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Kayaking In Pittsburgh (Top 5 Spots!)

Mark Armstrong
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With three significant rivers meeting near the center of the city, you’ll find there are plenty of opportunities to go kayaking in Pittsburgh. Whether it’s flatwater, white water or lake paddling that you’re after, you should be able to find it all within a short drive of Pittsburgh.

Even if you don’t want to leave downtown, you can still get out on the water. We’ve put together a short guide to some of our favorite spots to paddle in the Steel City.

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5 Best Places To Kayak in Pittsburgh

1: Allegheny River

Allegheny River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Jon Dawson on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Allegheny River can be an exciting river to paddle. This 315 mile long river begins in Northern Pennsylvania and flows through New York state before flowing into the Ohio River in Pittsburgh.

The Allegheny River can be an exciting river to paddle. This 315 mile long river begins in Northern Pennsylvania and flows through New York state before flowing into the Ohio River in Pittsburgh.

Parts of the Allegheny River have been designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, with the closest section being between Franklin and Emlenton, around 85 miles north of Pittsburgh. But there are plenty of paddling opportunities on the river close to Pittsburgh, where you can paddle along the Three Rivers Water Trail.

For a shorter trip and great views of the Pittsburgh skyline, you can launch at Millvale Riverfront Park and paddle alongside Herrs Island until you reach downtown.

> Read our full Allegheny River kayaking guide

2: Youghiogheny River

Youghiogheny River KayakingPin
Courtesy: David Fulmer on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Youghiogheny River can be found to the south of Pittsburgh as it flows into the Monongahela River which then flows through the city and into the Ohio River.

The Youghiogheny Water Trail can be paddled 46 miles from Connellsville until it reaches the Monongahela at McKeesport. This section is mostly flatwater, unlike the middle and southern sections, which have sections with up to Class IV rapids.

There are a number of spots where you can launch your kayak, giving you the opportunity to paddle both short and long distances. You can even continue onto the Monongahela to join the Three Rivers Water Trail.

A good spot to launch if you want a short paddle to McKeesport is at Boston Riverfront Park, where there’s parking and a boat ramp. This lets you pass alongside Dead Man’s Hollow Conservation Area as you paddle downstream, with opportunities to spot wildlife.

3: Lake Arthur

Lake Arthur KayakingPin
Courtesy: Jon Dawson on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Around a 40 minute drive north of Pittsburgh you’ll find the 3,200 acre Lake Arthur, which can be a fantastic place for kayak fishing, with several species being found in the lake.

This large lake features lots of coves and inlets that can be great for exploring by kayak. Being surrounded by nature, it can also be an ideal location for wildlife spotting and a peaceful paddle. However, motorized vessels are allowed on the lake.

Lake Arthur is within Moraine State Park and there are plenty of places all around the lake where you can launch your kayak. The state park has lots of parking and picnic areas and there are even cabins to rent if you want to make your trip an overnight one. You can also get your launch permit from the park office at the South Shore or rent a kayak at the marina.

4: Ohio River

Ohio River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Roy Luck on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Ohio River stretches 981 miles from Pittsburgh until it reaches the Mississippi River in Cairo, Illinois. From Pittsburgh you can paddle along part of the Ohio River Water Trail. The trail begins at mile marker zero at Point State Park in Pittsburgh, where you can launch your kayak.

There is a 13 mile section of the trail that can be paddled, ending just before the Dashields Lock and Dam. There’s a boat dock at Riverfront Park, just after the Sewickley Bridge.

There are other take-outs and launch points on the route if you’re looking for a shorter route. There’s also the option of extending your trip and paddling 69 miles on the trail as far as Newell, West Virginia.

Sections of the river can be busy with commercial traffic and there are also areas with locks and dams between Pittsburgh and Newell.

5: North Park

North Park KayakingPin
Courtesy: Paul McCarthy on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Just north of Pittsburgh you’ll find the 3,000 acre North Park. The park is home to a 65 acre lake that can be a great place for all ages and skill levels to paddle, as it can be an easy flatwater trip.

There are also several spots where you can launch or take-out, including the kayak launch at the southwestern side of the lake and at the ramp on the eastern side.

The park can be a great place for families, as there are lots of other things to do once you’ve spent some time on the water, including playgrounds, hiking trails, historic buildings and a nature center. There are also a number of picnic areas.

You’ll find multiple places to rent kayaks in the park if you don’t have your own, including at the boathouse at the northern end of the lake.

What Are The Kayak Laws?

US Coast GuardPin
  • PFDs – A wearable US Coast Guard approved PFD must be readily accessible for each person on board your kayak.
  • Children under 13 are required by law to wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD while on board a kayak. Kid’s PFDs
  • When paddling at night you are required to display a white light while anchored. You must also carry a white light that can be displayed in sufficient time to avoid a collision. A flashlight is acceptable.
  • You must carry a sound producing device while boating on Pennsylvania waters. This can be a whistle.
  • Boating Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and applies to all vessels, including kayaks, rafts and canoes.
  • All vessels on Pennsylvania waters must either be registered or have a valid launch permit.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around Pittsburgh

Final Words

Pittsburgh may be known for its steel history but it’s also known for its rivers. The city has direct access to three great rivers and water trails, with several other rivers and lakes within close range, making it a fantastic place for kayaking. 

Remember, if your boat is not registered, you will probably need a launch permit before you access any of Pennsylvania’s rivers or lakes. Wear your PFD, keep your whistle handy and have fun!!!

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