Boating and Paddling

With lakes that stretch to Canada and thousands of miles worth of flowing rivers and streams, western Pennsylvania provides endless opportunities for boaters. Take a canoe down the National Wild and Scenic Allegheny River, float a raft through a series of whitewater rapids on the Youghiogheny, sail across Lake Arthur, or paddle a sea kayak out to the Lake Erie Islands. The city waters of the Three Rivers provide kayakers and rowers the pleasure of capturing Pittsburgh's skyline from an enlightening new perspective.

The Explorers Club of Pittsburgh has been on the water since...well, for a very long time! Rumor has it that ECP members used to make whitewater boats out of wood and other pre-plastic materials and run them down the Yough. They would trash up their boats and spend the next week repairing them for another run the following weekend. Now that's dedication to a sport!

Use the links on the menu below to navigate around the paddling pages for information about these activities, links to other resources, contact information for activity coordinators, and upcoming paddling events.

Flatwater Canoeing & Kayaking | Whitewater Kayaking | Sea Kayaking | Rafting | Sailing | Rowing | ^Back to Top^

Flatwater Canoeing & Kayaking

Current Coordinator(s): Tony and Ginette Vinski

Shallow, slow moving rivers and forest-bound secluded lakes make up a significant portion of Western PA's navigable waterways, providing vast playgrounds for canoes and recreational kayaks. These flatwater fields are the perfect setting for beginner paddling instruction, family gatherings and floating picnics. Many children are introduced to the outdoors by way of Pennsylvania's calm waters.

Canoes are great boats for calm waters. They are readily available for rental at local liveries, they are fairly stable for inexperienced paddlers, and they are roomy enough to accommodate several people and gear. There are many variations of canoes. Click here to get to more information than you ever wanted to know!

"I know what a canoe is, but what is a recreational kayak? Aren't kayaks scary?"

Recreational kayaks are 14 feet or less in length and are made for calm water - near shore. They generally have a large open cockpit, so you'll slide right out if you tip over. They typically do not have floatation bulkheads or a rudder, and they may or may not have hatches to store gear. Recreational kayaks are meant for gentle rivers and lakes during mild weather. They're rather inexpensive compared to sea kayaks. These kayaks have good initial stability and can be handled by most anyone.

Canoe and Kayak Resources

State Boating Links

Local Flatwater

Flatwater Canoeing & Kayaking | Whitewater Kayaking | Sea Kayaking | Rafting | Sailing | Rowing | ^Back to Top^

Whitewater Kayaking

Current Coordinator(s): Barry Adams

Pennsylvania and West Virginia showcase many whitewater highways, from Slippery Rock Creek down to the New River! As such, Pittsburgh has a strong and growing whitewater kayaking community. The Youghiogheny, the Tygart, and the Cheat rivers, as well as many smaller streams and tributaries in between, fill out the vast array of Class II-V run-worthy rapids in this area. If your adventurous side beckons for the white-capped waters, then you need to get in contact with the members of this community, take advantage of the numerous training opportunities in the area, and jump on an introductory float down a beginner rapid like the Middle Yough.

Like sea kayaking, rafting and rowing, the ECP leverages a fellow club for whitewater kayaking skills, knowledge, training, and trip planning. Generally speaking, most ECP whitewater enthusiasts are also members of the local Three Rivers Paddling Club (TRPC), which specializes in whitewater paddling.

Rocky Mountain Kayaks is a formidable whitewater resource, providing invaluable instruction on the Ohiopyle loop (Lower Yough) most weekends throughout the paddling season. Visit the website (below) for more information.

Barry Adams, the current ECP whitewater coordinator, is also an active member of the TRPC. Barry is involved with the American Whitewater organization and also organizes and hosts the annual "Ohiopyle Over the Falls" event (see link below) - the only time of year when the state permits the running of the 18 ft. Ohiopyle falls!

NOTE: Whitewater kayaking should not be attempted alone or without proper training. Know your limits and contact the current whitewater coordinator to connect you with the proper training opportunities.

