About Us

The Great Outdoors is Full of Magic. Established in 1975, Wilderness Tours' Mission is to Help Share with You the Magic Found in Whitewater.

Joe Kowalski Owner Operator of Wilderness Tours

Dear friends,

Your overwhelming response to our programs has moved WT from a regional summer seasonal adventure resort to a four-season adventure vacation destination. We have come a long way from our early beginnings in Algonquin Park. A walk through our parking lot last summer revealed license plates from all over Canada and the US. Continuing the walk along the deck, one would hear accents from Britain, Europe, US eastern seaboard and the mid-west.

While the majority of our guests are still from the “Golden Horseshoe” of Lake Ontario and Ottawa, it is nice to know WT has arrived on the world’’s adventure destination stage. Our mission since 1975 has been to provide you the finest rafting experiences east of the Rocky Mountains. You have been telling us we have succeeded and more. After operating for over 40 years, we must recommit ourselves to providing you the finest  adventure experience anywhere.

Daunting, but we are up to the task. Now as in 1975, we look forward to sharing the magic found in whitewater on Canada’s Ottawa River.

See you on the river.

Joe Kowalski

Joe Kowalski
Wilderness Tours

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    2023 Wilderness Tours Staff Photo | 48 Years of Sharing the Magic in Whitewater

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    Established in 1975, Wilderness Tours is North America's First Adventure Resort

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    Joe Kowalski, Owner and Operator of Wilderness Tours Rafting Resort | Est. 1975

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    Former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau with Owner of Wilderness Tours Joe Kowalski in 1980

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    Operating for Nearly 50 Years, Wilderness Tours is a Family Owned and Operated Rafting Resort

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    1990's Whitewater Rafting, a Kowalski Family Past Time

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    Former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, pictured front left with Joe Kowalski rafting in 1980

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    1976 Wilderness Tours Staff Photo | Canadian Gothic

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    1978 Wilderness Tours Staff Photo

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    Owner of Wilderness Tours Rafting on the Ottawa River in the late 1970s

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    1976 Wilderness Tours Staff Photo

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    Wilderness Tours Whitewater Rafting in 1979

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    Joe Kowalski (pictured left) at 1985 Beachburg, ON Community Day


The second I pushed off shore, I knew the Ottawa River was special. In 1975, with hundreds of islands, secluded beaches and coves to explore, I pioneered this river-riddled with thundering waterfalls, untouched shoreline, and of course, classic whitewater.

From the top of McCoy Chute to the bottom of Rocher-Fendu Lake, the Ottawa was still pristine-still the way French geographer Samuel de Champlain viewed it over three centuries before. I knew, instantly, it should be kept this way. Being first on the river enabled Wilderness Tours to establish a resort in the most ecologically appropriate location. True to my belief of no development in the river corridor.

When it came time to put down personal roots, it was-once again-away from the river’s edge. And since that morning in 1975, every spare dollar has been placed into the Wilderness Tours Land Trust-protecting shoreline and habitat from development. In short, Wilderness Tours pioneered the environmental movement on the Ottawa River decades ago.

Although we’ve been largely successful, our mandate to protect the entire river is ongoing. We need help to protect the remaining river. To contribute, please give me a call at +1 613-703-6110 x230

To date, Wilderness Tours has saved over 4,000 acres of waterfront, ensuring our children’s children will experience Champlain’s river the way he did-in awe of nature’s artistry. Your support of Wilderness Tours helps protect this unique and fabulous waterway. If it’s your first time down the mighty Ottawa, enjoy. If you’re coming back for more, you’ll be happy to know things haven’t changed a bit.

The Land Trust at Wilderness Tours is Responsible for

Of Land and water trails
0 km
of wilderness to experience
0 + Acres
Guests from around the world