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Paddling the “Yough” or Youghiogheny River system

We spent 4 days hanging out around the Youghiogheny River┬ábasin in early September and had a great time exploring the area. It was definitely too short of a visit and we’ll need to come again to really explore all that the Laurel Highlands area provides (paddling, biking, hiking etc.).

The Youghiogheny River has four different sections – the TOP, the UPPER, the MIDDLE and the LOWER (which has a subsection called the FALLS which is within the LOOP). The TOP and UPPER are located in Maryland and the MIDDLE and LOWER are in Pennsylvania. The two sections in Virginia are class IV+, the MIDDLE is class II and the LOWER is a class II/III run (excluding the falls, which would count at III+).

We paddled the UPPER section on our first day – nothing like jumping right back into class IV creeking after being in play boats for three months! Everyone wore their full face helmets and elbow pads and we were pretty glad to have them. Lots of rocks, tight slots and boofs were the general theme. Once you got in the groove it was pretty fun and certainly a beautiful river. This run is based on a dam release so be sure to check the schedule. Total paddle time was about 3 hours, with the put in being at the end of a country road with a nice park and the take out is a spacious parking lot on the edge of Friendsville, MD. There are some great food and beer stands right up the road to be sure to stick around and check them out.

One of the highlights of the weekend was hanging out with a bunch of amazing paddling kids that Hunter met through Keeners this summer. It is so great to spend time with likeminded families and have other kids to support and challenge Hunter with his kayaking.

Our second day we paddled the Lower section, which starts right below the falls in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. It is quite different from the Upper section as this is where the commercial rafting runs primarily go. It was also our first experience with having to pay a river access fee and being given a “time slot” to run the river! It definitely felt a bit overwhelming to start with.

The Falls themselves can only be run at certain water levels and unfortunately it wasn’t in the sweet spot while we were there. This run is not release dependant so you can paddle it on most days.

 

The lower section is a straight forward class 3 run full of fun slots and rock splats – definitely a play boat kind of place!

If you are pressed for time, just run the loop section of the lower run. It covers about 75% of the rapids and the take out is less than a km from the put in so it’s an easy walk – either to do another lap or back to your car.

We definitely recommend this area for paddling and outdoor families. We stayed at the Ohiopyle State Park Campground and definitely recommend it – big clean wooded sites with hiking and biking trails right there and it is half way between the put in and take out for the lower section. There are hiking and biking trails that follow the river and are very scenic.