08 Sep 2017 Upper Yough Season
When the last tourists pack up their coolers and picnic blankets to drive out of Ohiopyle after Labor Day, summer officially turns into fall. This cool, quiet season is time to repaint storage buildings and repair rafts. But for some guides, it’s time to kayak as much as possible. Where do they go? To the Upper Yough.
This awesome 9-mile stretch of Class IV-V whitewater is just 45 minutes from Ohiopyle near Friendsville, Maryland. The Upper Yough is an exceptional river – controlled by predictable dam releases three days a week. Narrow, rocky, steep and technical, it’s an expert kayaker’s dream and one of the best commercial rafting trips around.
The rapids are continuous, technical and beautiful. Most have different lines to run – from safer Class III/IV routes to solid Class V moves featuring narrow slots, tricky boofs and big holes. It’ll be busy on a summertime Saturday release, but the the crowds only increase the challenge – and add to the aura connected with this gem of a river.
Crowds calm down in the fall. Then in the second week of September, the Sang Run put-in fills with paddlers again for Upper Yough Week.
The dam releases every day Monday through Friday of the week before Gauley Festival Weekend. Local paddlers and visitors from around the world make the pilgrimage to Friendsville to run the “miracle mile” in the glorious second week of fall.
Olliei El-Gamel, from New Zealand, kayaked the Upper Yough for the first time in 2016.
“It was awesome,” he said. After running the Upper, El-Gamel and his friends hooked up with a crew to go to Gauley Fest.
Raft guides who’ve paddled all around the world have found themselves drawn in by the Upper Yough. Senior guide Brian Trescott has been to Costa Rica, New Zealand and Mexico, but ultimately found himself buying a house with his partner Andrea in Accident, Maryland.
World-class paddlers like Eric Martin (owner of Wilderness Voyageurs) and Kara Weld (owner of Immersion Research) have made Ohiopyle into a hotbed of whitewater innovation. Martin inherited the outfitter in 1991, and it’s the oldest whitewater company in the east. Even though he doesn’t get out on the water twice a week like he did as a kid, Martin is still passionate about life by the river.
“We’re in the crucible of whitewater in this country,” Martin said. “Whether it’s a flatwater workout or ramping it up and running class Vs, it’s all available. That’s a lot of quality of life right there.”
Weld, a Confluence local, created Immersion Research (IR) with her husband John. IR made its splash onto the marketplace by making rash guards and surf trunks – at first in the Weld family basement. Now, IR produces everything from base layers to dry suits, a staple brand for Ohiopyle’s raft guides and paddlers.
Whether just for a weekend or for life, the Upper Yough keeps folks coming back for more.
Want to experience it for yourself? Check out our guided rafting trips on the Upper Yough!