From secluded waterways to urban rivers, our kayaking trips offer opportunities to get out on the water in very different environments. Who knows what wildlife or historic landmarks you’ll see along the water’s edge!

Whether it’s kayaking on one of Pittsburgh’s three rivers or a destination paddle, Trip Leaders start the trip with paddling and safety instruction on land, including how to get in and out of a kayak and the different paddle techniques you may need to use. After the brief instruction, we’ll take to the water and explore the wonders of Southwestern Pennsylvania by kayak!

Want to take a group kayaking? Whether it’s your family, a group of friends or co-workers, school, or a student organization or club, we’ll work with you to customize a kayak trip just for you!

Getting Ready to Go

  1. Complete an Assumption of Risk Form (one for every participant).
  2. Check the weather forecast for the trip location. Set aside the appropriate equipment and clothing for the predicted temperature and conditions.
  3. Review the meeting location address and directions on how to get there.
  • Synthetic, quick-drying shorts or pants. Jeans are not recommended.
  • Synthetic, quick-drying t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt.
  • Securely attached footwear (sneakers, water shoes, etc.); flip-flops and crocs are not recommended.
  • A hat with a brim to keep the sun or rain out of your eyes.
  • Finger-less gloves to reduce hotspots and blisters and provide warmth. (Paddling or cycling gloves are recommended.)

Please arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time for check in. This gives the Trip Leaders enough time to collect Assumption of Risk Forms and start the trip on time.

Venture Outdoors provides multiple directions for accessing the meeting location including GPS coordinates, closest address, Google map link, and driving directions from Pittsburgh. Please review these directions in advance and plan your route to allow ample time for travel and onsite preparation. The Trip Leaders’ cellphone numbers are provided as a courtesy, but they may not be available by phone during check-in. Any necessary contact should be made at least 30 minutes before the trip begins. It is the participant’s responsibility to arrive at the meeting location 15 minutes prior to the start time. Please arrive early as trips cannot be delayed for late arrivals.

Trip Leaders make every attempt to plan routes that include bathroom stops at or near the meeting location or during the trip. The type and availability of facility depends on the time of year and location. Urban settings and many parks offer flush toilets or port-a-johns. Some locations do not have bathroom facilities and participants are encouraged to practice Leave No Trace principles when going in the woods. The Trip Leader will share specifics about bathroom facilities at the beginning of the outing, and details are often provided in the pre-trip information sheet.

What to Bring on the Trip?

  1. Signed Assumption of Risk Form
  2. Water (plan for one liter for every two hours of activity)
  3. Food (snacks/lunch)
  4. Rain gear (jacket and pants)
  5. Small daypack
  6. Sunglasses
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Change of clothes especially pants and shoes.
  9. Waterproof/crushproof container or bag for phone, camera, etc.
See Kayaking Checklist Here

About the Weather

No! We love kayaking in the rain! With the appropriate clothing you can be comfortable in a variety of weather conditions. We encourage participants to pack a rain jacket and pants on all activities because the weather in Southwest PA is variable. It’s smart to keep a towel, change of clothes, spare shoes, and a plastic bag in your car so you’ll have dry clothes for your return trip and a place to stow your damp or wet items.

If the Trip Leader determines that trip conditions exceed the group’s comfort level, the trip may be cancelled. If this decision can be made during regular office hours (9 AM -5 PM, Monday-Friday), participants will be called and emailed by staff. If the decision is made outside of regular office hours the Trip Leaders and on-call staff try to decide at least two hours in advance. Weather is variable and the Trip Leader may opt to cancel the outing at the trailhead or make modifications during the trip.

Thunderstorms are a potential cause for trip cancellation. If a trip is canceled due to the weather forecast, participants will be notified.

The Venture Outdoors staff and Trip Leaders monitor local radar and forecasts to assess when, where, and for how long a thunderstorm is predicted to occur and use this information to decide whether to cancel, continue, or modify a trip. For example, a Trip Leader may choose to delay the start of a trip to let a short storm pass, and then continue as planned. He or she may choose to cancel the trip if waiting for the storm to pass will make it difficult to return on time or otherwise negatively impact environmental conditions.

Venture Outdoors follows the “Rule of 100”. The water and air temperature must add up to at least 100°F for paddling trips to occur.

However, you know your body best and should dress to paddle comfortably. This applies to paddlers who do not wear specialized gear (such as wetsuits) or have experience with cold-water paddling. Water and air temperatures are monitored by the Venture Outdoors staff and volunteer Trip Leaders. Trip cancellation due to water and air temperature happens rarely; kayaking trips are typically scheduled when water and air temperatures are at or above the Rule of 100.

Gauges along the three rivers (Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio) measure how fast and strong the rivers are flowing. Venture Outdoors applies 30,000 cubic feet per second as the maximum for safe paddling. Visit the USGS website to see the real-time river flow rate.

Venture Outdoors staff and Volunteer Trip Leaders may also cancel a trip even when the river is flowing below the 30,000 cfs mark if the river speed is too fast for the experience level of participants, there is excess debris in the water, or for any other reason that a Trip Leader believes will make the water conditions unsafe.

I learned so much about Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. To combine it with a beautiful day on the Allegheny River was such a bonus. From a personal perspective, this trip helped both my wife and me to overcome our fears of kayaking on such a large river with so much large boat traffic. We’ll be back to the 3 rivers for sure!
- Pittsburgh History Paddle Participant