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Paddling the Confluence: A Beginner’s Guide To Paddling The Youghiogheny River

Photo captured by Photographer Alex Byers @alexeditsphotos

If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the hunt for your next epic adventure. Recently, I took a trip to Confluence, PA, and discovered the incredible paddleboarding and kayaking opportunities on the Youghiogheny River.

Here’s the scoop on how to make the most of your paddle trip, from where to start and rent your gear to some handy tips. And if you want all this info at your fingertips, grab my Google Map of Pennsylvania. It’s packed with everything you need to explore the great PA outdoors, including the best hiking trails, cozy stays, stunning viewpoints, local restaurant recommendations, and more! 

Interested in maps for other states? Check them out here.

Starting Point: Confluence, PA

Confluence, PA, is your gateway to some of the best paddle experiences around. “The Confluence” is located about 10 minutes away from Ohiopyle State Park, the heart of the Youghiogheny River and the host of all of your rental and rafting dreams. 

Whether you’re in the mood for a chill day on the water or a more adventurous outing, this place has you covered. You can choose between mild, flat waters perfect for a relaxed paddle or venture into the nationally renowned Middle Youghiogheny in Ohiopyle State Park, which offers a mix of gentle drifts and a peppering of whitewater.

Where We Rented Our Gear

We kicked-off our adventure at Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle, where we rented our paddleboards. Even though we had our own boards, it was our first time navigating this section of the river, so we thought it best to consult the experts.

You can rent paddleboards for $35 per day. Rental includes paddle and lifejacket. Reservations are recommended. You can pick up your board at our Ohiopyle Outfitter Store, adjacent to the railroad tracks. You will need tie-down straps if transporting on roof racks. 

I would highly recommend renting from Wilderness Voyageurs. Their staff was super helpful and pointed us toward the best spots for beginners. Their paddleboards are inflatable so you can inflate them once you get to your destination, or you can have them inflate them for you on-site, which will save an arm workout. 

If you are staying near the Confluence and looking for something a little closer – Riversport is on the bike trail, next to Lucky Dog Cafe. They also rent rafts, SUP boards, canoes, and recreation kayaks for the Middle Yough float trip. They also have bike rentals and a whitewater retail shop.

Photo captured by Photographer Alex Byers @alexeditsphotos

Paddle Options For Beginners

Upper Youghiogheny Dam Paddle:

If you’re just looking to get out on the water and enjoy a laid-back day, the upper dam section (Yough Lake) is ideal. You’ll drop in above the dam, and this area is boat-friendly, so expect to share the water with boaters, jet-skiers, and other lake-goers. 

The best part? You can paddle around and return to the same spot, making it super convenient to park your car at the dock and head back when you’re done.

Lower Dam to Ramcat Access Point:

For a slightly more adventurous paddle, drop in below the Confluence Dam and ride the river’s flow for about 2 miles until you reach the Ramcat Access Point.

This is the paddleboard trip we did in partnership with Go Laurel Highlands and the one that was recommended to us.  

Heads up, though—there’s little to no cell service, so make sure to walk down to the river at the Ramcat Access Point beforehand to familiarize yourself with the exit spot.

This route is perfect if you want stunning views and a more secluded experience. The only con about this paddle trip is that you will need two cars (one at Ramcat and one at the access point) or a ride back to the starting point since this isn’t a place where you can call an Uber or shuttle.

Our Experience

I would consider my partner, Ara, and me beginner to intermediate paddleboarders. Like we can stand up gracefully, but don’t put us on white water. In saying that, we had no trouble navigating the river.  The only downside was the need for two cars, but it’s totally worth it for the experience.

This route is also perfect for a friends’ float trip. Grab a few river rafts, a cooler with some brews, and float down the river for a couple of miles. 

Photo captured by Photographer Alex Byers @alexeditsphotos

Pro Tips

  • Check the Area: Before starting your paddle, check out the Ramcat Access Point so you know where to exit.
  • Ask the Locals: If you have any questions, stop by Wilderness Voyageurs or another local outlet. The locals are friendly and always willing to help.
  • Safety First: Always carry a lifejacket and know your limits, especially if you’re a beginner.

Paddle Options For the Thrill-Seekers

The lower Youghiogheny, just 11 miles west, is for those chasing big whitewater thrills. While I haven’t tried paddling whitewater myself, there are guided whitewater rafting trips available for those who want to experience the adrenaline rush safely.

Must-have Gear

I’ve linked my locker with all my must-have water essentials and favorite gear for paddleboarding and kayaking. Check it out if you need to gear up for your trip!

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your paddleboard or kayak and head to Confluence for an unforgettable adventure on the Youghiogheny River.

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