On Sunday afternoon, April 2nd we decided to take advantage of the warming weather and get some river miles under our hull. We had been practicing on local lakes, but that quickly gets dull. The Youghiogheny (Or Yough as its known locally) has a well-deserved reputation for its whitewater stretches, but today we would be on the less-traveled lower section from Connellsville to Perryopolis. We put in at the riverside park in Connellsville under blue skies. After one last equipment check we pushed off into the flow.
The Youghs is controlled by a bottom-release dam upriver at Confluence, Pennsylvania. The bottom-release is good for trout, as it ensures cold water year round. The water flow is regulated, and its best to check a river flow web page before heading out (see this page for river levels). Two weeks earlier, we hiked past a raging Ohiopyle Falls. It was hard to believe it was the same river, as the flow was probably half of what wed seen so recently.
Once out in the current, we quickly paddled to find the through-current and avoid the shoals and gravel bars. There are enough places to hang up or get dumped at low water to keep you focused on navigation. This thirteen-mile river trip is bordered on the river-left bank by the Youghiogheny River Trail (YRT), a 43-mile limestone surfaced trail built along the right-of-way of the defunct Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad between McKeesport and Connellsville in southwestern Pennsylvania. The YRT is a section of the Great Allegheny Passage, an improved surface trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. The YRT is a popular place to bicycle, hike, cross country ski, and horseback ride. Youll find most activity near towns such as Connellsville, Perryopolis, and Ohiopyle. As we paddled downstream, we saw fewer and fewer people on the trail, and fewer and fewer houses.
There are several reminders of the valleys industrial heritage along the way. Crumbling remnants of a brick factory, suspension bridge, coal and coke storage and shipment facilities, and rail services buildings line the riverside, slowly giving way to the forces of erosion and vegetation. The river-right bank is still the right of way for an active CSX rail line. Trains rumble by fairly regularly. Despite these reminders of human activity, progress downstream brings an ever-increasing sense of remoteness. The lack of roads, sheer cliffs on either side, and the rail right of ways have conspired to make this undesirable land for houses, farms, and business. Those same qualities make this a very desirable path for canoeists. There are enough riffles to keep things moving, and many swift and large fish flashing by just beneath the surface.
We were on the river 2 hours, and took out at the Hazelbaker canoe grounds just before the bridge that leads to Perryopolis.
This is a good half-day float. We were doing the trip for a workout and to give my son some experience in the bow in a river with some class 1 riffles and some rocks. A more leisurely approach would be more in keeping with the nature of this stretch which has its share of flatwater (in ever-increasing amounts as you proceed downstream).
Youghiogheny River Trail on river left with infrequent facilities. Plan on carrying water, food for this trip.
PA Fish & Boat commission sticker on canoe/kayak
From Pittsburgh: South on route 119 to Connellsville. Follow YRT (Youghiogheny River Trail) signs to riverside park.
Delorme PA Gazeteer; Google Earth