If you’ve already explored the shores of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh in your bright new kayak — with the city’s high rises and urban cacophony rising around you — you might be itching to encounter a more bucolic setting. Just take a short 34-mile trip south and you’ll be exactly where you want to be.
The section of the Monongahela River southeast of Pittsburgh is fast becoming a paddler’s dream. Affectionately referred to as “The Mon,” the river winds its way through a beautiful valley, offering a look into Pennsylvania’s heritage along with stunning views.
Still a corridor for industrial barges as well as recreational boaters, the river is controlled by several locks and dams operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, forming “pools” of different sizes. Paddlers need to know where those pools are located to make the most of their trip and avoid the complications of “locking through” the dams.
Point Marion, a town along the banks of one such pool — between the Grey’s Landing Dam at Mile 80 and the Point Marion Dam at Mile 90.8 — provides a perfect spot to launch a day trip for both experienced and novice paddlers. It is also the place where the Mon and Cheat Rivers flow together.
A “small town with a big heart,” Point Marion offers both outdoor recreation and a bit of American history. Currently, visitors need to bring their own boats, but an outfitter, Mon River Recreation, plans to open for business in June 2017. Kayaks will be available for rent by appointment and will be supplied at Point Marion Community Park (call 724-320-2182 for details.)
A well maintained green space accessible from South Main Street, the park has ample parking. It’s also a great place to relax and enjoy a snack — and let the kids burn off some energy — before launching your kayaks or canoes. (Note: You need a permit to launch into the Mon; information is available on the Fish & Boat Commission website or by calling 1-866-262-8734.) Paddlers will find a well-maintained boat ramp and public docks. You’ll have a great day paddling from Point Marion to another small Mon River Town, Greensboro, before arriving at the next dam.
A Paddling Itinerary
Here are some tips for making that adventure fun and easy.
For an relaxing day trip or a peaceful weekend getaway, travel to Greensboro in two cars and leave one car there. Drive the car with your boats from Greensboro to Point Marion, an easy six-mile jaunt south following the river on State Route 88.
Remember that the Mon flows north, so paddlers starting in Point Marion should head downriver; navigation charts can be found here. Approximately three hours of leisurely boating with the current will bring you to picturesque Greensboro, depending on your speed and how often you stop to take in the sights. You can also take a side trip up Dunkard Creek — if you’re fishing on your kayak trip, the Creek comes highly recommended by anglers.
The Morgantown Area Paddlers followed this itinerary on a recent group trip.
“Wow, it was a great day on the water,” recalls Mary Wimmer, the group’s founder. “It’s an excellent place to flat water paddle. And it is an easy straight shuttle between the two towns for cars.”
Traveling gently on one of the loveliest and most unspoiled sections of the Mon, it’s easy to forget that the river is still an avenue for commercial barge traffic. Paddlers should stay fairly close to the shoreline to avoid any unfortunate encounters. While it is exciting to watch a loaded barge pass by, it is far too exciting to scramble out of the way.
Once you reach Greensboro, exit the river at the access area and tie up at the public docks. You can enjoy a picnic at the hilltop gazebo, a 50-foot structure with a great view of the Mon River. Be aware that the docks and the gazebo are separated by a private residence so be respectful and avoid trespassing.
From Greensboro, you can drive back, retrieve the Point Marion car and head home or, better yet, spend the night riverside at The Captain’s Watch Inn. The building features seven beautifully appointed guest rooms with private baths, and offers breakfasts and candle lit dinners — along with canoes and bicycles — to guests.
Greensboro’s 1.25 mile Walking and Biking Trail offers a chance to get your land legs back after your trip. Meanwhile, a stroll through town reveals a lovely historic district and a restored log cabin selling reproduction Greensboro pottery. If you want a longer hike, the 67-mile Warrior Trail begins in Greensboro, follows ridge tops for most of its length and offers some of the most spectacular views in Greene County.
Food and Drink
When starting your trip in Point Marion, you will find a mix of amenities on and off Main Street. A regional favorite for meals or sweet treats baked on site is Apple Annie’s (open Tuesday through Saturday) on Church Street. A short .75 mile trip north on Route 88 gets you to Two Rivers Marina and Campground which boasts a great Italian Restaurant, craft beers on tap and camping. (Call 724-943-4997 for information and reservations.) Or start off with a big breakfast and friendly service at the family-owned and operated Riverside Diner (120 Penn Street).
Fisherman can purchase live bait at Point Marion Hardware (126 Penn Street). There is also a state store if you want a libation for after your trip. Remember boating and drinking do not mix! In addition, the town boasts a Shop ‘N Save Express and a Family Dollar if you just want to fill a cooler with snacks and cold drinks.
Side Trip into History
In addition to your time on the water, history buffs can enjoy heritage sites like nearby Friendship Hill National Historic Site, located 3.5 miles north of Point Marion. The park includes the home of Albert Gallatin, the longest serving U.S. Secretary of State, who financed the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. The Gallatin House is a designated National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Allow an hour to tour the home, and then explore the nearly ten miles of trails that wind through the grounds and down to the Monongahela. A picnic area and comfort station are adjacent to the parking lot. Entry is free and the grounds are open daily from sunrise to sunset year-round.
If you are looking for a little excitement to go with your paddling trip, you can head to Point Marion over Memorial Day Weekend for the annual Albert Gallatin River Festival. The festival includes a 5K Race, fireworks, food, a carnival, a car show and more. More information on the festival and registration for the 5K Race can be found here.
Or plan to paddle to Greensboro on September 2 for the annual Art Blast on the Mon, a festival featuring live music, food and more.
