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.
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.