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Paddling Western Pennsylvania Waterways

Canoeing & Kayaking in Pittsburgh & Western PA


Kayaking in Pittsburgh's rivers

Duquesne University students kayaking along the Allegheny River with rented kayaks from Kayak Pittsburgh.

Photo Credit: Venture Outdoors
A great way to catch a break from Pennsylvania's hot summers is to take to the water. With over 54,000 miles of streams and rivers crisscrossing the state, the variety is impressive. Just imagine yourself sitting back and relaxing as you drift along in a canoe or kayak - a magnificent opportunity to observe wildlife, enjoy peaceful solitude, and lay back and really see the sky.

Ohiopyle, located in the Laurel Highlands about an hour southeast of downtown Pittsburgh, is the birthplace of whitewater paddling in this region and it remains a thrilling location for adventure. But the Youghiogheny, Conemaugh, Kiskiminetas, Allegheny, Clarion, Beaver, French Creek, Chartiers Creek, Slippery Rock Creek, and even the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers provide countless miles of flat and whitewater navigable by canoe and kayak for everyone from the beginner to the expert, with plenty of outfitters and liveries to help manage the trip.

Kayak Pittsburgh

Whether you're looking for a quick lunchtime paddle, or a unique view at downtown Pittsburgh from its rivers, Kayak Pittsburgh is the place to start. Located on Pittsburgh's North Shore, next to PNC Park (down the staircase to the riverfront under the Roberto Clemente bridge), Kayak Pittsburgh rents solo and tandem kayaks, plus canoes and hydrobikes from May through October. Head out on your own, or schedule a group tour, private lesson or jump into one of Venture Outdoors' specialty outings.

National & Wild Scenic Rivers

When you really want to get away, the northwestern region of Pennsylvania is blessed with two waterways designated as National Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Clarion and the middle Allegheny. The 51.7 mile undeveloped stretch of the Clarion river, from Ridgway in Elk County to the backwaters of the Piney Reservoir in Clarion County, meanders through narrow valleys of hardwood forests with numerous recreational and scenic segments. Wildlife, intermittent riffles, and rock outcrops provide constantly changing scenery. The Clarion, popular for family canoeing, also includes a nationally recognized area of virgin white pine and hemlock.

Alternatively, the middle Allegheny is one of the most popular canoeing areas in the country, especially during midsummer when many other popular creeks and rivers do not have enough flow to keep canoes afloat. Beginning at Kinzua Dam, this 85 miles section of river flows through areas of narrow forest valleys, wilderness islands, and scenic, rural panoramas. Pennsylvania's Oil Heritage Region, well known for its colorful history and many historical attractions, is located along the southern half of the river route, while bald eagles can often be spotted between the Kinzua Dam and Warren, PA.

For a true 'wilderness' experience, plan a multi-day trip and camp overnight on one of the islands designated by Congress in 1986 as the Allegheny Islands Wilderness (yes, we actually have a national wilderness area in western PA). Seven islands in the middle of the Allegheny offer remote canoeing and back-county camping.

River Trips & Tours

Another great way to experience western Pennsylvania's scenic rivers is to participate in one of the many river sojurns sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR). These educational, multi-day canoeing and float trips have been organized throughout Pennsylvania and along many of its riverways since the 1980's. They are held in warm weather months and most occur during June - 'Rivers Month' in Pennsylvania.

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