Menu Contact/Location

Pools, Rivers, Fountains and More Offer Splashing Fun

By Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When it comes to cooling off, there aren’t many better or more efficient ways than getting soaked.

There are a variety of pools, rivers, fountains, rides and more available in Western Pennsylvania to take the edge off of even the hottest days — and we’ve certainly had plenty of those lately. So get out there and get wet.

Wave pools

There’s nothing like getting drenched at one of Allegheny County’s three wave pools. On a sweltering day, few things are more inviting than a heaving expanse of cool blue water, with the afternoon sun dancing on the frothy waves. The county operates wave pools at Settler’s Cabin Park in Robinson, South Park in Bethel Park and Boyce Park in Plum.

The waves are created by a series of chambers concealed behind the rear wall of the pool. They blow compressed air that produces the waves, says Joe Olczak, director of public works. He says they can alter the height of the wave by changing the firing sequence of the chambers. They could make a wave as large as five feet, he says.

“We normally don’t do that because there’s a lot of young kids. We try to keep the waves one to two feet high.”

Settler’s Cabin wave pool is the most heavily used of the three. To beat the rush, go during the week. The weekend rush starts not long after the 11:30 a.m. opening time Friday. No outside food or drinks are permitted, but customers are permitted to bring their own chairs. Inner tubes can be rented for $5, with $1 refunded on the return.

All three pools are open 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for ages 13-17; $3 for age 60 and older and ages 6-12; $1 for age 5 and younger. Group discounts are available. Details: Settler’s Cabin Wave Pool, 412-787-2667; South Park Wave Pool, 412-831-0810; Boyce Park Wave Pool, 724-325-4677, or

— William Loeffler

The big pools

People fond of whopping places for a cool plunge can choose from some of the biggest pools in Western Pennsylvania. Admission rates for adults range from $5 to $7.

North Park Pool — a 57,000-square-foot landmark built in the early 1930s — once claimed to be the largest pool in the United States. It offers a 20-foot-tall curved slide, separate baby pool, concession stand, swimming classes and 25-cent lockers in a big, slate-roofed bathhouse. Swimmers can rent flotation tubes, but rafts, belly boards and other flotation devices are prohibited. North Park Pool is on South Ridge Road in McCandless. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily. Details: 724-935-1951.

Dormont Pool is longer than a football field and also offers a curved slide, concession stand and swimming lessons, plus water aerobics classes. Dormont Pool is at Banksville Road and Dormont Avenue. Hours: noon to 8 p.m. daily. Details: 412-341-7210.

Ligonier Beach — a 400-by-100-foot pool — opened July 4, 1925, and shares 10 acres with a sit-down restaurant, picnic grove, sand area, snack bar, poolside bar and game room. Entertainer Dean Martin once worked as “a towel boy” at the pool, and bands continue to perform 2 to 6 p.m. Sundays. Feel free to bring your own raft or other flotation device. Ligonier Beach is at 1752 Route 30 East in Ligonier Township, Westmoreland County. Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Details: 724-238-5553 or

— Deborah Deasy

State parks

Perhaps you’re allergic to chlorine. Maybe you don’t like man-made waves. Or it could be you’d rather not pay to swim.

Three state parks in the region offer cost-effective alternatives to crowded, and sometimes pricey, municipal and public pools.

At Keystone State Park in Derry, Westmoreland County, a 1,000-foot sand beach lies on the northern rim of Keystone Lake. No food, pets, beverages are allowed on the sand. Swimming is available from 8 a.m. to dusk, from mid-May through mid-September.

Moraine State Park in Portersville, Butler County, offers two swimming areas. Pleasant Valley Beach on the south shore of Lake Arthur features a 1,200-foot sand-and-turf beach, with a playground and sand volleyball court nearby. A 550-foot sand beach is the main feature of Lakeview Beach on the north shore. Both beaches have showers, changing rooms and food concessions nearby, and are open from sunrise to sunset, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. No pets are permitted on the beaches.

Raccoon State Park in Hookstown, Beaver County, features an 800-foot, sand-and-turf beach, with a bathhouse and concession stand nearby. Swimming is available from mid-May through mid-September.

All state parks are swim at your own risk; swimming at all state parks is free. Details:

— Rege Behe


Getting wet is easy around Ohiopyle. But watch out, it can be dangerous, too.

