Youghiogheny - 6. Lower

Youghiogheny, Pennsylvania, US


6. Lower (Ohiopyle to Bruner Run)

Usual Difficulty III (varies with level)
Length 7.4 Miles
Avg. Gradient 25 fpm
Max Gradient 45 fpm

Swimmer's Hole

Swimmer's Hole
Photo of Mitch Greynolds by Pete Vastyan taken 08/13/02 @ 1.8 ft

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle, PA
usgs-03081500 1.20 - 7.50 ft III 00h39m 3.03 ft (running)

River Description

The Lower Yough is the best known whitewater run in the eastern United States.  Since there is a reservoir upstream, it reliably runs during the entire warm water paddling season, in most years.  In low water years, it attracts large numbers of both rafters and hard boaters and there is a registration system to regulate access from the beginning of April through the Middle of October.

Note: except for Ohiopyle Falls weekend and some other times allowed by the park, it is illegal to run Ohiopyle Falls.  There is a separate AW listing for Ohiopyle Falls

Alternate takeout: the Loop, about a mile and a half downstream of the putin. This allows the paddler to run the first few rapids through Railroad without having to run shuttle. The trail out is steep, but quite hikable. The Loop has the most gradient of the run.

Directions to Ohiopyle:

From the PA Turnpike (I-76):
Take Exit 9 (Donegal). Go left at the end of the off-ramp.
A couple of miles down the road, turn Right onto Rt. 381. Continue for several miles until you reach the T intersection.
Go left at the T intersection, staying on Rt. 381. Continue for several miles.
After crossing the railroad and the river, you're in Ohiopyle. Turn left up the hill and park.

From Washington, DC:
Take I-270 to I-70 West.
In Hancock, take I-68 West toward WV.
In Keysers Ridge (near the Savage River), take US 219 North, and after about a mile, take US 40 West.
After about 20 miles, in Farmington, bang a Right onto PA 381. After about 4 miles, you're in Ohiopyle, ready to change and shuttle!

(Shortcut: on Rte. 40, turn right on DinnerBell-Ohiopyle Road shortly after Glissan's Restaurant, at the Priestly Ridge School sign. Dinner Bell Road will take you right into 381 North.)

A permit from Ohiopyle State Park is needed to run the Lower Yough on weekends from April 1 until October 15. Call 724-329-8591 or, toll-free, 888-727-2757. (The permit is not necessary if you put in after 3 PM or before 7:45 AM.) It costs $2.50; a season's pass is also available. In addition, those who take out at Bruner Run on weekends must buy a bus token for $4.00. The bus token will get you to the top of the hill, but not back to Ohiopyle. (In other words, you still have to run shuttle.) The bus token is a wristband, a different color for each day. If you want to buy bus tokens for future runs, be sure to ask for the wrist bands with stars on them.

Note: Dimple Rapid has a very dangerous undercut, which has killed at least two people, maybe as many as five; in the year 2000, three people died in this vicinity! Novices, including those renting inflatable duckies, should seriously consider sneaking or portaging! Read Charlie Walbridge's report on a low-water, park-sponsored scouting expedition to Dimple Rock!

Click here for Charlie Walbridge's report on the latest on Dimple Rock.

(Rapid ratings based on Ohiopyle gage reading of 1.8-2.2' [Confluence 2.1-2.6]).

Other related or nearby streams:
Middle Yough (Class II)
Casselman (Class I-III)
Ohiopyle Falls (Class IV, almost always illegal)
Meadow Run (Class V)
Upper Yough (Class IV-V)
Top Yough (Class IV-V)

Lat/Longitude coords at the putin verified by GPS.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-12-05 02:34:30


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0State Park Put-inN/APutin
0.3"Cucumber"IIIPlayspot Photo Video
0.5"Camel and Walrus"II+
0.7"Eddy Turn"II+
1.2"Railroad"IIIPlayspot Photo
1.3Loop TakeoutN/ATakeout Access
1.4"Lower Railroad"II
3.3"Three Sisters"II
3.6"Dimple"IIIHazard Photo
4.2"Bottle of Wine"II+
4.8"Double Hydraulic"III
5.0"River's End"III+Hazard
5.3"Schoolhouse Rock"II+
6.2"Killer Falls"N/AWaterfall
7.3"Bruner Run"II+Takeout
7.4Bruner's Run TakeoutN/ATakeout

