Editor's note: Warren resident Piper Lindell recently won the Governor's Tourism Entrepreneur Award for her work at Allegheny Outfitters. A former Navy air traffic controller, Piper wrote the book on canoeing and kayaking the Allegheny River, called Allegheny River Paddling Guide.
by Piper Lindell
The Allegheny is a class I river, but it has a few wild spots... the "rapids" behind United Refining are one of them. A Class II rapids is defined as "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".
I have yet to find an official map that classifies these as Class II, but they have to be close. With as many questions as we get every day about these, I figured it was time to post about them so folks have an idea of what to expect.
Prior to approaching them, put anything you don't want to get wet in dry bags and get your paddle ready for stability and maneuvering. If you're an adult and have opted to sit on your life jacket rather than wear it (shame on you!), this would be an excellent time to reconsider that decision.
You'll find the rapids in Warren (7.5 miles from Kinzua Dam, just after the first bridge), near the end of the bustling part of the refinery, right before the small island with a burning flare (see picture below, the flare is highlighted). They are short - about 15 to 20 seconds in a canoe - but they are strong enough to tip your canoe if you get sideways, and at the very least will splash you.
When approaching them, it's recommended that you stay away from the right hand side... many large rocks, combined with low water levels, make for a tough paddle.
You can shoot right for the rapids, which will send you up and over several waves... (and get the heart rate going a bit!) or you can pull over far left and walk your canoe through the shallows to portage around them. If you choose this option, remember to get far left early on... the last thing you want is to end up coming in from the left and taking on those waves sideways (although that'll get the heart rate going, too!). The river gets very narrow in this section, so please use caution and have a plan early on.
All in all, it's an interesting stretch of river on the Allegheny, and can be a lot of fun! Hopefully the pictures will give you a better idea of what to expect.