I am looking for wildlife viewing areas that are open to manually powered boats (i.e. Canoe) in areas within a few hours drive of Pittsburgh PA.


  1. Motor boats are prohibited (electric only motors, is ok)
  2. Manually powered boats are allowed
  3. Open to the public most or all of the year
  4. Ability to paddle to and from the launch point (There are rivers that come close to my criteria but the current makes the journey one way)

I want to be able to take a blind passenger on a canoe trip to enjoy the sounds of nature. The closest I have found are organized journeys into restricted lands, where a large group (of sighted, talkative people) join you on the journey.

Edit Clarify per request in comments Rivers don't work well, as the areas without current tend to have a high motorboat population. (fails criteria 1 & 4)

There are a few man made lakes in the area, the ones I have looked at to date are planted with fish, so there is a high population of people fishing, this negatively impacts the wildlife around the lake. (multiple options that meet criteria 1-4, but no significant wildlife)

I have been looking at wildlife refuges on the shores of the great lakes, but the few I have checked have highly restricted access (fails criteria 2 & 3) the only option is to guided tour with lots of noisy people.

I have seen some areas that meet all of criteria but, the tend to be in natural marshes and swamps, Washington, Florida, etc with large wetland preserves and/or tidal lands.

Note I have my own watercraft. I don't need a rental boat, I just need to be able to access the water with my canoe and a handicapped passenger.

  • 2
    I can very much appreciate this criteria. I am fortunate to have a number of bayous and winding, narrow streams near me that are perfect for just such occasions. Hopefully you find something similar near Pittsburgh. Jul 10, 2017 at 21:26

2 Answers 2


Have you thought of the Lower Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle? It's 1.5 hours from Pittsburgh and has the distinction of a paddler being able to park, put in below the falls, run the river, and then take out near the put in (due to its loop configuration). The walk back to your car is 5 minutes. This 'loop' section of the river is about a mile of Class II & III rapids, so you'll need whitewater experience & you and your canoe, kayak, or raft needs to be suitably outfitted. As a guide, we've taken lots of handicap folks through this section, but to meet your criteria for solitude you'll need an early start on a weekday or plan your trip for the off-season - late fall or early spring. Of course, you'll want to scout/paddle it first without a handicap passenger to determine it's suitability to your needs, including the area wildlife. :)

  • I have been to the area I know that Open Canoes are prohibited or impractical from Ohiopyle and down to Connellsville I have seen a a couple white water canoes on the loop, but the are strictly one person boats. I don't think I have ever seen a tandem kayak on the loop. Do you have any references were a blind paddler has safely run a class III rapid? Jul 25, 2017 at 12:24
  • Additional concerns I have about this trip are sound, when the weather is nice, the loop is very popular, between people noises and white water noises I wonder how much wildlife noise would be perceivable? Jul 25, 2017 at 12:26

I found and have visited.

Internal combustion engines are prohibited in the interior lagoons, which are defined as the continuous body of water between Misery Bay and Marina Lake, excluding Graveyard Pond. A boat rental concession in the Graveyard Pond area provides a variety of powered and non-powered craft. Beaching of boats along the Presque Isle shoreline is permitted, except within 100 feet of designated swimming areas and at the Gull Point Natural Area between April 1 and November 30.

There is a long stretch of quite calm water ways beginning at the Graveyard Pond area. Visiting on a Friday in July we found there were both casual paddlers and fishers. Some occasional road and people noises were noticed. But stretches of several minutes with only nature and wildlife sounds were enjoyed.

  • Still looking for other options...

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