One Tank Trips: A grand river adventure in Elora

What’s a One Tank Trip? It’s a worthwhile destination within a tank of gas radius of Mississauga. So if you’re looking for something to do on a lazy Sunday or even a long weekend, be sure to check out our ideas.
Our debut One Tanker takes us tubing down the Grand River at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.

Photos courtesy of Elora Tourism

“This is better than the lazy river at the resort,” my daughter says.  It would be hard to imagine a more perfect moment. My daughter and I are holding hands, our legs up on inner tubes floating down the gurgling river. The late afternoon sunshine bathes us as we pass by towering 80-foot limestone cliffs, wildflowers and cedar trees.

The tranquil contentment is all the more treasured because of the apprehension that had marked the beginning of our tubing adventure down the Grand River at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.

Situated less than 100km from Mississauga in Elora, the gorge is where the water from ‘The Grand,’ a designated Canadian Heritage River, cuts through 80-foot dolostone glacial rock. It’s also where up to 300 people a day rent inner tubes that carry them down the waterway’s rapids and quieter pools so they can gaze at this stunning view from below.

But I don’t notice the scenery when we first stand on the bank of the river and stare at the first set of rapids. I was watching a teenager flying off the black tube into the rock-studded frothy white waters. The same tubes we were holding in our hands. Why had I brought my children here? Where were the lifeguards?

The teenager scrambled back up on the tube and continued down the river with his friends.

“Awesome,” says my son. “Let’s go!”
“I’m scared,” says my daughter.
“Me too.” I say. But waivers have been signed, helmets and life jackets donned and the black inner tubes are in our hands.

That we could skip the first and largest rapid the teenager tumbled through is reassuring, but the sign about there being no exit points along the river isn’t. Once committed, you’re in for the ride.

“OK. Let’s do it!” I say, mustering as much enthusiasm as I can. My son is in the water in a flash, and I quickly push my daughter out before she changes her mind.

I do what every mom does. I worry.  Will they fall off? My son does fall off but gets back on. Generally, the water level is low - less than a foot in most places - so it’s actually quite safe, though you do have to be careful about the rocks. The most nerve-racking moment comes when my daughter gets stuck on the side of river, and though I try to get to her, the current carries me past her, down the second-biggest set of rapids.

I jump off the tube in mama-bear mode ready to make it upstream somehow. No sooner than I hit the water, I see her red hair and pink running shoes peeking out of a tube and as she comes closer, I see her smile stretching from ear to ear.

“That was epic,” she says.

“Let’s hold hands now,” I say as my heartbeat returns to normal.  As float together down the now peaceful Grand, I have to agree with my daughter; this is definitely better than any lazy resort river.

If you go:

Tubing: All tubers must pre-register at the Equipment Rental Concession prior to participating in activities. Open weekends only during May, June and September and daily from the last week of June to Labor Day. A shuttle bus service for transporting tubers is available only until 6PM during July and August. Call park office for current tubing conditions - 1-519-846-9742
Hours: 9AM – 7PM. Equipment can be rented until 5 PM.
Visit for more information.

Accommodation: Though easily a day trip, camping is available at the park itself, and also at nearby Highland Pines Campground, which has family-friendly cabins and cottages in additional to their campsite. (1-877-211-7044