Whitewater Kayaking Resources

Flatwater Canoeing & Kayaking | Whitewater Kayaking | Sea Kayaking | Rafting | Sailing | Rowing | ^Back to Top^

Sea Kayaking

Current Coordinator(s): vacant (seeking volunteers)

Sea Kayaking is the more traditional form of kayaking that was used by the Inuit hunters of the north. The skill set is not simpler than that used in whitewater kayaking, but it is more forgiving - you can reenter a flipped boat at your leisure or learn to roll effectively. Sea kayaks are longer and narrower providing great speed and sea worthiness in rough seas. They also have the space needed for longer self contained touring. One can cover 15 – 20 miles in one day without much stress and easily cover 25 or more miles if needed at 3 to 4 miles per hour. Over the centuries, Inuit hunters from Greenland have shown up in England when storms took them off shore. Inuit escaping from the Russians have also made story escapes and shown up 90 miles away within 24 hours. A rich heritage awaits the Sea Kayaker who is interested in both the history and the art of Sea Kayaking.

In our local area, sea kayaks can be used on flat rivers and lakes - virtually anywhere that recreational kayaks and canoes are comfortable. However, destinations which are further away offer better sea kayaking adventures. The Great Lakes and the Outer Banks of North Carolina are popular and worthwhile sea kayaking destinations.

For Sea Kayaking trips and training, the ECP partners with a local club called Outside Adventures (link below). They own a fleet of sea kayaks, schedule a full calendar of trips, and offer regular introductory and advanced training sessions on local water. ECP members can take advantage of the Outside Adventures "membership rate" for any trips which are cross-posted on the ECP Event Calendar.

Sea Kayaking Resources

Destination Info


Flatwater Canoeing & Kayaking | Whitewater Kayaking | Sea Kayaking | Rafting | Sailing | Rowing | ^Back to Top^


Current Coordinator(s): Gary McCormick

This part of the country showcases multiple opportunities for riding an untamed river by raft. The Youghiogheny, the Cheat, the Lehigh and Pine Creek are all dripping with rafting experiences! Based on skill level, one can find rafting-friendly waters ranging from Class II through Class V+ within a couple hour's drive of Pittsburgh. Local outfitters offering equipment, training, and guides are located near all of these whitewater destinations.

The Explorers Club of Pittsburgh has been floating the whitecapped waterways for the majority of its 50 year history. The club currently owns several rafts, paddles, pumps and drybags which are available for rent. Our strong relationship with the Three Rivers Paddling Club (TRPC) and its members is also evident within the rafting element. There are typically one or two ECP/TRPC joint rafting trips planned every year. Contact the current rafting coordinator for more information.

NOTE: Whitewater rafting, like many of the other activities in the club, involves serious risk and should not be attempted without an experienced guide or leader.

Local Rafting Destinations


Rafting Resources

Flatwater Canoeing & Kayaking | Whitewater Kayaking | Sea Kayaking | Rafting | Sailing | Rowing | ^Back to Top^


Current Coordinator(s): Bill Baxter and Jeff Baxter

Have you ever wanted to test your skills at propelling a small watercraft using nothing but the wind that mother nature has to offer? Consider taking a drive up to Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park to try your hand at running, reaching or beating; or spending a weekend on Lake Pymatuning to practice your tacking. Find a small, shallow lake to learn how to right your purposely capsized vessel. We are fortunate to have numerous sailing opportunities in the many lakes within Western Pennsylvania and the tri-state area.

The ECP sailing program is currently being revised to illuminate new training opportunities and practical outings. Please check the paddling calendar for future sailing events.

Contact the current Sailing Coordinator.

Local Sailing Destinations

Sailing Resources

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Current Coordinator(s): Bob Dezort

Pittsburgh's three rivers provide the perfect backdrop to the sport of rowing. Like Boston and Philadelphia, Pittsburgh is becoming a premier rowing city, with such notable events as the annual Head of the Ohio regatta. So if you're looking to get out on the river at the crack of dawn, rowing might be the sport for you. And Pittsburgh is the place to do it.

The ECP currently does not have an organized rowing program, but many of our members are also members of local rowing organizations. The ECP is happy to refer potential rowers to these fine Pittsburgh organizations while also introducing them to other outdoor activities. Use the links below to explore these rowing clubs.

Contact the current Rowing Coordinator.

Rowing Resources

Flatwater Canoeing & Kayaking | Whitewater Kayaking | Sea Kayaking | Rafting | Sailing | Rowing | ^Back to Top^