Youghiogheny River

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Youghiogheny River
Ohiopyle Falls along the Youghiogheny
Country United States
States Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia
Counties Allegheny, PA, Westmoreland, PA, Fayette, PA, Somerset, PA, Garrett, MD, Preston, WV
 - right Casselman River
Cities McKeesport, PA, Connellsville, PA
Source [1]
 - location Backbone Mountain, Preston County, West Virginia
 - elevation 2,688 ft (819 m)
 - coordinates 39°14′43″N 79°29′19″W / 39.24528°N 79.48861°W / 39.24528; -79.48861
Mouth Monongahela River
 - location McKeesport, Allegheny County, PA
 - elevation 724 ft (221 m) [1]
 - coordinates 40°21′19″N 79°52′16″W / 40.35528°N 79.87111°W / 40.35528; -79.87111
YOUGHIOGHENY RIVER Latitude and Longitude:

40°21′19″N 79°52′16″W / 40.35528°N 79.87111°W / 40.35528; -79.87111
Length 132 mi (212 km) [2]
Basin 1,715 sq mi (4,442 km2) [3]
Discharge for Sutersville, PA
 - average 3,477 cu ft/s (98 m3/s) [3] [4]
 - max 35,500 cu ft/s (1,005 m3/s)
 - min 717 cu ft/s (20 m3/s)
Monon YoughioghenyRiver.png
Map of the Monongahela River basin, with the Youghiogheny River highlighted.

The Youghiogheny River /jɒkəˈɡni/, [5] or the Yough /ˈjɒk/ for short, is a 134-mile-long (216 km) [2] tributary of the Monongahela River in the U.S. states of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. It drains an area on the west side of the Allegheny Mountains northward into Pennsylvania, providing a small watershed in extreme western Maryland into the tributaries of the Mississippi River. Youghiogheny is a Lenape word meaning "a stream flowing in a contrary direction". [6]


The Youghiogheny rises in northern West Virginia, in Preston County southeast of the town of Aurora and near Backbone Mountain. The headwaters are approximately 10 miles (16 km) north of the headwaters of the North Branch of the Potomac River and pass through Silver Lake before flowing north-northeast into Garrett County, Maryland, then flowing north past Oakland and roughly parallel to the West Virginia border, separated by approximately 3 miles (5 km). The river enters southwestern Pennsylvania on the border between Fayette and Somerset counties. It flows northwest through a gap in Chestnut Ridge and then past Connellsville. It joins the Monongahela River from the southeast at McKeesport, southeast of Pittsburgh.

Upstream from Confluence, Pennsylvania, approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Pennsylvania border, the river is impounded by the 184-foot-high (56 m) Youghiogheny Dam to form the Youghiogheny River Lake, a reservoir that stretches upstream into northern Maryland. The dam was completed in 1944 primarily for flood control.


1751 map depicting the "Yawyawganey River"

In the colonial era and in the early United States, the valley of the river provided an important route of access through the mountains for settlers and military forces from Virginia to western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Country. In 1754, as a militia officer of the British Colony of Virginia, George Washington followed the river in an attempt to find a water route to Fort Duquesne, then held by the French.

During the uncommonly severe winter of 1787-88, American pioneers to the Northwest Territory departed New England and cut trails westward through the mountains. At Sumrill’s Ferry, present-day West Newton, Pennsylvania, on the Youghiogheny River, the men built flatboats which carried them down the Youghiogheny River to the Monongahela River, and then to the Ohio River, and onward to the Northwest Territory. [7]

The pioneer town of Somerfield, Pennsylvania, was inundated by the building of the Youghiogheny Dam. Perryopolis in northern Fayette County, Pennsylvania, is the site of the George Washington Grist Mill. The Youghiogheny River Trail follows the river in southwestern Pennsylvania southeast of Connellsville.

Coal mining became an important industry along the lower Youghiogheny River during the 19th century. At the time the name was often spelled Yohoghany (or variants thereof), and during the 1860s and 1870s that spelling was used as the name of a post office near what is now Shaner in Westmoreland County.

Fallingwater, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is located in the river valley southeast of Connellsville.

A portion of the river in Maryland has been set aside by the state as the Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River.[ citation needed]


The Youghiogheny is popular for whitewater canoeing, kayaking and rafting. Three sections of the river, varying in difficulty, are available on a predictable basis for whitewater recreation:

  • Top Yough, near Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland ( Class IV-V)
  • Upper Yough, from Sang Run to Friendsville, Maryland ( Class IV-V)
  • Middle Yough, from Confluence, Pennsylvania to Ohiopyle ( Class II)
  • Ohiopyle Falls in Ohiopyle State Park: Previously, this spectacular 18-foot (5.5 m) waterfall was legal for kayakers and canoeists to run on only one weekend a year ( Class IV), during a race and festival. During August 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced a pilot program allowing boaters to run the falls during three weeks from Sunday, August 22, 2010, through Sunday, September 12, 2010. The program was successful, so the falls are accessible to whitewater kayakers and canoeists with the same rules as the test program. [8]
  • Lower Yough, which runs through Ohiopyle State Park from Ohiopyle to Bruner Run ( Class III) This section is the busiest whitewater trip east of the Mississippi River, being completed by over 250,000 people each year.
  • Further downstream, near Connellsville, the river is much slower, without whitewater rapids, and is able to be piloted by personal tubes, kayaks or canoes.

Although the Youghiogheny is generally considered to be safe for whitewater recreation, there have been 19 deaths on the Lower Yough. At least five, and possibly as many as 14, of the fatalities have occurred at a rapid within the Lower Yough known as Dimple. [9] Dimple refers to both the Class III rapid by that name, as well as an undercut rock in the middle of the rapid by that name. [10] Some of the deaths were attributed to preexisting health conditions, with 9 of the 14 being caused by the rock itself.

The Youghiogheny is also known for fishing, having brown and rainbow trout, as well as smallmouth above the power plant discharge.

Part of the Great Allegheny Passage, a multi-use trail along the former Western Maryland Railway right-of-way, extends from Pittsburgh to Confluence. From Confluence, it connects to Washington, D.C.



Treatment in fiction

The Youghiogheny River was likely the inspiration for the fictional Yuggogheny River, whose valley was used by Michael Chabon for the setting of his short story "In the Black Mill" from the 2000 collection Werewolves in their Youth. His 2001 story "The God Of Dark Laughter" is also set in Yuggogheny County. In Chabon's 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, an expert or experts on Yuggogheny cannibal cults are present at the party where Joe Kavalier saves Salvador Dalí from drowning.

"Youghiogheny, Pennsylvania," is mentioned in a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show, and the Youghiogheny is referred to as Yochio Geni in Thomas Pynchon's novel Mason & Dixon.




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