Rapid Descriptions

"Entrance" (Class III, Mile 0.1)

One of the best and most technical of the Lower Yough rapids, this one is playful! Playhogs can easily spend an hour in this rapid. (All the following descriptions are at usual summertime levels: ~2.2 Ohiopyle [but generally applicable from 1.4 to mid 3's Ohiopyle]; left is "river left", right is "river right".  Lat/Longitude for this and the other Loop rapids is verified by GPS. ).  The first half of the rapid can be run:  1) start in the middle, clip a curler that separates two hydraulics and head for a tongue just to the left of "Bryson's Hole" or 2) start the same as #1, but catch an eddy on river right, from this right side eddy power ferry to the left center of the river and catch the tongue as in #1 or 3) start to the left (clip or surf the left side hydraulic and catch left eddy), peel out and aim for the tongue as in #1 & #2.  In all three cases catch a big eddy on river left and collect your group.  A varient on #2, particularly when the river is a little higher, is to work down the right side of "Bryson's hole".  The second half of the rapid starts with some nice surfing waves, below which are rocks and slots to catch eddies and make ferrys.  Eddy left at bottom.  At high levels (above 6') there's no left eddy, instead it's just one long rapid with a series of huge standing waves at center left; if you find this daunting, stay right. 

"Cucumber" (Class III, Mile 0.3)
Click Here For Video


Photo of Jack and Pete Koane by Kate Koskoris (KHCC)

The biggest drop on the Lower Yough.  From the big eddy at the top on river left where Cucumber Run comes in, work your way staying mostly left through a rocky boulder garden.  The current in the boulder garden will begin to move you to the right as you approach "Guide Rock" and the main drop.  To the immediate right of "Guide Rock" is a tongue - try to stay as far left on this this tongue as possible (a last minute current off "Guide Rock" will try to push you to the right - don't let this happen).  Take the drop on the tongue and keep paddling through some splashy waves.  Eddy left.  River racers take a line to the left of guide rock (it's faster) and there is a line that requires some aggressive paddling to the right as you approach "Guide Rock" to catch an right side eddy from which there's a rocky drop into the main current.  At most levels, the tailwaves have some play potential.  (At summertime levels this is not a good place to flip as there's a barely submerged rock that'll clock ya upside the head if you invert without seriously tucking.  At higher levels [above 6'] "Guide Rock" and the ledge form a huge hole from the left shore to the center of the river; the line is to stay right on the main current and punch the standing waves.)

"Piddly" (Class I, Mile 0.4)

Easy. The pourover "play hole" on the right is a bit spanky, though.

"Camel and Walrus" (Class II+, Mile 0.5)

As the rapid is approached from upstream, there is a rock on far river right that looks like a camel's head.  Just to the left of the camel's head rock is a rock that looks like the double humps of a camel's back (a little odd anatomically, but perhaps possible if the camel was looking behind its back).  Further downstream is a dark rock in the center of the river that looks like a "Walrus".  Usual line is to head to the left of the double hump rock and to the right of "Walrus," punching hard the ledge that runs diagonally upstream from "Walrus."  As you punch the ledge, get ready to quickly turn back to the left as there is a rock to be avoided to your right.  Alternative line is to run between the "Camel" and the double hump rock and catch the eddy behind the double hump rock.  From there do a hard peel-out into the main current and build up speed to punch the ledge to the right of "Walrus."  "Walrus," has an excellent boof opportunity. Boof it from the right side over the ledge.  There is a sneak line far right after passing the "Camel" rock, but below 2.5, or so, it has a rocky runout. 

"Eddy Turn" (Class II+, Mile 0.7)

Most of the commercial rafts take an easy line down the left side.  Most hard boaters prefer the right or middle.  The right side has a nice ledge to punch after catching a couple (or more) eddies.  All rocks and eddies. Pick your way down. Enjoy!

