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Whitewater Rafting Trips
 
 
     In 1987 I went whitewater rafting for the first time at Ohiopyle State Park.  A group of about 40 of us went down the Lower Yough (Youghiogheny) river.  This section of the river is about 7 1/2 miles long and contains numerous Class III and IV rapids.  Riding down this section of the river should only be attempted by experienced whitewater boaters.  I went down the river four times from 1987 to 1990.
 
 
 
International Scale of River Difficulty
(from American Whitewater)
 
     
         This is the American version of a rating system used to compare river difficulty throughout the world. This system is not exact; rivers do not always fit easily into one category, and regional or individual interpretations may cause misunderstandings. It is no substitute for a guidebook or accurate first-hand descriptions of a run.
     
     
  Class I Rapids
    Fast moving water with riffles and small waves.  Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training.  Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.
     
  Class II Rapids: Novice
    Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting.  Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class II+”.
     
  Class III Rapids: Intermediate
    Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe.  Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided.  Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.  Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class III-” or “Class III+” respectively.
     
  Class IV Rapids: Advanced
    Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure.  A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards.  Scouting may be necessary the first time down.  Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult.  Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills.  A strong eskimo roll is highly recommended.  Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class IV-” or “Class IV+” respectively.
     
  Class V Rapids: Expert
    Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk.  Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes.  Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness.  What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach.  At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined.  Scouting is recommended but may be difficult.  Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts.  A very reliable eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential.  Because of the large range of difficulty that exists beyond Class IV, Class 5 is an open-ended, multiple-level scale designated by class 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc... each of these levels is an order of magnitude more difficult than the last.  Example: increasing difficulty from Class 5.0 to Class 5.1 is a similar order of magnitude as increasing from Class IV to Class 5.0.
     
  Class VI Rapids: Extreme and Exploratory
    These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger.  The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible.  For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions.  After a Class VI rapids has been run many times, its rating may be changed to an appropriate Class 5.x rating.
     
 
 
 
Lower Yough (Youghiogheny) River
 
 
Summary of Rapids
   
Name of Rapids Mile
    Entrance 0.0
    Cucumber 0.1
    Camel and Walrus 0.5
    Eddy Turn 0.6
    Dartmouth 0.7
    Railroad 1.0
    Dimple 3.0
    Swimmer's 3.2
    Bottle of Wine 3.8
    Double Hydraulic 4.4
    River's End 4.6
    Schoolhouse 5.2
    Maze of Stewarton 6.8
    Bruner Run 7.4
   
Map of the Lower Yough
   
 
 
 
About the Trips
 
 
1987
   
       Our group would drive out to a campground the day before we went down the river.  We set up tents, cooked something to eat, and would hang out around a large campfire.  The next day we would head out to the launch site.

     I went down the river with no prior experience.  Our group went down the river in ten rafts with no guide and no helmets.  Gary Forney, the one who set up the trip, was our resident "expert."  The first year I was invited by my father and his girlfriend (at the time) Judy.  I went down the river with them and two others.  Mike Livingston was, by far, the best boater in our raft.

     I did not take a camera and have no pictures of the trip.  I am hoping to eventually find some pictures others might have taken during the trip.  If I do locate pictures, I will post them here.

     The whitewater rafting trip was great.  I will admit that, after almost five hours and a lot of rowing, it was very tiring but well worth it.  I did very well for my first time down the river.  No one in our raft fell out.  We went down in June, so the water was very cold.  We all wore wetsuits.

     There is an early take out point just after Railroad Rapids.  We always managed to have a few people from the group who would bail out here but the majority stuck it out until the end.

     Near Swimmer's Rapids there is a huge rock that many like to jump from.  This is in calm waters.  I jumped off the rock twice that first year.  The first time I jumped feet first and had my life jacket on. I don't recommend this.  It is at least 2 1/2 stories high so the life jacket hurt when I hit the water.  The second time I did not wear the life jacket and I dived in.  I never hit the bottom of the river and it took a while to get back up to the surface.  It is amazing how far underwater a jump from that high will take you.  I have no idea how deep the water was in front of that rock.

     Although I do not have a picture of our group jumping from this rock I did find a picture on the American Whitewater web site of this rock.  In this picture, however, this person did not "jump" from the rock.  In four years of going down this river we saw boaters take their kayaks off this rock twice, but not as successfully as the person in this picture.  The picture does not show the very top of the rock but, as you will see when you look at the picture, you need to get a good run and jump off the top to actually clear the rock.

     After Bruner Run is when we had to get the raft out of the water, and carry it part way up a hill.  The rafts were then loaded on a small trailer on the back of the bus which had to go the rest of the way up the hill and then back to the place where we entered the river.  I do not know how the buses managed to make it up the hill and back to the launch site.  They always sounded like they were ready to break down straining to get up the hill.

