Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on July 19, 2022.
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We love getting out on the water whenever we can, and one of our preferred methods for doing so is in a kayak.
There is no shortage of kayak options in the Pittsburgh area, and on a recent outing we took out rentals from 10.7 Marina in Verona to explore the Allegheny River a bit upstream from the city. This made for a great starting point as Verona is a short distance away from Sycamore Island- a green space we've been wanting to check out from years that is only accessible via boat.
So we boarded our kayaks and were off!
What You Can See Kayaking from 10.7 Marina
When you take your rental out for the day, the folks at the marina will give you a map with three notable highlights. Two are islands to the west, Ninemile Island and Sycamore Island, and one is the point where Plum Creek connects up to the Allegheny just a bit to the east.
We opted to paddle to Sycamore Island as it is a public conservation area that is only accessible by boat (Ninemile Island, on the other hand, is private and can only be enjoyed from a distance). This island is about 1,000 feet long and 50 feet wide and is a wild green space full of trees, plants, and everyone's favorite weed, knotweed- yes, it's even on the island.
According to the Allegheny Land Trust, there are a few trails on the island (as well as a camp site) and it takes 20 minutes or so to walk around; however, you should be aware that most of the shoreline is surrounded by thick weeks. There is one listed docking point on the marina provided map where you can get out and to enjoy the island, but as we had some incredibly shallow waters during our visit we decided to just appreciate this one mostly from a distance.
Either way, we have to admit, paddling around this one really made us feel like we were not in Pittsburgh for a moment!
- We did go to shore on Sycamore Island due to an issue with a friend's kayak but landed at the northern corner that had some fairly thick brush and made it hard to go explore. The access point listed on the marina map would be much easier.
Watch the Weather Before Heading Out
One of the most important things to note before kayaking on the Allegheny River is that the speed of the water flow changes considerably. The more rain we get, the higher the water levels, the faster the river moves, and the harder it will be to kayak upriver on the return trip. (Although, higher water would make accessing Sycamore Island a bit easier, too.)
As such, depending on your skill level you may want to be careful in planning a trip out on the water shortly after a big rain. We were fortunate and went out after a prolonged period without strong rains, and found the current to be almost non-existent (in fact, boat wakes were the only real issue). But we've seen the rivers after a solid storm and can thoroughly understand why kayaking outfits close during these times as well.
So plan accordingly!
Likewise, despite the island being fairly close to Verona and the 10.7 Marina where we rented our kayaks from, you should expect the trip out and back (including a loop around the island) to take close to an entire hour. So if you are wanting to explore Sycamore Island at all, you would be best renting your kayaks for about two hours to allow for some flexibility as one hour would likely only be enough time to paddle down, around, and back without stopping.
When it comes down to it, we quite enjoyed our trip out on the Allegheny River near Verona. Not only is this stretch of water much quieter than closer to the city, but the added benefit of being able to kayak around Sycamore Island (and possibly go ashore) makes for a unique outing.
Now we're just hoping to go back out when the water levels are a bit higher to be able to go ashore at the proper docking site at Sycamore Island!
10.7 Marina is located at 314 Arch Street in Verona, PA. Advanced reservations online are recommended. Beyond single kayaks they also have tandem kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards available.
Looking for more ways to get out on the three rivers in Pittsburgh? Click the previous link to check out some of our favorites!