paddling river downtown pittsburgh

Pittsburgh offers a great number of paddling opportunities within the city as well as throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. Here are some spots where you can go kayaking whether you’re a beginner or an expert.

Creeks and Rivers:

  • The Three Rivers
  • Ohiopyle State Park
  • Slippery Rock Creek
  • Neshannock Creek
  • Wolf Creek
  • Raccoon Creek
  • Wheeling Creek

Lakes and Lagoons:

  • North Park Lake
  • Lake Arthur
  • Raccoon Creek Lake
  • Canonsburg Lake
  • Shenango Lake
  • Laurel Hill Lake
  • Presque Isle Lagoons


Pittsburgh Streams, Creeks, and Rivers for Kayaking

Here are the most popular rivers and small streams for kayaking.

The Three Rivers
  • Ohio River
  • Allegheny River
  • Monongahela River

Right in the heart of downtown, you can paddle any (or all) of the three rivers. Each river offers something different, and there are numerous public boat launches. Some even have free parking!

The Allegheny River is probably the most popular option, at least partially because Kayak Pittsburgh rents kayaks right there on the North Shore.

You can also access the river from Millvale Riverfront Park, which has a public boat launch and parking area. It’s right next to Washington’s Landing, too.

Or park and put in at Southside Riverfront Park to explore the Mon River. Just follow 18th Street towards the river, and you’ll pass the boat launch and public parking area (underneath the Birmingham Bridge.)

From either river, you can paddle towards Point State Park and into the Ohio River.

Ohiopyle State Park

Home to the famous Youghiogheny River, Ohiopyle is one of the most popular kayaking destinations on the East Coast. There are many, many options for kayak rentals, whitewater rafting tours, and more.

If you’re a beginner, the Middle Yough is the easier section, and the Lower Yough is more advanced, offering plenty of Class III-IV rapids.

Slippery Rock Creek

Flowing through McConnell’s Mill State Park, this is a very popular whitewater paddling location which offers Class II-III rapids and great scenery. A guide is available here.

Neshannock Creek

This creek is popular for both kayaking and fly fishing. It’s just above Slippery Rock Creek and offers relatively gentle water. Suggested segments for boating can be found here.

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek is also nearby Slippery Rock Creek and Lake Arthur.

Raccoon Creek

This is a long creek which connects to the Ohio River and flows by Raccoon Lake in Raccoon Creek State Park.

Wheeling Creek

Just over the state border, check out Big Wheeling Creek, which flows into the Ohio River in downtown Wheeling, WV. Elm Grove is a popular starting location. Here is a forum discussion with more details.


Pittsburgh Lakes and Lagoons for Kayaking

If you prefer the calm setting of a lake, there are many options just a short drive away from the city.

North Park Lake

North Park is a great place to visit for hiking, biking, and paddling. Just about 30 minutes north of the city, it can be super crowded on nice weekends (and fairly busy on weekdays.) The lake is nice, and if water is high enough, you can go up the creek that feeds into it.

Parking is free, and there is plenty available, but only so many spots near the water. If you can’t find an ideal spot, you can still use the boat launch, rather than carrying your kayak the whole way across the lot. Kayaks are available for rent at the Boathouse. (And while you’re there, stop in to refuel at the new OTB Cafe location!)

Lake Arthur

As part of Moraine State Park, this is a huge lake with lots and lots to see. Lots of wildlife including Bald Eagles! I have paddled here many times and still have some areas left to explore. It can seem crowded on land, but once you’re on the water, you hardly notice.

Lots of free parking and multiple boat launches are available.

Raccoon Creek Lake

Part of Raccoon Creek State Park, this 101-acre lake offers a calm paddling opportunity.

Free parking and other amenities are available.

Canonsburg Lake

While this is a very small lake, it’s great for anyone living south of Pittsburgh who wants to paddle without having to sit in traffic first. It gets low in a hurry once you head away from the dam, but if you stay in the deeper channel, you can get to the creek that empties into it (and paddle up that for 1/4 mile or so.)

Though not part of any state park, there is plenty of free parking (probably 50 spots) and a Port-a-John at the boat launch.

Shenango River Lake

This is a good size lake, on par with Lake Arthur, with lots of little coves and streams to explore. It’s quite the drive, but a beautiful area. More info on boat launches and usage fees can be found here.

Use these GPS coordinates to find the good put-in: 41.342553, -80.515320

Laurel Hill Lake

Part of Laurel Hill State Park, this 63-acre lake in Somerset offers a decent paddling experience.

Presque Isle Lagoons

Check out Presque Isle State Park up in Erie, PA for a wonderful trip. Only kayaks and canoes are allowed in the lagoons, so you’ll have plenty of peace and quiet as you explore this amazing area.

Where do you like to kayak in Pittsburgh?

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