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Paddle On!

Get out and enjoy these Heartland-area paddling events for beginners, experts and families.

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Venture Outdoors' Kayak Pittsburgh
Dragon-boat instruction at Kayak Pittsburgh.


Cincinnati, Ohio, claims that it is the paddling capital of the U.S. and its Ohio River Paddlefest is the largest canoe/kayak paddling event in the Midwest. More than 2,200 participants paddle down the river as part of the three-day celebration. The dates this year are June 20 to 22 at the historic Coney Island Park.

Activities start on Thursday, with the Kids Outdoor Expo. In four different villages, kids can learn about things from paddling, where they can go out on Lake Como in a boat with guides and a chaperone, to water safety and fishing to renewable energy. There are numerous fun learning opportunities, with interactive displays, exhibits and presentations.

Friday is the Ohio River Music and Outdoor Festival, featuring live music, American Canoe Association SmartStart kayak lessons, all-day boat demos, gearfest, a kayak fishing contest, cardboard boat races, refreshments and great raffles. This year will also be the first Dragonfest, where teams of 14 to 20 paddlers compete in what’s described as “the fastest-growing, on-water team sport.”

There are activities for bikers and paddlers on Saturday, including an 11-mile canoe and kayak race, a five-mile SUP race and the 8.2-mile float trip down the river. The river gets closed to tows between 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. At the end of this trip, paddlers can stop at the Gold Star Chilli Finish Line Festival at Yeatman’s Cove for more music, vendors, refreshments and relaxation.

Kayak Pittsburgh
At the furthest point east on the Ohio in Pittsburgh, Venture Outdoors sponsors Kayak Pittsburgh as part of its Venture Outdoors Festival, a free, family-friendly festival designed to promote outdoor fun. Kayaks are available on Saturday, May 18, at Point State Park, so folks can get a feel for paddling on the Allegheny River. Children from 35 pounds to 12 years of age can venture out in a tandem with a parent or guardian.

Besides paddling, there are dragon-boating opportunities, fishing rods for adults and kids, biking opportunities, either on your own or loaned, and a climbing wall. There are also yoga sessions throughout the day, a Brazilian martial art demonstration and instructions, family programs, a tour of the RiverQuest Explorer, the world’s first green boat built for river education, and presentations about 18th century outdoor activities at the Fort Pitt Museum.

Venture Outdoors is a non-profit, membership-based organization that promotes being outdoors and has kayak and canoe rentals at several different locations in Pittsburgh.

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