"Dartmouth" (Class II+, Mile 0.8)

Allegedly, the Dartmouth rowing team once worked out in this rapid in the deep dark past, resulting in the name.  Basically, read-and-run, but there is big playhole at the bottom that needs to be played or punched.

"Railroad" (Class III, Mile 1.2)

Railroad Rapid

Railroad Rapid
Photo of Jim Pruitt by Michael Sawyer taken 05/25/09

One of the more technical rapids in the Loop.  The usual line is to run in the middle of a ledge at the entrance to the rapid.  The current wants to push you either left into a rock or right into a crosscut hole called "Charlie's Washing Machine."  Being pushed either right or left is to be avoided, stay in the center.  (The hydraulic formed by this ledge may be the best cartwheelin' playhole on the river.)  An alternate line is to ride the "Frog's Back" slot between two boulders just to the right of the main line.  Below this first ledge, a rocky shoal forms in the center of the rapid.  In all cases, once you take this first drop IMMEDIATELY either catch an eddy or aggressively catch the main current to the left or a slot to the right.  The left main current goes back and forth like a slalom; the right into a pool with several slots below.  Eddy to the right at the bottom.  The Loop takeout is on the right.

Loop Takeout (Class N/A, Mile 1.3)

Takeout river right after Railroad. It's a steep walk up the trail to the parking lot.

"Lower Railroad" (Class II, Mile 1.4)

Below the Loop take-out, the rapids continue with a sweeping wash under the railroad (now bike trail) bridge and then a series of small ledge rapids and open slots.  Towards the bottom, there is a small rock cave in the rocks on the right and a fossil on a rock at the left at the very bottom.  After "Lower Railroad" come two miles of "Doldrums", punctuated by "Three Sisters" and ending at "Dimple" rapid.

"Three Sisters" (Class II, Mile 3.3)

(AKA "no name" -- sometimes seen on older rafting guidemaps.)  A usually easy rapid which can be run down a main channel that runs between a series of rocks which are easily avoided.  Three of those rocks and the eddies behind them became named the "Three Sisters" for a series of three (and for some, now four) eddy moves for paddlers looking for a challenge after the "Doldrums" and before "Dimple."

"Dimple" (Class III, Mile 3.6)


Photo of Bruce Fleckenstein @ 2.15 ft, 1150 cfs

"Dimple Rock" is notorious because of its propensity for flipping rafts, and for its undercut. Thousands of rafting customers (and a fair number of kayakers) swim here every summer, and of 12 deaths on the Yough that AW has reported over the past 30 years, 3 were rafting customers who washed into the undercut.

The standard line is to follow the current at far river left, drifting toward "Dimple Rock" while pointed somewhat to the right, then driving into the eddy behind "Pinball Rock" (upstream and right of "Dimple") as soon as you pass the guard rocks.  It's a fairly straightforward move for experienced kayakers, and for raft crews that work well with each other and pay attention to their guides.  There's a sneak to the right of "Pinball Rock" and left of the larger "Vulture Rock" for those who want to take no chances and at higher levels there's a line to the right of "Vulture Rock," as well.  Below "Dimple Rock" there are a series of rocks to dodge and a riverwide ledge to find slots to pass through.  The easiest portage starts at the rock beach on river right and follows a trail created by the park to put in again below "Dimple."

"Swimmers" (Class III, Mile 3.7)

The lead-in to "Swimmers" rapid starts almost immediately below the ledge below "Dimple".  Stay in the center - there is a nasty hole on the right side followed by nice eddies both right and left above "Swimmers."  "Swimmers" hole (or wave) is one of the most famous playholes in the Eastern US.  Try to avoid bouncing surfers out of "Swimmers" by clipping it either right or left.  Downriver traveling boats that eddy out upstream and wait for the current surfer to finish are traditionally granted one quick "surf on the fly" by the line that forms on river left.  Downstream of the hole are some nice tailwaves, too.  Rafters get a big kick out of jumping into the water from a rock not far above "Swimmers" Hole and swimming through it.

