Running the Yough

 The author and his family on the Lower Yough this past July

Youghiogheny is Native American for “stream flowing in a contrary direction.” A tributary of the Monongahela River, the Yough (pronounced “Yock”) no doubt earned that distinction due to the windy south-to-north path it cuts from West Virginia through northwestern Maryland and about six miles into Southwestern Pennsylvania. 

The river has three distinct personalities, as I’m told by Jim Greenbaum, operations manager for White Water Adventurers. His outfit took me, my wife and our 13-year-old daughter down the river on an unseasonably cool July day. The rapids that flow north of Ohiopyle Falls in the center of town comprise what’s said to be the most popular whitewater trip east of the Mississippi River, enjoyed by over 250,000 people annually. The Lower Yough is an exhilarating Class III/IV stretch of river that’s totally manageable for novices. 

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Guides are highly recommended but, surprisingly, not required. Ours, a 20-year-old Texan by the name of Niles, made our jobs easy, keeping us headed in the right direction as we paddled or rested on command. The only swimming we did was on purpose in calmer areas. In summer, the water temp hovers in the low 60s, and the river is remarkably clean, given the heavy use it gets.  

Trips down the Lower Yough last about four hours. That may seem like a long time—and it did to my wife—but it actually goes by quickly. It includes a lunch stop on the banks of the Yough, and there are plenty of rapids to keep you occupied. 

Lower Yough graduates, 16 and older, can take on the Class V portion of the river just south of the Pennsylvania border in Maryland, where the river drops an average of 116 feet per mile through a breathless 22 rapids—versus the lower stretch’s 25 feet per mile. The much more placid Middle Yough is for floaters.

Trips offered April-October. $32-$160/person. 6 Negley St., Ohiopyle, (800) 992-7238.

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