Ralph William McCarty, a pioneering outfitter on the Cheat and Youghiogheny Rivers, died late last week. He was 92. Ralph was originally from Ohio and spent his life thinking “outside of the box.” He was engineer by profession, an innovator in the automotive and aircraft industries, and holder of several patents. He was also an active whitewater canoeist, a founding member of the Mad Hatter’s Canoe Club of Cleveland, and an early instructor at the Western Pennsylvania Whitewater School.
In the mid-60’s he bought a high-performance European inflatable kayak for his son, Mike. Since it was not a self-bailing ducky he designed a full fiberglass deck that would accept a spray skirt and keep water out. This hot little boat was way ahead of its time. He founded Mountain Streams and Trails (MS&T) in 1967, offering guided ducky trips in this same boat design on the Lower Yough, Casselman, Cheat, Upper Yough, and Lower Big Sandy. In the Spring of 1968 his company ran the first commercial Cheat Canyon rafting Trips. The Cheat business grew explosively, and in the mid-70’s it was bigger than Gauley Season. They ran eight trips a day of 50 people each on weekends from Easter to Memorial Day. Ralph ran MS&T for 20 years before turning it over to Mike.
Ralph spent his retirement researching the colonial history of Western Pennsylvania, becoming quite an authority. He also supported many significant conservation initiatives and was always a friend of the private paddler. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that contributions may be made to the Friends of the Cheat, 119 S. Price St., Kingwood, WV 26537