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Whitewater Boating

Whitewater boating is permitted on Slippery Rock Creek. Slippery Rock Creek is a Class II to IV river, depending on the water level. Whitewater craft are not available for rent in the park.

Spring and fall are the best times for boating.

Boaters generally start from Rose Point (US 422 bridge) outside of the park boundary and finish at Eckert Bridge, covering 2.5 miles with a mandatory portage around the dam at the Old Mill. From the Eckert Bridge, boaters can extend their trip an additional 3.5 miles to the Harris Bridge. The total trip from Rose Point to Harris Bridge is approximately 6 miles.

All whitewater boaters on Slippery Rock Creek enter at their own risk. They must learn to recognize natural dangers and understand that injury and death are a possibility when boating.

CAUTION: It is illegal to “run” the dam. Boaters must stay at least 50 feet downstream of the boil at the base of the dam.

Before attempting a river trip on Slippery Rock Creek, boaters should know:

  • Only those properly equipped, trained, and experienced should consider whitewater boating.
  • All watercraft must be of a design intended for whitewater use.
  • Inflatable watercraft must be at least eight feet long.
  • Boating must be in accordance with the American Whitewater Affiliation Safety Code.
  • Inner tubes and air mattresses are prohibited.
  • All boaters must wear U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices at all times.
  • Helmets are strongly recommended.

Complete information on boating rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The Safety Code of American Whitewater provides useful safety information.

rules and regulations

Title 17, Chapter 11, Section 11.220, Whitewater Boating

General requirements. The following rules apply to persons using watercraft at Ohiopyle State Park, Lehigh Gorge State Park, or McConnells Mill State Park.

  • Wear an appropriate-sized United States Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device, Type I, III, or V.
  • Use one of the following types of watercraft in addition to complying with specific watercraft requirements in subsections (c)--(e):
    • Noninflatable watercraft that is designed by the manufacturer for whitewater use. Noninflatable canoes and noninflatable kayaks shall have sufficient flotation to ensure that they will float when they are completely full of water.
    • Inflatable watercraft that has multiple air chambers of a tough durable construction intended for whitewater use, consists of a tough laminated material, and is of commercial grade. The multiple air chambers shall be in the outside tube.
    • Other nonmotorized watercraft approved by the Department.

General prohibitions. The following are prohibited at Ohiopyle State Park, Lehigh Gorge State Park, and McConnells Mill State Park:

  • Using motorized watercraft.
  • Using watercraft in a manner that endangers a person or property.
  • Using a nonwatercraft device, such as an inner tube, body board, surfboard, or air mattress. These devices may be used at Lehigh Gorge State Park when the flow rate of the Lehigh River is less than 250 cubic feet per second. Children 12 years of age and under shall wear a United States Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device when engaged in this activity.
  • Possessing or using a glass container.

McConnells Mill State Park. Inflatable watercraft used on Slippery Rock Creek at McConnells Mill State Park shall be at least 8 feet long and have an outside tube diameter of at least 14 inches. This requirement does not apply to inflatable canoes and inflatable kayaks.

International Scale of River Difficulty

The classes below are the American version of the rating system used throughout the world. This system is not exact. Rivers do not always fit easily into one category and there may be regional interpretations. This information is from American Whitewater.

Class I: Easy -- Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Self-rescue is easy.

Class II: Novice -- Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers.

Class III: Intermediate -- Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges is often required. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can occur.

Class IV: Advanced -- Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. May be large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. Rapids require “must” moves above dangerous hazards. Self-rescue is difficult.