Paddling Toronto’s flooded Rouge River in the spring

The Rouge River is one of our favourite spring paddling routes: it’s easy to access and typically stays flat even at high water levels. When we arrived at Rouge Hill Park in June 2019, however, we discovered that it was completely flooded!

The road that normally leads to the Rouge Hill parking lot and Rouge River
The road that normally leads to the Rouge Hill parking lot and Rouge River

The high water level on Lake Ontario caused a lot of havoc that year, including at the mouth of the Rouge River. Luckily it just took a short portage down the road before we encountered the water’s edge. From there we were able to paddle down the road, through the parking lot, and onto the lush, green river. It was a unique experience compared to when we’ve paddled the river in other years.

Normally you can only paddle to about the pedestrian bridge in Glen Rouge Campground, just north of the 401 and Kingston Road overpasses, where there is a large, fast-moving rapid. In 2019, however, we were easily able to paddle beyond that point almost to the end of the campground where there is another small rapid. Theoretically we could have pulled our canoe over it and continued paddling, but the water would have been extremely shallow.

This video takes you on our journey along the flooded road and parking lot, and up and down the river.

In June, you can expect the Rouge’s foliage to be practically exploding out of the ground and the branches of the trees. It was lush!

The Rouge River is lush with greenery in early June.
The Rouge River is lush with greenery in early June.

We also encountered a number of waterfowl, who seemed to revel in the flooding of the parking lot in particular. The pond and marshlands at the south end of the river are great locations to look for turtles and birds.

The Rouge River is suitable for canoes, kayaks, and SUPs. On calm days, you can also paddle out into Lake Ontario and along the lakeshore both ways. We recommend staying off Lake Ontario when it’s windy. If you can see whitecap waves rolling back into the mouth of the Rouge, it’s probably too windy for most people to paddle. The river is sheltered from the winds and easier to paddle.

Locations mentioned in the video:

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Cassandra Jowett is a marketer who works at a software startup in Toronto. Her love of the great outdoors first started at the base of the Rocky Mountains when her parents took her camping as a baby. It blossomed as an adult when Brian began taking her canoe tripping in the Ontario backcountry.

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