go for it with everything they have.


I’m so proud of her. I watch her in situations and see her resolve and I’m blown away. You know, it’s these moments that Dan and I are reminded of why we decided this would be a great idea. And it’s got nothing to do with kayaking. Kayaking is fun. It’s something we do because we love it. But it’s not our lives. It’s not what enticed us to make the life changing decision to sell everything and move into our RV. You know what the catalyst was? It was the TGIF mentality, the I Hate Mondays syndrome, the dual income families, our friends, our family. It was society. People seem miserable and wholly unable to be content, they are seemingly unable to find  joy in the things that are truly important, like family.

cascade family

We didn’t want to see our kids go down the same path, following the same script that everyone else follows. We’ve seen the results, they aren’t impressive.  And so, we decided to build a life where every day we wake up excited, like it’s Christmas morning, a day full of possibilities and surprises.


We wanted to show our kids that life has passion, excitement, difficulties, triumphs, that it’s NOT ok to be the Dunkin Donuts guy, schlepping to work every morning, watching the hours tick by waiting until 5 o’clock. We wanted them to hear loud and clear that it’s not ok to live a life comprised of work you hate!


And, most importantly, it’s never EVER EVER too late to go after your dreams and make them a reality! Because if it were, you would think, pushing 40 with 12 kids would be that point. Everything was against us making this move … 11 kids, expecting our 12th, job, house, financial, 13 year old vehicles. You name it, it was stacked.  But nothing stops us!  We are unstoppable and seemingly fearless, in that being fearless means you jump despite the fears!


The one thing we didn’t do, we never do, was ask permission. We just did it. We are proud of that. Just like we are proud when our kids accomplish something as huge as conquering fears or jumping outside of comfort zones or finishing an app (search Kellogic for the kids’ Android App, Flappy World)!! I thank God and my awesome husband for enabling this life we have, for giving me the opportunity to homeschool our kids, to stay at home with them from the beginning … it hasn’t always been easy, but it’s ALWAYS been worth it.

And I think that’s the lifelong message. It’s the message in the Bible and the message in the world. Everything that’s easy, is often not worth it and everything that’s worth it is often not easy! Which is why I think in order to be happy you need to have a thankful heart. And for us we keep our hearts thankful by changing our scenery, keeping our lives moving in a positive direction and by adding as much adrenaline and excitement to our lives.


It’s so east  to be thankful when you are surfing at Kelly’s Whitewater Park, one of the most amazing Park and Plays in the entire country, possibly the world!  It’s easy to be thankful camping at OWL on the Ottawa River in all its beauty. It’s easy to be thankful when you are blessed with the ability to spend your days with the people who mean everything to you. It’s easy to be thankful when you see the smiles on your children’s faces, the pride, the accomplishment, the excitement, the pure JOY. It’s easy to be thankful when you view a gorgeous sunset, or stand above a staggering waterfall, or hear your toddler squeal, your husband laugh and your kids howl. It’s easy to be thankful when you are standing in front of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa, ON eating Beaver Tails!! I mean come on!!

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We’re building a life of thankfulness in all it’s simplicity.  We’re building a life full of adventure, excitement, exploration and freedom.  How can we be anything but thankful?

12 thoughts on “Best Place On Earth: Ottawa River!!”

  1. I love seeing the kids goofing about, reminds me of the times I used to take friends kids out for the day, some years ago now, and watch them enjoying themselves and goofing about, nothing made me happier, and I can see from their faces they are having the times of their lives.

  2. I can’t imagine the freedom you must feel every day, charting your own path, liveing by your own rules. I read your story and it really affected me, I sent your website to my husband and he was so excited to think I would want to do this. You might have changed the lives of this family. God Bless.

  3. One suggestion – brighten your pix & use JPG. I use the free Irfanview & Image – Auto adjust colours. Glad u like my town. Come back to the Ottawa River in the spring…..

  4. I think we’re kindred spirits. Came across your blog while googling large family rving. We just had a two week trip with our travel trailer. We ONLY have seven kids.You are an inspiration. We are trying to work out the llogistics for us as my husbands job includes lots of tools. Possibly fixer uppers across America.

    • It is incredible when you finally all pile in and find your footing and your mojo and relax and find real true happiness, and then find it’s hard to go “home”!! Exactly what happened to us. 🙂 Good luck to ya! Keep in touch, hopefully we’ll meet up on the road one day!!


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