Paddle the picturesque Elora Gorge
Tips for getting out on this scenic Southern Ontario river
Contributed by Frank Smith
The Elora Gorge is a small, scenic canyon that is part of the Grand River. It’s located downriver of the old mill in the town of Elora.
The Gorge runs through a park operated by the Grand River Conservation Authority. The park offers some camping spots, but with little seclusion. A few hiking trails and grassy areas offer space for land-based activities, but the real draw is the river. For most of the summer, the flow is low and ideal for tubing. In spring, and indeed for most of the year, this stretch of the Grand River is one of the most popular spots in Southern Ontario for whitewater kayaking and canoeing, partly due to its proximity to Toronto.
Water can be class 5+ at full spring flood, when the water rises up the canyon walls. But in peak summer, even a light paddler in a small boat will scrape rocks. At its lowest, only a few points of the stretch will offer whitewater.
River levels are available on the Grand River Conservation Authority web site. Go to “Watershed Conditions,” and then click on “Current River Flows.” Under “River Levels,” select “Upper Grand.” Here, you’ll find a line that represents the Shand Dam discharge, which is the best indicator for paddling the stretch of the Elora Gorge.
From Highway 401, take Highway 6 north (the turn-off is about 40 minutes west of Toronto, or 20 minutes east of Kitchener). If you’re coming from the east, be careful: there are two exits for Highway 6, but the first one takes you south. Be sure to take the second exit.
Head north on Highway 6 for approximately 15 km to #7/Woodlawn Road. Turn right and continue for two to three more kilometres, until you reach Highway 6 again, which will be marked as Woolwich Street. Turn left and head north on Highway 6/Woolwich Street for 4 km, past Marden Rd. Take the next left (Wellington Rd. #7) and continue for approximately 13 km until you reach a set of lights. Turn left down Wellington Road #21 and follow the road for just over 1 km. The Elora Gorge Conservation Area will be on your right.
The put in
Unfortunately, if you put in at suggested park areas, you’ll miss out on about half the run.
Another option is to put in near Ross Street in Elora. To do so, continue north through the set of lights mentioned above. Ross Street should be the second street on your right. Shortly after the turn, there will be a gravel lot on your left. You can park there and carry your boat along the path, which will lead you to the river. But take caution: If you put in too far up the river, you’ll be above a small set of falls (known as The Tooth of Time) at the old Elora mill.
The Chute is a straightforward run, but you have to watch out for a few twists and jutting rocks. Under the bridge, about three quarters of the way down the run, is Troll’s Hole on river right. It’s generally not a problem in the late season, but it can be a dangerous keeper in the spring.
From put in to take out, the run is about 3 km, and can be easily accomplished in under three hours. In fact, a straight run would take well under two hours for most paddlers.