Point Marion is currently working on turning an old rail bed into the latest section of the Sheepskin Trail, a bike path that will connect Point Marion Park to the existing 48 mile Mon River Trail. Eventually, this route will also connect to the existing Sheepskin Trail in northern Fayette County and link to the Great Allegheny Passage.
Completion of the land trail will give you another reason to return to this lovely section of Pennsylvania with your bikes. For now, grab your paddles and hit the water.
WENDY DUCHENE is an attorney with offices in Allegheny and Somerset Counties. She is also an avid user of the many hiking and biking trails in western PA, where she can often be found on her recumbent bike or walking her dog Sander.
This story was created in partnership with the Keystone Edge.
Lead photo: Morgantown Area Paddlers
This blog is courtesy of Toni Henry, participant in the East Brady Trail Town initiative, a committee under the East Brady Area Development Corporation. Toni has been an avid supporter of trails and active participant in the building of the Armstrong Trail, a trail which will eventually connect to the Great Allegheny Passage in Pittsburgh. The following offers a perspective on her work in the area.
Eight years ago when I moved from Pittsburgh to East Brady I had a personal vision of being able to ride my bike out of my garage, onto the Armstrong Trail and south to Kittanning. At the time, that wasn’t possible unless you had a mountain bike, were prepared to share the trail with speeding dirt bikes and were willing to risk be confronted by angry, adjacent property owners.
I am happy to say that in 2017 I can indeed ride my bike out of my garage and onto Kittanning ….. and to my delight to New Bethlehem and Brookville also! Much has been accomplished in those eight years!
Our local Armstrong Trail is also a part of a much larger effort to complete a long distance trail from Erie to Pittsburgh and to connect a multi-state network of trails. Connecting trails connects communities. Connected communities benefit by longer trail systems and users who are looking for amenities such as overnight accommodations, bike repair shops, meals etc. Those services provided in towns bring dollars into those towns.
The ability to improve and connect trails comes at a price. That price being the time and efforts of committed volunteers cutting brush, picking up litter, spreading stone, applying for grants, holding fundraisers, promoting the trail through newspaper and electronic PR and meeting with local officials and towns people. The Armstrong Rails to Trails Association supports the Allegheny Valley Land Trust in these efforts. Complicated issues of obtaining right of ways, negotiating with property owners, executing agreements and prosecuting those who abuse the trail are often handled by the trail corridor owner, The Allegheny Valley Land Trust.
Rarely are the townships and/or municipalities that the trails connect asked for monetary support for the trail that serves and enhances their community.
Those who do not use the trail personally often don’t understand the benefits of having a trail in their backyard. Beyond the health benefits to local residents and visitors – providing a safe and free place to walk, hike, bike, bird watch etc. the trail brings others into our communities. Those others spend money in our towns and help to boost the local economy. Local governments are often spread thin. Embracing and promoting the trail are not high on their priority lists. Often they see perceived liabilities over proven benefits.
What are we doing to conquer this challenge
It is our goal to convince naysayers that trails are a very positive part of their communities and that they will bring much needed tourism dollars with them. We can best do this through education; offering informational sessions to the community as a whole and to the governing officials, training local businesses owners and getting people out on the trails to see for themselves what a wonderful amenity is in their backyard!
The Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation welcome the public to the 29th annual Hammer-In Festival at the W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop on Saturday, April 15, 2017.
In recognition of the building’s recent designation as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior, a ceremony and plaque unveiling will occur at noon, presided by August R. Carlino, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation. Invited are State Senator Camera Bartolotta, State Representative Pam Snyder, and the Greene County Commissioners.
National Historic Landmark designations are the highest form of federal recognition that can be awarded to properties and sites in the United States. To be designated as an NHL, it must be proved that the site not only possesses integrity, but that its history is nationally significant.
When the designation was awarded in January, then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop and Foundry “…is an outstanding example of a small, family-owned, twentieth- century foundry and machine shop. ‘Job shops’ like W. A. Young & Sons, which did custom jobs for a variety of clients, were an important component of the American industrial economy facilitated by the development of machine tools and line-shaft power systems in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. The property includes perhaps the finest collection of machine tools found in a small job shop.”
A celebration of traditional blacksmithing practices, the Hammer-In Festival is an annual event, held on the third Saturday in April, jointly sponsored by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp., the Appalachia Blacksmiths Association, (ABA) the Pittsburgh Area Artist-Blacksmiths Association (PAABA), along with partners in Greene County.
The day’s highlights also include an art auction at 1 p.m., followed by a live Bronze Pour – courtesy of Rivers of Steel Arts. The auction jointly benefits Rivers of Steel, the ABA and the PAABA. Blacksmithing demonstrations and guided tours will occur throughout the day. Admission is free. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Festivities begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at approximately 3:30 p.m.
The Machine Shop is located about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 116 Water Street, Rices Landing, PA, 15357. It is a contributing structure to the Rices Landing National Register Historic District in Greene County.
Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation is a non-profit that manages the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, an eight-county region and one of 49 such organizations as designated by Congress. Its mission, in partnership with the National Park Service, is to conserve the industrial, cultural, natural, and recreational resources of southwestern Pennsylvania.
For more information on the Rivers of Steel and the W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop and Foundry, please visit Rivers of Steel’s website riversofsteel.com or contact Carly McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HAMMER-IN in Rices Landing is on Saturday April 15th from 9 am to 4 pm. The event will be held at the W A Young Foundry and Machine Shop and admission is free.
There will be blacksmith demonstrations as well as food available. For more information you can contact George “Bly” Blystone at 724-710-4898.