August 31, 2010

Youghiogheny River AKAs




Yuck waters









Yochi Geni



 Yoxhio Geni

     The common theme of the above names: the Youghiogheny River, pronounced yock-a-gay’-nee. The variety of names are AKAs for the river, gleaned from historic documents and journals, and the Internet.

     I was told that people along the river in Southwestern Pennsylvania refer to it as the Yough is because they cannot pronounce Youghiogheny. However, my granddaughter, when she was a mere eighteen months old, rolled the name off the tip of her tongue with ease.

     The Yohogany is the only river in western Maryland that doesn’t flow south into the Potomac River. Thus, its name, derived from an Algonquian word, means contrary stream.

     Captain Robert Orme, an aide to General Braddock in 1755, wrote that about crossing the Yoxhio Geni on June 30: we crossed the main body…which was about two hundred yards wide and about three feet deep….

     From the writings of Rufus Putnam, cofounder of the 1986 Ohio Company: until the 1st February, completing some plats of the late surveys, when they left for mouth of Yoh.

     A 1751 map labeled the river Yawyawganey.


     Yough and Yok rhyme with rock, descriptive of the nature of the rock-littered river. These rocks provide some of the best whitewater in the Eastern United States but inhibit the river’s commercial use, as seen in the May, 1754, George Washington writings where he wondered Could guns and baggage be transported on the Yough? On May 20 he went down the river to Ohiople Falls and found the stream too rocky and rapid for navigation…(regarding the possibility) of finding a water route through the mountains along the Youghiogheny river … I have Resolved to go down the River to this Fall, which is at Turkey foot; to inform myself concerning the Nature and difficulty (of traversing the river)…On May 23 he wrote We traced the watercourse near thirty miles, with the full expectation of succeeding in the much desired aim; but, at length, we came to a fall, which continued rough, rocky, and scarcely passable, for two miles, and then fell, within the space of fifty yards, nearly fourty feet perpendicular” Washington described Ohiopyle Falls, and concluded that boats could not go down the falls and the rapids below.  Thus, the river remained relatively untouched for most of its 135 miles.


    I was introduced to the river when I moved to Connellsville, Pennsylvania, in 1995. From the beginning of July, when we arrived, well into August, the temperatures were in the 90s. I finally discovered the river, and my first time sitting in it to cool down was unsuccessful—after two hours my body was still feeling the heat.

     I’ve written two posts on the river—listed at the end of this post in ADDITIONAL READING.


     The Appalachian Plateau Province is a tableland extending from Somerset County, Pennsylvania, through Maryland, to Northeastern West Virginia and beyond. An eastern continental divide runs through Maryland’s westernmost county, Garrett County.

     The Youghiogheny River is a rapid stream rising from the springs of (Maryland’s) Big Savage Mountain-Backbone Mountain (in Preston County, West Virginia) Chain in the Allegheny Mountains. The springs unite in a valley called the great meadows.

     Its headwaters are approximately ten miles north of the headwaters of the North Branch of the Potomac River. The Yough flows NNE into Garrett County, flowing north and roughly parallel to the West Virginia border. It enters southwestern Pennsylvania between Somerset and Fayette Counties, flowing northwest through a gap in the Chestnut Ridge and dividing Connellsville into two sections. After a distance of 135 miles, it joins the Monongahela River from the southeast at McKeesport.


     At the Borough of Confluence, Pennsylvania, three miles above Laurel Hill, there is a peculiar natural configuration of land created where the Casselman River, Laurel Hill Creek and the Youghiogheny River merge. That odd land configuration provided the name of the township in which Confluence is located—Turkeyfoot:

      On May 21, 1754 Colonel George Washington and a small party were sent to the junction of the Youghiogheny River, the Casselman River and the Laurel Hill Creek to survey the area. An Indian guide told him to notice the way the three bodies of water joined together to form the shape of a turkey’s foot.

    Thaddeus Mason Harris wrote the following in 1803: With the accession of some smaller runs, it (the Yough) becomes a very considerable and beautiful river. Pursuing a northwesterly course, as it passes through a gap in Laurel Hill, it precipitates itself over a ledge of rocks which lie nearly at right angles to the course of the stream, and forms a noble cascade, called “the Ohiopyle Falls.”…Dr. Rittenhouse, who has published a description of these falls…found the perpendicular height of the cataract to be “about twenty feet, and the breadth of the river two hundred and forty feet. For a considerable distance below the falls, the river is very rapid, and boils and foams vehemently, occasioning a continual mist top arise from it.

     (The name Ohiopyle (Ohiopihelle) means white froth upon the water.)

     Dr. Rittenhouse’s description in Harris’ diary continues: The river at this place runs to the southeast, but presently winds round to the northwest, and continuing this general course for thirty or forty miles, it loses its name by uniting with the Monongahela, which comes from the southward, and contains perhaps twice as much water.”

     The Youghiogheny River, a tributary of the Monongahela River, drains an area on the west side of the Allegheny Mountains, north into Pennsylvania, and provides a small watershed in extreme western Maryland into the tributaries of the Mississippi River. It is one of the five large branches of the Monongahela River (the others being Cheat River, Valley Fork, Buckhannon, and West Fork).

    I no longer visit Stewart’s Crossing on the Youghiogheny River to cool off. While I once lived about a mile from that point, I now live at the foot of Laurel Mountain, adjacent to Washington Furnace Run, in Westmoreland County. I walk to this stream to cool off on hot days. It is not as majestic as the river, but serves the same purpose.

     Whatever moniker you hang on the river, it is a delightful and historical place to visit.






RIVER (Specifically, the Youghiogheny River)


Googins Island, Maine: An Osprey Sanctuary





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  1. May GOD Bless!!! Mark

    Comment by markbyrd — August 31, 2010 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

  2. thanks for a nice read.

    RE: “The Yohogany is the only river in western Maryland that doesn’t flow south into the Potomac River. Thus, its name, derived from an Algonquian word, means contrary stream.”

    my river, the casselman, which joins the youghiogheny in confluence, pa flows north from western maryland, too.

    Comment by thomas — September 1, 2010 @ 12:58 am | Reply

  3. I realize on checking that one reference said what I stated, but others disagreed. I apologize for using the wrong reference. Thanks for the correction! Carolyn
    Also note: I clicked on the star to see what would happen! It was a test! However, I try not to post any items I do not like.

    Comment by carolyncholland — September 1, 2010 @ 4:30 pm | Reply

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