Founded by the Barker family a mere three years ago, NorthWest Kayak and Canoe Rental has since sent hundreds into Keystone State Park to meander down the tranquil waterways and explore the vibrant flora of the Kiski River. The staff takes care of nearly every aspect of the trip: they provide complimentary shuttle service to and from the river, life preservers and paddles, and keys to the protective domes the government built around most outdoorsy areas in the '70s.
Evelyn and Neill Andritz grew up near the banks of the Kiskiminetas River and quickly became enamored with its wildlife and natural beauty. Wanting to share this passion with others, they founded The River’s Edge, where fleets of kayaks, canoes, and tubes send groups on aquatic journeys into nature.
As watercraft meander down the river, they pass the habitats of local wildlife including deer, bald eagles, geese, and feral former child stars. Alternatively, rental bicycles facilitate on-land adventures, and two primitive campsites let visitors sleep along the river's bank.
Inside The River’s Edge's shop, friendly staff members help customers to purchase kayaks and aquatic gear, or choose the best bait and tackle to catch schools of fish crackers. They also add a touch of nature to homes at a garden center.
Hazelbaker's equips river riders of all skill sets with the necessary gear to leisurely float down the scenic Youghiogheny River. Bring a friend, a loved one, or a newborn clone, and embark on a three- to four-hour expedition from the bowels of a canoe or two-person kayak. Each trek begins in Dawson and ventures along 8 miles of riverbank, snaking past lush forestry, vibrant wildlife, and baby Class I flat-water currents. The easy-to-navigate flow of the river and lack of overzealous bow captains allow neophyte rowers to keep up with more experienced paddlers and more experienced paddlers to keep up with paddlefish. Each excursion ends in Layton, where new-fangled river farers can ditch their vessels and head to town to swap stories of river life with the local historian.
Sprawling across 16 acres of mountain terrain atop Wisp Resort and the 550-acre Fork Run Recreation Area forest, Adventure Sports Center International immerses thrill seekers in a range of river sports, climbing, hiking, and other outdoor programs. On the river, experienced rafting guides—some of whom are U.S. Olympians—pilot adventurers down a one-third-mile artificial whitewater river, through four classes of changeable but authentic rapids bordered by boulders excavated onsite. Those who have reached the bottom return to the starting pool on a raft conveyor belt that defies gravity better than when Newton threw apples back into the trees. In the forest preserve, visitors frolic along rugged mile-long trails on bike or on foot, or scale natural limestone boulders and ledges. Climbing guides teach basic bouldering and rappelling while keeping the ledges clear of heckling mountain goats, or send adventurers off geocaching to hunt for a container hidden somewhere on the rocks or forest floor.
As visitors explore freely, youths hone academic and social skills through outdoor adventure and learning programs where guides teach them to raft, kayak, climb, mountain bike, and hike using only their imaginations and any required gear. The center’s artificial aquatic park and preserve have also hosted a range of festivals and competitions, including seven national whitewater championships and a bouldering championship.
In the 900,000-acre Monongahela National Forest, amid the bald eagles, deer, herons, and small-mouth bass, lies Blackwater Outdoor Adventures, a family-owned business dedicated to equipping treks into the outdoors that surround it. From their river outpost and general store, staffers dispatch water vessels to traverse the clear waters of the Cheat River, a scenic passageway carved into the rolling hills with plenty of areas for swimming and fishing. Blackwater also operates a 7-acre campsite on the banks of the river, where groups can lessen the edge of the outdoors with hot showers and space to store boats, gear, and inflatable six-bedroom homes.
Carried Away Recreation specializes in serene moments. Its customers can paddle a solo kayak down a gentle river where they glean a swath of green leaves. They can race across the Amish countryside on a bike rental and stop after mile five for a glass of Zinfandel from a local winery. If they want to take to the outdoors with friends, they rent a double kayak or a series of inner tubes to make floating a social experience. Cardio kayaking classes also blend natural beauty with physical exertion as a guide leads paddlers down twists in the river while shouting out Simon Says commands.