"Bottle of Wine" (Class II+, Mile 4.2)

Usually approached from the right.  There is a rock in the center just above the main drop that can be passed either right or left.  If the center rock is passed on the right, punch a small hole and move right to left - take the main drop (or boof the right side of the big rock on the left).  If the center rock is passed on the left, the move is a fast left to right or even a ferry move to pass between the center rock and the left rock at the drop - take the drop and eddy right.  The name "Bottle of Wine" comes from the early days of rafting when guides found a bottle of wine in the eddy below the boof rock.

"Double Hydraulic" (Class III, Mile 4.8)

As the name implies... The first hole is a pourover ledge.  The second hole is playable, but trashy at lower levels.  The standard line is to catch a first eddy in the center of the river and a second a little further down and to the right.  From there, peel out and stay center right to the bottom. There is an alternative creek line down the left side of the first hydraulic and a "Hairy Ferry" line, crossing just above the first hydraulic.  Around 3.5', the second hole is a smooth wave, above 6' the entire rapid is a glassy tongue.

"River's End" (Class III+, Mile 5.0)

Perhaps the toughest rapid on the Lower Yough, this one has a couple of rocks with pinning potential. The normal line is to start in the center with increasing left angle, and work strongly to eddy out behind the big rock on the left called "Whale Rock".  The objective is to stay away from the wall like rock on the right called "Wall Rock" unless you intend to eddy out to the right and power ferry across.  There are a line of rocks running into the current in a line from "Wall Rock" called (in order) "Snaggletooth,"  two "pinning" rocks, and "Wash Up" rock which you are trying to avoid by staying tight to the left behind "Whale Rock".  Finally, some boaters like to  run a hard tight line between "Snaggletooth" and "Wall Rock" into the eddy below.  There is a nice big eddy on river right immediately below the rocks on the line from "Wall Rock".  The rapid continues with the main current going from left to center with additional eddies to catch and another big rock to dodge with a pool below.  High water comments:  1) This is a rapid that does not "wash out," - the main line remains the same - but requires more and more skill and power.  2) At higher water, there is a rarely done Class IV creek  line to the right of "Wall Rock," but watch out for strainers...

"Schoolhouse Rock" (Class II+, Mile 5.3)

The rapid starts with some fairly easy waves, then a sharp turn to the right.  After the turn the river continues (with several nice eddies both left and right) towards a large rock called "Schoolhouse Rock".  Most paddlers will pass to the right of "Schoolhouse Rock", but a run to the left can be done as well.  From the left side, here's a neat move through a slot between the huge Schoolhouse Rock and a small rock just downstream of it for those that like to be challenged.  A fairly easy rapid with a playable wave train.  Below "Schoolhouse Rock" there is a nice big eddy and below that an area of weird cross-currents called "The Land of Schwerley Waters". 

"Stairstep" (Class II+, Mile 5.9)

The normal line is to take the wave train down the river-left side which curves around a rock in the center.  A harder line is to go to the right of the rock where there are a series of ledge holes to punch.  Finally, there is a "Boof Moof", which is a boof off the right side of the rock in the center into the eddy below it - but this move must be tight, as there are rocks just below to catch a paddler doing a sloppy boof.

"Killer Falls" (Class N/A, Mile 6.2)

This one is bad. Nasty. Dangerous.
This rapid is so scary, that it's too scary to look at. Therefore, it's traditional to run it backwards.

"Maze" (Class II+, Mile 6.8)

(AKA "Rocky Road" - which some older rafting guidemaps call this rapid, assuming a line straight down the center.)  Most hard boaters call this rapid "Maze" as they prefer to find their own route through the boulders on river left.  The "Maze" line is more fun than difficult.

"Bruner Run" (Class II+, Mile 7.3)

On the approach, the main current moves to the left because of a shoal to the right, but if you stay left, watch out for the "Gates of Hell"; they're just close enough to two-point broach older, longer boats. As you pass the last rock of the right side shoal, begin moving right of the big rock in the center of the river where there are a bunch of waves. There are some cool ferry moves here, if you still have energy, and some of the waves are good play, especially at higher levels. Also, some run the left side through the "Gates of Hell" (sometimes also called "Pharoah's Tomb").  The take out is at the bottom of the rapid, river left.

