|THREE RIVERS: The Allegheny River flows through downtown Pittsburgh, one of the city's three waterways (Corbis)|
Despite its trademark three rivers, Pittsburgh's Iron City reputation means it's easily overlooked as an outdoor destination. But groups such as the nonprofit Venture Outdoors, which runs Kayak Pittsburgh, are working to change this perception by offering kayaking tours and fishing trips along the banks of the Allegheny River downtown. Like many other cities, Pittsburgh's rivers were used to drain sewage and industrial runoff at the turn of the 20th century. But as the next century unfolded, the return of bio-sensitive insects such as the mayfly and increased diversity of fish species in the Allegheny indicate that the rivers are recoveringand are safe for recreational use.
"Pittsburgh is a city of bridges," says Kayak Pittsburgh guide Jon Lucadamo. "We launch under the Roberto Clemente Bridge, one of three identical bridges called the Three Sisters. It's cool to see them lined up and spanning the river in an identical format," he says. Floating up the Allegheny River starting at PNC Park (home of the Pirates), kayakers will also pass under a railroad bridge and other street and highway bridges, each with a unique construction, style, and history.
The river affords views of the downtown skyline, including the LEED-certified green city convention center. Look for red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons, in addition to pedestrians waving from the popular riverside trail. "The Allegheny is a working river," says Lucadamo. Coal barges and motorized boats cruise the central channel of the Allegheny, but kayakers keep safely toward the shallower shoreline. "Over the years we've seen a drastic increase in consideration that these boats pay to us," he says. Kayak Pittsburgh also offers brunch paddles and outings to popular city events such as Pirates game fireworks displays.
Access and Resources
Address: On the river in front of PNC Park, near the Roberto Clemente Bridge
Cost: Kayak rentals: $15 to 20 an hour; reservations required for guided tours
Age Limit: Babies welcome if fitted with proper flotation device; vests provided for children ages three and up
Hours: seven days a week (10 to dusk on weekends, 11 to dusk on weekdays)
Where Guides Go for Grub: Atria's, located at the top of the steps above Kayak Pittsburgh
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication