Petawawa Hell or High Water Festival

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HOHW_bannerEach spring, the Hell or High Water Event takes place on the Petawawa River ‘Town Section’ in Petawawa. As a river facing the very real threat of hydroelectric damming, this river festival and race celebrates the river in all its glory and brings attention to the fact that this prime section of river is under threat from a proposed series of dams. The event allows paddlers to show their support for the Save the Petawawa Campaign as well as Whitewater Ontario’s own Advocacy Committee.

"We are proud to support Soldier On, The Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre and Whitewater Ontario River Advocacy Committee. Please come on out to Hell or High Water to show your support for them, the whitewater community and the beautiful Petawawa River." Kim Barrington, Philip Kompass, Brad Wipp, Mike Crouzat (HOHW Organisers)

Details of previous Hell or High Water events can be found on the liquidcore site

Hell or High Water is held annually at the ‘Town Section’ of the Petawawa River in Ontario. This section is known for its big and challenging rapids, ranging up to CIII or CIV. The race draws rafters and kayakers from all over Ontario, other provinces and the U.S.

What is Hell or High Water?

hohw-raftHell or High Water is a day long event that features races for rafts, canoes and kayaks through the "Town Section" of the Petawawa River. In addition to the races there are demos, clinics and other activities. In the evening there is a dinner provided, an awards ceremony and a social.

There is plenty to see and do at this event as the action takes place near good viewing spots, so even if you don't feel like paddling, come and take part in the festival. There is a photography contest that is free to enter and there is usually an expedition to the Upper Petawawa section on the Sunday. At high water expect continuous or at least connecting Class 4 whitewater with some beautiful big waves, steeper drops and some cool canyon sections.

Want to race?

Those considering competing in the canoe or kayak race should have some whitewater experience. Those wishing to compete in the raft race don’t need any previous experience. Wetsuits are available for rental. Register for any of the races ahead of time at or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .HOHW_kayak1

Just want to watch?

hohw-bridgeTo watch the race, we would recommend two primary viewing spots. Railroad is the largest rapid, and perhaps the most exciting. The Millenium Trail (gravel, multi use) crosses the river just at the top of this rapid, and it would be a great spot to check out the action. It is easy to find, watch the the trail just off of Portage Rd (100 yards past McDonalds). The second location would be at Lovers Rapid, easy walking distance from Centennial Park (Catwalk Rapid). It is an exciting rapid to watch as the water funnels into one large ‘roostertail’ before mashing through a couple of holes. Catwalk will also have alot of paddlers playing in the standing waves.

Directions and Accommodations

The town of Petawawa is 5-6 hours north of Toronto and 2 hours west of Ottawa. The river is right in the middle of town. Free camping is provided in town but there are also numerous hotels and motels in town as well.

For information about this year's event please see our HOHW 2011  HOHW 2012 page, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit


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