Begin Main Content Area

Whitewater Boating at Ohiopyle State Park

The Youghiogheny River has exciting whitewater boating for all experience levels. Only sturdily constructed rafts, kayaks, and closed-deck canoes intended for whitewater use may be used in the river.

Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) are required to be worn at all times while boating on any portion of the river. Helmets are required while boating on the Lower Youghiogheny River.

Water levels can change the river difficulty class. Current Youghiogheny River water levels are available online from the United States Geological Survey.

All whitewater boaters on the Youghiogheny must learn to recognize natural dangers and understand that injury and death are a possibility when boating the Youghiogheny.

Safety information is available from the Safety Code of American Whitewater.

Rafting on the Lower Yough

The famous Lower Yough begins after the Ohiopyle Falls and flows seven miles downstream to the Bruner Run Take-out. This is the busiest section of whitewater east of the Mississippi River.

The numerous class III and IV rapids make for exciting rafting that should only be attempted by experienced whitewater boaters.

The natural river environment contains undercut rocks, ledges, and swift currents.

Inexperienced whitewater boaters should run this section of the river on a guided raft trip with an authorized concessionaire.

Rafting on the Middle Yough

The Middle Yough begins at the Ramcat Put-in near Confluence and ends near the town of Ohiopyle.

This section contains class I and II rapids and is ideal for beginning whitewater kayakers or experienced canoeists.

Families often raft this section because it provides thrilling rapids at normal river levels.

Guided Trips

Guided trips are available from licensed commercial outfitters that provide rafts, guides, all necessary safety equipment and transportation to and from the river.

The following is a list of licensed, commercial outfitters currently operating on the Youghiogheny River:

Laurel Highlands River Tours
4 Sherman Street, Ohiopyle, PA 15470
800-4-RAFTIN (800-472-3846)

Ohiopyle Trading Post and River Tours
4 Negley Street, Ohiopyle, PA 15470
888-OHIOPYLE (888-644-6795)

White Water Adventurers
6 Negley Street, Ohiopyle, PA 15470
800-WWA-RAFT (800-992-7238)

Wilderness Voyageurs
103 Garrett Street, Ohiopyle, PA 15470

Private Trips

Only non-powered boats are permitted on the Youghiogheny River within Ohiopyle State Park. Equipment rentals are available in the town of Ohiopyle through any of the licensed outfitters.

Inexperienced boaters should not attempt the Youghiogheny River without qualified guides.

All private boaters must comply with all DCNR Whitewater Boating Rules and Regulations stated in Pennsylvania Code Title 17 Chapter 11 Section 11.220.

No shuttle service will be provided on weekdays. Bruner gate will be open during the week, Monday to Friday.

Launch Tickets and Registration

Between the second weekend in April and Columbus Day, those boating the Lower Youghiogheny River (class III+) must obtain a launch ticket at the launch window located on the lower level of the Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitor Center/Ohiopyle State Park Office.

A fee is charged for all launch tickets on weekends and holidays.

Over the Falls

Private Boater Falls Access Guidelines

  1. Prior to launching for each falls run, all boaters must register at the Lower Youghiogheny Launch Window on SR 381, unless otherwise posted. A launch permit, governed by the park’s established launch quota system, is required during applicable periods. Boaters may register for more than one run at a time.

  2. Water Level must be below 1.9 feet on the USGS Gage at the Lower Youghiogheny Launch in Ohiopyle. Although the gage can be read to the hundredths, for the purposes of falls access only the tenth’s column will be calculated. (1.89 would be considered as 1.8)

  3. Using the Lower Youghiogheny Launch to take-out is prohibited. The falls becomes the first rapid in the loop and boaters shall continue down river and take-out either at the Loop Take-Out on Ferncliff or Bruner Run Take-Out.

  4. Runs over the falls will be permitted: April 1st through the weekend before Thanksgiving with the last permit issued or sold prior to end of the posted office hours. Last run of the falls must be made so that boaters will be off the river prior to sunset.

  5. Access (put-in) will be from the river right shore only (Ferncliff side). Boaters access the river right put in via Ferncliff trail. The put-in is marked with a sign and is located downstream of the buoy line anchor points. Access will be prohibited from the Falls Day-Use Area (river left) except during Falls Running Events governed by Special Activities Agreements.

  6. Boaters are prohibited from running Ohiopyle Falls alone (solo boater/party of one). Minimum group size is three. 2nd or 3rd boaters do not have to run the falls and is/are included for the minimum group size for providing safety from shore (above or below) or boat (below) the falls. Shore safeties shall wear a PFD, helmet and have a throw bag to effectively execute a rescue.

  7. Only single and double occupancy kayaks and canoes designed and fully outfitted for whitewater use are permissible. Unguided Liveries/Rental Craft are prohibited. Rafts are prohibited.

  8. Boaters may scout the falls from beyond the warning signs during open hours but must wear PFD and helmet at all times.

Rafting Photographs

Photographs of private boaters are taken on both the Lower and Middle Youghiogheny.

Pictures can be viewed and purchased online or in person at Ohiopyle Photography, located next to the Lower Youghiogheny Launch.

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.

Rapids are classified by American Whitewater as:

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. There 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.