It seems like everywhere you go in and around western PA there are signs noting the fact that George Washington camped here, or negotiated there, or ate a sandwich somewhere in this general vicinity.
If you were in my classes this past year you might remember we talked at some length about Washington’s disastrous trips into our area. A short catalog of his achievements on these trips would include such illustrious actions as nearly getting hypothermia, unsuccessfully insisting that the French leave because the governor of Virginia said so, attacking a diplomatic envoy, agreeing to a surrender document he couldn’t read, losing a number of battles, losing a number of horses (Historically the only thing worse than being George Washington in a battle is being George Washington’s horse), and starting the Seven Years War.
Just before starting that war, which would grow to include many countries on three continents, Washington was attempting to move Virginian troops to Fort Duquesne by water down the Youghiogheny River. I recently visited the site where he realized such transportation would not be possible. The falls at Ohiopyle and the rapids below would have destroyed Washington’s transports. He gave up the idea and was forced to attempt the journey on land.
When I visited with my family we didn’t try the falls but the class three and four rapids were more than enough challenge. The main problem is steering the raft; good thing it is durable and can go through whitewater backwards. With enough practice we managed to get the hang of it…eventually. Even in June the water is only about 52 degrees so it is a bit of a shock when you get thrown from the boat.
Washington probably made the right decision. It would be insane to attempt the rapids, never mind the falls, in a wooden boat. At one point I saw a modern fiberglass canoe completely wrapped around a rock, and that was in a calm section. Even with good rubber rafts and very experienced hippie rafter guides we came away exhausted, scraped, and bruised.
We also looked extremely stylish in our life jackets and helmets.