Ohiopyle State Park is one of the most popular and unique state parks in the state of Pennsylvania. Located in the Laurel Highlands section of central PA, Ohiopyle is famous for its Frank Lloyd Wright homes, natural waterslides, and, of course, the Youghiogheny River that runs through it.
Three Different Sections of the Youghiogheny River
The Youghiogheny River is a short 134-mile long river flowing from the mountains in West Virginia and Maryland into the Monongahela, just east of Pittsburgh. The term “Youghioghny” stems from a local Lenape tribe word meaning “a stream flowing in a contrary direction”. When you see its path on a map, you’ll understand why. This river flows almost due north towards Pittsburgh.
– Upper Youghiogheny (Experts)
The most difficult of the three, the Upper Yough is only for advanced white water rafters. It isn’t actually in Ohiopyle either, as the start of the Upper section is 23 miles away in Friendsville, Maryland. This section of the river features 10 miles of steep, tight, and technical whitewater Class IV-V rapids.
– Middle Youghiogheny (Beginner)
The Middle Yough is the easiest of the three. If you are looking for a relaxed float down the river with the infrequent small rapids, this is the tour you should choose. Spanning 9 miles, this section of the river is considered a very mild adventure, with Class I and II rapids. Choose this option if you have children younger than 12 in your group.
– Lower Youghiogheny (Intermediate / Most Popular)
The Lower Yough is an intermediate section of the river, containing 7.5 miles of continuous Class III-IV rapids. This is the most popular section of the river, and one that even beginners can take thanks to the river guides.
The Lower Yough section runs from Ohiopyle to Bruner Run, and is the busiest whitewater trip east of the Mississippi River. Children 12-and-up can take this trip, which is the one we did with our 12-year-old.
|I||Easy||Mostly flat water with small waves and riffles. Suitable for beginners and families.|
|II||Novice||Straightforward channels with small to medium-sized waves. Some obstacles require basic maneuvering skills.|
|III||Moderate||Moderate waves, irregular currents, and larger obstacles. Requires experienced paddlers and better maneuvering abilities.|
|IV||Advanced||Powerful waves, turbulent water, and tight passages. Demands precise boat control and significant experience.|
|V||Expert||Long, violent rapids with difficult maneuvers. Technical and hazardous, requiring excellent skills and experience.|
Weather in Ohiopyle
The day my family went white water rafting in Ohiopyle, the weather was not good to say the least. It had thunderstormed the night before, and the clouds were gray and sprinkling. I thought this may end up ruining the event, but it didn’t – at all. You’re going to get wet regardless, so the fact that it was raining was not an issue. The high waters from the storms the night before made the rapids more exciting, but not any more dangerous. I think no matter if the river is high or low, or the weather is sunny or threatening rain, these trips will be a great time.
Choosing a White Water Rafting Company in Ohiopyle
I found four companies offering white water rafting in Ohiopyle State Park. They all launch from downtown Ohiopyle. Most of the companies below offer a mix of fully guided (with a guide in the raft with you), and partially guided (guide stays in a kayak beside your raft). The Upper Yough is the only section of the river that you are required to have a guide for. A few businesses offer rentals for taking the Middle or Lower sections yourself.
When my family and I went in July 2023, we chose White Water Adventurers. We took the chance because their reviews were fantastic, and they did not disappoint. The experience was incredible, and we intend to go again next year!
|Wilderness Voyageurs||Offers the traditional guided rafting tours as well as combo biking/rafting tour that includes time on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail.|
|White Water Adventurers||Offers guided (Upper & Lower) and partially guided tours (Middle). Rates are very similar to others on here, with weekday pricing being cheaper. Most tours are similar in length to others offered in the area, but WWA also has a “short session” that is only 1.5 miles/2 hours, instead of the 3-4 hour long trek.|
|Ohiopyle Trading Post||Has the typical fully guided and partially-guided tours. OTP also offers raft rentals for all sections of the river, including the unique Shredder, which is a pontoon-style 2-person boat.|
|Laurel Highlands River Tours||More expensive than the rest, but offers a more pampered experience. All tours include lunch and your choice of rafts, kayaks or paddle cats.|
|Upper Yough Expeditions||Only runs the Upper Yough trips, and is located in Friendsville, MD.|