     After we got back to the campground, we would eat a good meal.  Some people would go to sleep right after they ate.  Many of us would build a large campfire and sit around talking or play games such as volleyball or frisbee.  Some people would actually pack up and head home that night.
 
 
1988
   
       In 1988, I went out to Ohiopyle again with my father, his wife Judy, and my brother Tim.   My father, Tim and Judy went down in a separate raft.  This year I went down with a different group.  It was a blessing and a curse.  Gary Forney was in our raft.  He was so loved by everyone else (just kidding) that our raft was under constant water attacks and several raft jump dunking's of Gary occurred.  I did get knocked out once in calm water even though I was not the intended target.  It was fun going down with a different group that time.

     My fathers group didn't fare was well though.  I do not remember which rapids this occurred at.  They got stuck in the middle of one of the stronger rapids and it was after the Railroad Rapids take out point.  The raft completely filled up. Judy fell out at some point before the raft sank.  I was not there so this part is based on second hand information.  She claimed she was drowning, but according to several others she was in less that three feet of water and could have easily stood up.  Eventually someone rescued her.  There was no way that they were going to get the raft out.  Apparently a guide from another group was nearby and was able to help them get the raft out of the water with ropes he had available.  They then dumped the water out of the raft when they got it to the shore.  They did manage to complete the full 7 1/2 miles but were completely exhausted.
 
 
1989
   
       In 1989, I went out to Ohiopyle again with my father, his wife Judy, her son Benjamin, and one of his friends.  They decided to camp out but did not go down the river.  Judy would not go down the river due to the drowning scare from the year before.  She insisted that my Dad and her son no go down the river.  Since my brother Tim was still under the age of 18 and they were not letting Benjamin go down the river, they said Tim could not go down the river.  Tim decided to stay home since he could not go rafting.  I went down the river with a completely different group that time.  I was over the age of 18 and did not live with my Dad, so they had no say in my choice to go down the river.
 
 
1990
   
       In 1990, I drove out to Ohiopyle and took my brother Tim with me.  Just getting out there was an adventure.  On the day we left to head out to Ohiopyle, I was almost an hour away from home at college taking the final exam for my very last test in college.  I went to the June graduation that year but needed two additional credits to get my degree.  My last class was a summer course in late July and early early August in Meteorology.  I did get a B in the class.

     After I was finished with the test I needed to rush home, get my brother, load the car and meet Bill Griffiths.  I was following his car out to Ohiopyle.  The first problem that occurred was when I got in my car (on campus) and started it.  A light was blinking.  I had not closed the back door properly.  I got out to close it then realized I locked my door with the car running.  I called the campus police and they were able to easily open it.  It had been pouring down rain all day, so the traffic was slow getting home, not to mention, I was soaked waiting for the police to open my door.

     We met up will Bill and followed him out to Ohiopyle.  About an hour into the trip my car stalled.  I was able to get off the road and restart it.  The second time it stalled was on the ramp to a service station on the turnpike.  Apparently with all the heavy rain my distributor cap was getting soaked.  After about five minutes, the car started again.  The plan for the rest of the trip out was to put a lot greater distance between my car and Bill's to reduce the amount of water that would splash onto the distributor cap.  That seemed to work.

     It was still pouring down when we got to the campgrounds.  My brother and I set up the tent.  Unfortunately no matter where we set it up we were going to get water in the tent from runoff.  The tent seemed ok until sometime in the middle of the night when we finally got flooded.  The sleeping bags were completely soaked.  We slept the rest of the night in my car.  At least the car I had at the time had seats that went all the way back.

     The morning of the rafting trip the rain finally stopped.  We knew, however, that there was no way we were going to get the sleeping bags dried out, so we packed everything up in my car so we could head back home right after the rafting trip.  Tim and I were in the same raft this time and went down the river with another group.  Because of all of the rain, the river was high, fast, and rough.  It was great!  This year was the first time I fell out of the raft while in the rapids.  I fell out early in the Bruner Run Rapids and rode them without a raft.  Actually that was more fun than being in the raft.  Unfortunately I came out of the rapids on the side opposite the take out shore and could not swim back.  Two people came out with a raft to get me.  

      My brother and I went back to the campgrounds to cook something to eat before heading back home.  Both of us were tired so I pulled over a few times along the turnpike to take a little nap.
 
 
Regret
   
       One thing I do regret is that each year we passed Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater home on the way out to Ohiopyle and back, but never had the chance to look at it.  I was always on a weekend and while the place was closed.  One year we did stop and look at the falls on the other side of the road down below his home.  There was no way to see his home from the road.
   
 
 
 
In my senior year of college, I had an artist make this caricature of me whitewater rafting.



 
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