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White Water Adventurers hosted me for a day of rafting on the Youghiogheny River, but all opinions are my own. For more information on sponsored posts (and how I only recommend what I truly love), visit my Work with Me page.
A Note Before We Start
It is worth remembering the Indigenous Peoples who were the original stewards of this beautiful land. I don’t feel qualified to explain the hundreds of years of history in this area, but the best research I could find says that Ohiopyle and Youghiogheny are based on Lenape words. Here is an article from Pittsburgh’s NPR station that recounts some of the Indigenous history of the area. Interested in getting involved or learning more about the current day Indigenous folks in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area – check out the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center.
You know that feeling when you’re on a roller coaster and you’ve heard the last click, signaling the top of the climb? That split second pause when you’re questioning why you ever thought this was a good idea and suddenly that is wiped from your mind by the free fall. (Am I the only one who spends that pause in existential crisis? Maybe you’re braver and spend that pause in electric excitement. Either way.) Even though white water rafting does not include a slow climb accompanied by a metronome-style clicking, I felt that same pause between when I saw the first wave and the moment it actually hit the boat. Although I felt the same original moment of hesitation, I can unequivocally say that rafting is way more fun than a roller coaster.
I had always assumed that white water rafting was something they only did in the Western United States. Colorado, maybe. But not in my home state of Pennsylvania. However, after doing some research on activities available in PA, I kept seeing rafting as an option. It took a few lists and articles raving about rafting to convince me that it was something I should actually try.
Regardless of the industry, I am always on the lookout for a locally owned company and rafting was no exception. White Water Adventurers stood out to me because their story is one of a generations long love of the environment and an expanding business that continues to serve the local community and visitors to the area. While I don’t want to downplay how smooth the booking process was and the helpful girls behind the kiosk who managed check-in, Alex and I agree that there was one factor that took our trip was very good to great. Our rafting guide, Jake.
Granted, I’ve only been rafting with him once, but I am willing to bet that Jake screams, wahoos, yells, and exclaims his way through every trip he guides, simply because his love of rafting cannot be contained. (I don’t think it’s an act, but on the minuscule chance that it is, he deserves a freaking Oscar.) With long curly hair, more jokes than any one has the time (or patience) to listen to, and an inexhaustible supply of energy, his attitude made any nerves I had seem not only illogical, but also unnecessary. How could I be even a little bit afraid when I had a constant refrain of joy and confidence sounding just over my right shoulder? Obviously, the answer is that I couldn’t be.
I’ll be honest-I definitely overthought my outfit, but that was because I was so concerned about wearing clothes that would be comfortable wet and not getting sunburnt. While I knew I would get wet no matter what, I really did not want to get sunburnt. Of course, the normal way to avoid getting burnt is to slather on some sunscreen and not forget to reapply.
However, I figured that water would make sunscreen mostly moot, so wearing more clothing than would normally be necessary for 80 degree weather seemed like the best option. Aside from the fact that I unintentionally (and probably foolishly) chose all black, I basically looked like I was headed out for a run in stretchy capris, a wicking workout shirt, and sneakers.
I was also worried about potential chafing from the wet life jacket, so I made sure to pick a shirt with sleeves. Based on how many people had on tank tops, bathing suits, or, in the case of some men, no shirts on at all, chafing doesn’t seem to be a concern. However, the water was chilly, so once waves started splashing up the sides of the boat, I was comfortable. (And only had just the slightest hint of a sunburn by the end of the day!) Looking back, I didn’t need to worry quite that much about what to wear. As long as you dress within reason, you’ll be fine.
Even though I was nervous, and had a moment, right at the beginning, where I questioned what I’d gotten myself into, I would absolutely recommend rafting to other newbies, like me. There were plenty of other inexperienced rafters on our trip and having so many other boats out (and eyes watching), I felt confident that there was nothing that could happen on the river that the guides weren’t prepared for.
The only thing I would change is that, in the interest of exploring the wider area, we actually didn’t stay in Ohiopyle. Between rafting, all of the hiking trails, a local waterfalls, and the natural water slide, I didn’t realize how much there was to see and I wish we had stayed closer (or actually in town). Based on the amount of summer traffic and visitors, I think that biking around town may actually be your best option. (We tried to go to the natural water slide and I ended up having to back out of the very overcrowded parking lot and got yelled at by at least one other driver.)
Lucky for you, White Water Adventures also rents bikes and has a little motel, so they could be your one stop shop for the main logistics of your weekend. We only rafted with them, so I can’t speak to the quality of the other operations, but I feel confident that experiences would be similar across the board. Maybe our next trip will be biking and staying with them!
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Hi, I'm Dylan, a photographer in the Philadelphia Metro Area. I love iced coffee, red wine, and am always up for binging Gilmore Girls or Parks and Rec..