Bruner's Run Takeout (Class N/A, Mile 7.4)

Takeout river left, just after "Bruner Run" rapid.  Hike up the trail to a staging area, where (during the Permit season) you can catch the bus up to the parking lot at the Old Mitchell Place.  You didn't forget your bus token, did you?

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
October 13 2014 (1555 days ago)
Davidm (156945)
If you're looking for a prontable guide the PA park service released one avalible at: Happy Paddlin!
July 13 2003 (5664 days ago)
From Boygenius on Boatertalk:

Bridge Hole on the Lower Yough: (6.5-higher on the Ohiopyle gauge???)
After that awesomely fun spot, I drove up through Friendsville up to Ohiopyle. I arrived at 5:00 or
so and some friendly, but seemingly burn-out local raft guides turned me on to a hole on the Lower
Yough just under the bridge above the falls. After checking it out, I hopped in for a great time.
The hole is very wide, fairly shallow, kind of scary in a way, but great for hole-moves. It's a
pour-over hole with a very uniform ledge, which might even be man-made. the surfer's right side is
very shallow, but it's not too hard to surf over to the left side where it's deeper and has a small
wave for a shoulder. This spot is REALLY renentive--in fact the only real eddy is in the backwash
of the hole, which you just paddle up in to from directly behind! It's easy to surf your way out
either corner, though. When the hole's good (it was a hair higher on Saturday), you can link
endless (and I mean endless 20+ points) ends to the left, clean and super clean to the right, split
both way, hit small loops, and I even was hitting lefty tricky-wu's in it--which I've never done
before! You can blunt and backstab right off the surfer's left shoulder wave, and rides can last
just about as long as you want them to. Moves are smooth and in-control here. What a great time!!!
I appreciated finally having a few other boaters around here...playboating is just more fun with
How to get there:
In Ohiopyle, either park at the take-out for the loop or simply walk there with your boat. You can
see the hole from the road's bridge across the river upstream of the falls. It's the largest of the
holes in the area and is more or less in the middle of the river almost directly under the bridge.
Put-in on the river right side in a BIG eddy and surf your way across to the big, turbulent
eddy/backwash of the hole. This backwash/eddy is large enough for 3 or 4 boaters to wait in while a
paddler plays. Because of it's proximity to Ohiopyle falls, this is not a safe place to play for
any playboater who might potentially swim. Also the hole can be very grabby in the middle and if
you're not comfortable moving your boat around side-to-side in a large hole, this might not be a
good place to play.

Entrance Wave on the Lower Yough (6.9 and at 6.3ish on the Ohiopyle gauge)
After playing the hole under the bridge for about an hour, I walked across the bridge down the the
put-in for the lower Yough to surf entrance. The river was totally empty of other boaters, giving
me the wave all to myself! It's on the river-right at the top of entrance rapid. This wave is
AWESOME!!! It breaks consistantly on the surfer's left and hole moves are possible here, then turns
into this STEEP, BIG, GLASSY wave on the surfer's right side. When it winds up to it's highest,
it's probably every bit of 4 or 5 feet high! It was rising and starting to green out on me friday
night, but that didn't keep me from hitting my first ever Helix to the right there! This spot
seriously rules. On Saturday, I threw ends both ways, split at least once, clean spun, big
air-looped, blunted left, flip-turned, and helixed all in one ride!!! The eddy on river right is
smaller and more turbulent, but right next to the wave. There is a HUGE eddy river left, but it's
farther accross the river. I had more fun at this spot than any of the others on Friday: it just
gave up huge bounces and awesome air-moves. Who would have known that something like this was on
the lower Yough!!?? There was no one else around...I LOVE, PA!
How to get there:
Put in at Ohiopyle at the standard put-in below the falls, paddle downstream about 200 yards, in
the first wave-train on the river right, you will see the breaking, happy wave with an eddy to it's
river right side. You can easily carry back up to your car at the put-in by heading up the river
left eddy and walking back up the short gravel access road to the put-in. It's only a 4-minute

Saturday was so much fun paddling the lower yough with my good friends Brian and Kristin. What a
great weekend. Back in time for church on Sunday. Enjoy these spots!!!

Stephen Wright
Team Prijon