The anticipation is palpable—at least with Felix and Sam. I can tell Kevin is still mixed, but the other two are chatting and breaking down last year’s adventures and speculating on what 2021 will bring. Is the outpost the same? Will the same counselors be back? We’re all hopeful that Jake returns!
It will undeniably be different, though, because now COVID is subsiding and the boys are vaccinated. We are moving toward the new normal. Last year when we camped, we refused to use the shower house at Paddler's Lane. Taking precautions was limited to us and a few others in this remote neck of the woods of Confluence, PA. Things were certainly strange. It’s going to be more relaxed this time around.
But no matter what’s going on in the world, spending time at the Youghiogheny River isn’t quite like anything else. While my husband has spent many summers on the Yough, I had never been. And I had no idea how incredible this place is, with its Class II to IV rapids it’s a fantastic chilly playground.
People have always been drawn to the Youghiogheny Valley. There are signs of inhabitants that date back 10,000 years. More recently, the river was used to transport coal and lumber. Eventually the waste from those mines and mills contaminated the area. But then local conservationists worked together and made plans to clean up the river. Without them, we wouldn’t be on our way to the Yough now.
It’s really encouraging to see what a community effort can achieve. Putting pressure on their elected officials got most of the mines closed. Then the Yough Reservoir Dam in Confluence was built and added clean water. The Clean Streams Act made a big difference too. Plus, after one of the railroad tracks was abandoned, the state was able to purchase the land and create an awesome trail along the Yough for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.
Today, this area is a true reflection of cooperation and sustainability. Our family is all about that. I love that so many people can enjoy this place and utilize the river. No matter what their go-to outdoor activity might be.
The area is thriving because of this clean, beautiful river. You see kayakers, fishermen and women, and there’s a great town to check out with plenty of shops, restaurants, and the white water center. The Yough is a stellar example of what can happen when water is preserved to be used by all. I am so thankful that we’re able to keep coming here, that this place is here for my son. If we continue these practices and look after these values, the river will be viable for generations to come. Even just this one summer has so much to offer!