The Middle Youghiogheny

Class 2 in South-Central Pennsylvania

by Phillip Sego

A family reunion brought me to West Virginia in July. Visions of pristine wild rivers danced in my mind - rugged mountains, tall hickory and cherry trees. I hit the web in order to find a nice day trip neat the PA-WV border.

A few realities began to set in. This area, while far from unpopulated, has little web presence. It took a few hours, and advice from an internet discussion group, to track down two candidates. I settled on the Youghiogheny (aka "Yough" pronounced Yawk) after reading Gorp's enticing description.

Finding an outfitter was another task. The town of Ohiopyle, PA has a gaggle of outfitters all in a row, located at the falls. I settled on Wilderness Voyageurs.

The put in

There were six of us - all family members including my partner Susan. I had - by far - the most experience. The others claimed some moving water knowledge. We put in among a crowd of rafters, shoved off, and immediately hit a train of class 1 and 2 rapids.

As you can imagine, those who had 'some' moving water experience' were completely overwhelmed by the river. It was only about 2 feet deep, and moving nicely (3-4mph). Obstacles were easy to see, and my river map showed straight paths thru the middle of the river - only about 20 yards wide. Susan and I had no problem scooting around the rocks. But one of my cousins, Selena - in the stern with her 14-year old daughter - was in trouble. Not life threatening yet, but it was clearly going to be a long and possibly wet day for them. After 3 sets of rapids, we held a little conference and decided to make the swaps; Susan bravely volunteering to take the stern of Selena's boat, and Selena switching to bow. Note that Susan had only paddled stern on flatwater, but has been out on class 1+ with me repeatedly. She could read the water and keep the boat straight, and did so with absolute perfection. Clayton, my other cousin, was doing great with his daughter. I now ran stern with Emily, my cousin's daughter, a champion swimmer at her high school, with incredibly strong paddling muscles.

We spent the rest of the rapids dodging the bigger boulders, zigzagging around to find fast water, and watching gorgeous scenery. The surrounding mountains are steep, and completely covered in tall maple and hickory trees. There is no development on this section of the river, just a few fisherman to dodge. The river is also sparking clean.

This section, rated class 1-2, was fairly easy, There were a few playspots, a couple of fun drops, and not too many other folks. There are two groups of rapids, the one as we immediately got on the river, and then an hour of quickwater with riffles, then a few class 2 drops and rock gardens.

At one point, we got hung up on a ledge, the kind that you KNOW that getting out of the boat is a stupid idea, and that you'll die of old age if you don't. After ten minutes of being a human body-hammer against their styrofoam flotation while Emily low braced, we succeeded in forcing the boat off the ledge. I'm sure glad it wasn't my boat.

There are about 10 rapids altogether. They're all easy to read, with obstacles easy to avoid. It took us about 2 hours to run the 10 mile stretch. The trip was perfect, despite the rough start.

Other sections of the river are more challenging. These are listed at Gorp (address below). The series of sections would make a great weekend!

Gorp's Section on the Yough

Wilderness Voyageurs  800-272-4141 Note that these folks are primarily a rafting outfitter. They kept us waiting an interminably long time while they got a group of 30 kids trained in sitting in their rafts. If you use them, I would be clear that you don't want to stay for the rap. They also only had 55" and 58" paddles.

Rapids map



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