A few weekends ago, I met up with my friends Bob Holliday and Bryan Mulvihill to kayak some rivers in southwestern Pennsylvania. This dry year has done little for those seeking whitewater.
Our first river is one of my favorites- the Stonycreek River. This river has enjoyed a rebirth of sorts. Efforts are underway to clean the ravages of acid mine drainage, trails are planned along the river corridor, and whitewater releases have begun from the Quemahoning Reservoir. For the paddler, the river is famous for its playwaves and one of the longest series of rapids in the east.
Although a release was planned on the weekend we were to go paddling, it was cancelled for repairs to the valve in the dam. Fortunately, there was enough rain from previous days to keep the river up. We put on by ourselves under beautiful sunny skies and made our way down the deep, swirling current that soon whisked us to the first rapids at Shade Creek.
Shade Creek was flowing good, pumping a lot of water into the Stony. We continued down the Stony with non-stop ledges and wave holes where we surfed a little. We saw one other paddler and talked to him for a little bit. We continued down the gorge by ourselves running rapid after rapid in a gorge of green trees, large boulders, and faint waterfalls cascading in from side streams.
We took a quick break at a low dam and I ran Pipeline Rapid just below on the left. The river soon brought us to the takeout where we relaxed and talked. Another paddler took out as well, and we gave him a ride to his car at the put-in.
The next day we drove down to the Casselman River. This river is more tame than the Stony as it flows through a beautiful wooded gorge. The famous Allegheny Passage Rail Trail follows the Casselman. At the put-in we elected to run a sidestream that was fairly high, it felt like a water bobsled run as we dodged rocks and boulders before joining the river.
The river was easy. After the first railroad bridge, it became a little more exciting with bouldery rapids and some nice waves. After the second railroad bridge there were several playwaves that were a joy to surf. There was even eddy service. We took out at a developed launch that even featured a stockade to change clothes.
Next was the famous Loop of the Lower Yough in Ohiopyle State Park. This is a paddler’s paradise with runnable flows almost all year long. The put in is right below the impressive Ohiopyle Falls. We began with a bang- Entrance Rapid with many waveholes and some pour-overs. This rapid often confuses me and I went too far right, went into a pour-over hole, and soon flipped after a desperate side surf. Two roll attempts followed and I soon swam. I self rescued my boat and Bob came by to help. I was on a rock surrounded by fast current; there was no way I could get in my boat. I pushed my boat across the current into an eddy and followed by swimming. I was soon back on the water.
We ran the rest of the rapids clean, including Cucumber and its surging wave train. We took out as it began to thunder and pour. Keeping our boats on our shoulders, we walked out on the rail trail back to the cars. A visit to the Falls Pub soon followed.
It was a great weekend of paddling on some beautiful rivers. When it is too hot to hike, the water is a fine substitute.
A few more pictures.