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The Yough’s is controlled by a bottom-release dam upriver at Confluence, Pennsylvania. The bottom-release is good for trout, as it ensures cold water year round. The water flow is regulated, and it’s best to check a river flow web page before heading out (see this page for river levels). Two weeks earlier, we hiked past a raging Ohiopyle Falls. It was hard to believe it was the same river, as the flow was probably half of what we’d seen so recently.
Once out in the current, we quickly paddled to find the through-current and avoid the shoals and gravel bars. There are enough places to hang up or get dumped at low water to keep you focused on navigation. This thirteen-mile river trip is bordered on the river-left bank by the Youghiogheny River Trail (YRT), a 43-mile limestone surfaced trail built along the right-of-way of the defunct Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad between McKeesport and Connellsville in southwestern Pennsylvania. The YRT is a section of the Great Allegheny Passage, an improved surface trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. The YRT is a popular place to bicycle, hike, cross country ski, and horseback ride. You’ll find most activity near towns such as Connellsville, Perryopolis, and Ohiopyle. As we paddled downstream, we saw fewer and fewer people on the trail, and fewer and fewer houses.
There are several reminders of the valley’s industrial heritage along the way. Crumbling remnants of a brick factory, suspension bridge, coal and coke storage and shipment facilities, and rail services buildings line the riverside, slowly giving way to the forces of erosion and vegetation. The river-right bank is still the right of way for an active CSX rail line. Trains rumble by fairly regularly. Despite these reminders of human activity, progress downstream brings an ever-increasing sense of remoteness. The lack of roads, sheer cliffs on either side, and the rail right of ways have conspired to make this undesirable land for houses, farms, and business. Those same qualities make this a very desirable path for canoeists. There are enough riffles to keep things moving, and many swift and large fish flashing by just beneath the surface.
We were on the river 2 ½ hours, and took out at the Hazelbaker canoe grounds just before the bridge that leads to Perryopolis.
This is a good half-day float. We were doing the trip for a workout and to give my son some experience in the bow in a river with some class 1 riffles and some rocks. A more leisurely approach would be more in keeping with the nature of this stretch which has its share of flatwater (in ever-increasing amounts as you proceed downstream).