Ohiopyle’s best rafting outfitter

lower yough rafting

Ohiopyle’s best rafting outfitter

Wilderness Voyageurs is Ohiopyle’s oldest whitewater rafting outfitter, and the best place to go rafting in Ohiopyle! Our history on the Youghiogheny River goes way back to 1963, when Lance and Lee Martin took the first trip down the Yough.

First off, let’s talk about the river. The Youghiogheny River (yawki-gay-nee), or the Yough (yawk) for short, is a 134-mile-long (216 km) tributary of the Monongahela River. It runs north through West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Youghiogheny is an Algonquin word meaning “a stream flowing in a contrary direction.”

The Martins discovered the Yough in 1963. A then 21-year-old Lance Martin, his wife Lee and their friend Karl Kruger guided the first passengers down the Youghiogheny River that same year. This marked the start of the commercial rafting on the river (1). No one else was boating the river commercially, or privately, at that time.

In 1964, Karl and Lance inflated two Army-surplus rafts and guided a few hundred passengers down the river. Their simple brochure invited visitors to “Go raft the Yough” and Wilderness Voyageurs was born (1). The founding of Ohiopyle State Park in the 1960s put the Yough River permanently on the map for adventurers and vacationers. Only an hour from Pittsburgh, this scenic state park of forests and rivers quickly became a favorite day trip from the metro area.

In 1966, Wilderness Voyageurs guided Ralph and his son Mark McCarty (then only 12!) and their church group down the Lower Yough. It was the first of what would be many more rafting trips for the McCartys. Ralph McCarty went on to develop an inflatable kayak and starting offering outfitted kayak tours on the Lower Yough in 1969. Their new company became Laurel Highlands River Tours (2).

Many other leaders in the rafting industry started their careers in a Wilderness Voaygeurs raft — John Dragan of Wildwater Unlimited, Imre Szilaygi of Appalachian Wildwaters, John Connelly of Eastern and “Big Dave” Fusilli are some of our many talented alumni.

Over the course of the next four and a half decades, the number of people running the river below Ohiopyle (on guided trips or renting rafts) increased exponentially: from 5,000 in 1968 to 150,000 in 1982, to more than 250,000 who run the Lower Yough each year today.

Wilderness Voyageurs remains the leader on the river, treating more guests to guided and self guided rafting on the Lower, Upper, and Middle Yough sections every season, than any other rafting company. The second generation family owners of Wilderness Voyageurs, Eric Martin and his sister Lynne, carry on their dad’s legacy.

Wilderness Voyageurs has a terrific safety record, as well as excellent customer reviews. Groups come back year after year for adventures. With over 300 five-star reviews on TripAdvisor and a terrific family of staff, Wilderness Voyageurs is the best place in Ohiopyle to go rafting with friends or family.

1. Palmer, Tim (1984). Youghiogheny: Appalachian River. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 0-8229-5361-7.
2. Love, Gilbert (May 29, 1969). The Pittsburgh Press. p. 25.