On a hot summer day, there is nothing cooler than floating down the scenic Stonycreek River! A short day-trip away from Pittsburgh (~1 hour and 20 minutes) is a terrific activity in Johnston, PA. This past weekend we made our way out to explore Coal Tubin’ which requires no up-front notice. You can just show up and go!
For this trip, our group had ages between 13 – 45 years old joining, with a fitness range of extremely to moderately fit. Others that were on the river at the same time ranged from about 8 years old to 60 years old with similar appearing fitness abilities.
Coal Tubin’ is in the heart of Johnstown in a district that is starting to be redeveloped. Overall, Johnstown is still your typical depressed river town who’s heyday was at the height of the coal and steel era. There is a nice park (I think they call it Central Park) at the end of the block and a few surprisingly good restaurants within walking district. (We ate at Press Bistro…. more about that later!)
You can find street parking (which is free on the weekends) directly in front of Coal Tubin’s retail office or park in the garage directly behind their building. The first thing you do at Coal Tubin’ is to fill out their emergency contact and release form which is located on the tables to the left just inside the front doors. Everyone in your group (that is not a child) will need to fill out a form.
One thing to remember – while you are going on a fairly gentile river there are a few minor rapids that you will be going over/through. It is highly recommended that you wear water shoes that fully cover your toes and have a heal strap or material that covers your heel completely. The river is full of rocks and while you could go down barefoot, it would likely be uncomfortable. If you forget to bring water shoes, they do sell high quality shoes for about $45. (Our group had a mix of shoe types: 3 wore Teva type of sandals with toe and heel straps, 1 wore water a standard water shoe, and we purchased 1 water shoe on site. We were surprised by the quality and comfort of their shoes and would recommend buying them there if you are going to purchase elsewhere anyway.)
After filling out your release form, head up a short flight of stairs to hand in your form and order your tube. We got the base level tubes ($20 per person) which was just fine. They do offer tubes for children, coolers, tubes with cup holders and back supports, as well as a double tube! (Check out your options here: http://pycoi.com/Tube-Types). You will get a bracelet that is color coded to the type of tube you choose to rent. (So we got orange bracelets that were for the ‘standard tube’.)
Once checked in a Coal Tubin’ bus will transport you to the launch point which is a short 4-5-minute drive away. Prior to pulling away from their retail location, a staff member from Coal Tubin’ will go through a safety review. At the launch point you will find Coal Tubin’ staff already there and ready to help you you pick up your tube and get into the water!
On the River
Your time spent on the river will depend on a few things. The first (and completely outside of your control) is the river height. The higher it is, the faster you will go. Coal Tubin’ will not launch anyone when the water is 4’ or higher due to safety concerns. When we went at the beginning of August the river was at 2.95’ which was perfect as it was high enough to easily clear most of the rocks and provided a gentile float down the river. The other variable to the time on the river is if you decide to stop and explore. We saw some people pull off and have a picnic lunch from the cooler they brought with them.
When you first get in, the river is fairly narrow and moves at its fastest. About 1/3rd of the way down the river widens out and slows down and the last bit of the river tightens up again and you get a bit more speed. Again, at all times it is gentile and relaxing. At no point did we feel out of control and I would feel completely comfortable bringing a young child along with the proper life jacket.
Coal Tubin’ will have staff located on the shore of the river when you get to the pull-out point. An easy paddle over to the side of the river takes you to them. When you get back on shore they will deflate the tube which you will carry up a small walkway and leave it in the grass for their staff to pick up with one of their trucks. From there you walk down a short dirt road to the main road where they have a covered pavilion to wait for the bus to take you back to their retail location.
And that is it! If you are looking for something fun and relaxing to do with friends on a hot day, I would highly recommend Coal Tubin’!
BONUS – FOOD REVIEW
The last thing I wanted to share was a quick overview of Press Bistro!
When we got off the river (about a 2-hour trip for us) we were pretty hungry. We asked another tuber (who was a local) what she would recommend and she provided two recommendations: Balance and Press Bistro. Balance is directly across the street from Coal Tubin’, but was not open when we got back to their offices. So we instead walked across the large park to Press Bistro – and we were so glad to do so!
The atmosphere of Press Bistro has something to be desired (simple tables and chairs), flooring was some sort of older laminate…clearly they did not spend a lot in developing the look and feel of the restaurant.
However, they did spend time making sure their food was great! We started with baskets of fries which appeared to be fresh cut and our group devoured them quickly. For our meals we had Dragon Noodles, Spicy Tofu Bowl, and the Roast Beed Dip sandwich. We were all pleasantly surprised with the quality of food and really enjoyed our meal. There were 4-5 vegetarian meals on the menu and, while there were no specifically vegan options, I was able to eat the Spicy Tofu bowl. I do not love a lot of heat, so I requested they remove the jalapeno pepper from the bowl (which they happily did).
OK – and that is a wrap on a perfect Saturday just outside of Pittsburgh! Let me know if you decide to try this day-trip yourself. I would love to hear about your experience!
Michelle has been working in real estate since 2006, first as an investor and then as an agent. I know and love Pittsburgh! Its charm, vitality, and people invigorate me and I’ve been championing it for years.
My philosophy is people first. I’m not trying to earn your business. I’m out to help people sell their houses or get into the best home for them. My experience has shown me that when you’re looking out for people’s best interests, the business comes.
You can reach me at: 724-504-0070 or online at: www.MichelleGoetzinger.com
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