As was said, just about any boat will do for the Lower Youghiogheny as long as you are comfortable in it.
If you are just starting out, a general river runner probably makes the most sense. The Jackson Zen, Wave Sport Diesel, Liquid Logic Remix, Pyranha Karnali are all excellent options. I agree that the Karnali sounds like a good deal, and if you are comfortable in the boat I would probably go for it.
The first time or two you run the LY you want to be with someone who knows the river. Once you are past the first 1.25 miles (the "Loop") you are largely committed to running the rest of the river. If you are near the Youghiogheny, you are also relatively close to the Slippery Rock Creek which is about 30-45 min north of Pittsburgh and you will definitely want to give that a try.
I agree that at "normal" flow the LY does not have anything that would rate the modern definition of Class IV but it certainly has a number of good Class III rapids and some might rate a Class III+ (River's End, for example). When levels get up around 4' the river becomes a Class IV.
One can argue which is the hardest rapid on the LY. I suspect most would agree the hardest are Entrance, Cucumber, and River's End. No particular move on Entrance is difficult, but it is a rather long, somewhat technical rapid, and a swim there can be a lousy start to your day. Cucumber is the most powerful rapid on the LY but is relatively short. River's End requires you to know where you want to go and be able to drive your boat there.
In addition to those, Dimple gives some folks anxiety, probably because a half dozen folks have drowned there, but it is technically easier than the above three. It does require timing and the ability to move your boat across current, however. And there are plenty of other rapids (including Railroad, Bottle of Wine, Double Hydraulic) which can separate you from your boat if you don't know the lines.
Slippery Rock Creek, or the "Slip" is a bit more technical than the LY but you can certainly run it in any boat you use for the LY. It is a wonderful and beautiful Class II-III run that you won't want to miss when the water level permits.
I would suggest you consider joining the Three Rivers Paddling Club centered in the Pittsburgh area: http://threeriverspaddlingclub.com/Wordpress/
Not only is this a good way to meet boaters in your area, the TRPC offers weekend instruction to boaters of any level twice a year. In early June, the Slip Clinic is held on the Slippery Rock Creek. In early August the Turkey Bash is held on the Youghiogheny.
Deck Rigging Gear
Cartop Kayak Carriers
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