The Fayette County town is in the middle of a great outdoor area featuring mountains, a long bike trail and, of course, the Youghiogheny River. That waterway offers rafting trips that are among the best-known in the Mid-Atlantic area. Even if you stay in the boat, you’re bound to get wet.

The trips that begin near the town explore 7 1/2 miles of the Lower Yough, blasting through Class III and IV rapids. This is not a trip to be taken lightly and safety talks are part of every adventure to make sure rafters know what to do if they are tossed from the boat.

If these rapids are not enough, try trips on the Upper Yough, which is above the reservoir gated at nearby Confluence. This 5-mile trip roars through class V rapids and drops an average on 115 feet per mile. Because this is not dam-controlled these trips usually are spring-oriented when runoff gives the river flow.

But don’t forget the Middle Yough from Confluence to Ohiopyle. This stretch provides a generally placid trip with a few Class I and II rapids. Basically, though, it is a lovely trip through a deep Appalachian valley, the stuff folk songs are made of.

Outfitters such as Wilderness Voyageurs (800-272-4141) or Ohiopyle Trading Post (888-644-6795) handle a variety of trips near Ohiopyle. Prices vary according to the day, the trip, what kind of lunch is offered, or whether a guide is needed or included. They can go as high as $150 on the Upper Yough, $95 for the Lower or around $35 for a float on the Middle.

— Bob Karlovits

Spray parks

Community swimming pools aren’t cheap to run and maintain, and every year, it seems, there’s a battle to keep more from closing. Another way for kids to cool off during the dog days of summer is the spray park.

Pittsburgh has two — one in Troy Hill that opened last year, and a new one that opened in Beechview this summer.

Spray parks feature an array of different water features, fountains, sprinklers, sprayers and mist-makers, many with sensors triggered by movement. Kids can sprint through the spray park setting them all off, or spend time soaking and redirecting the flow of their favorite features.

There’s no age limit, no worries about falling into the deep end. Children with disabilities — even wheelchairs — can participate.

“The response has been really great,” says Mike Radley, director of Citiparks. “It reaches a large spectrum of kids and neighbors.”

There are two other Allegheny County-run spray parks outside the city, at Round Hill Park in Elizabeth and Deer Lakes Park in Frazier. The one at Round Hill Park is called the Aquatic Playground, and has a farm theme — with fountains and sprayers shaped like pigs, barn doors and tall sunflowers.

City spray parks: Vanucci Playground, Orangewood Avenue, Beechview. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. 412-255-2539. Goettman Street, Troy Hill. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. 412-255-2539.

County spray parks: Round Hill Park, Hereford Drive, Elizabeth. 8 a.m. to sundown daily. 412-384-4701. Deer Lakes Park, Creighton Russelton Road, Frazier. 8 a.m. to sundown daily. 724-265-3520.

— Michael Machosky

Amusement parks

Whether you’re going to Kennywood or Idlewild, there are guaranteed ways to cool off and get wet as the day gets hot.

On two of Kennywood’s three water rides, you almost certainly will get soaked. On the Raging Rapids, you ride in a round tube with five other people along a winding, bumpy river with at least one waterfall. On a hot day, get on this ride early before the lines get too long, then you’re wet clothes will help keep you cool as you explore the rest of the park.

On the Pittsburg Plunge you ride in a car that holds 20 people. It goes up a hill, around a bend and then, you guessed it, plunges 50 feet into a pool of water, generally drenching everyone inside and those on an observation platform.

The Log Jammer’s ability to soak is a little more iffy. Your best bet is to share your log with three of your heavier friends to get the maximum splash on both the smaller slope in the middle of the ride and the big hill at the end.

At Idlewild, the water fun is found in Soakzone, a large water park that has fountains and slides to fit every level of daring. There are five larger slides, some where you use rafts and some where you slide on your own backside. The hydrosoaker area allows you to spray your friends. Or stand under the tipping bucket as hundred of gallons of waters cascade down. For toddlers, the Little Squirts area has a shallow pool with fountains, waterfalls, and gurgling jets. For those a little older but not yet read for the big slides, Captain Kidd’s Adventure Galley has multiple small slides, jets, waterfalls and its own tipping bucket.

The water features are included in general admission to the parks.

Kennywood, West Mifflin. Hours: 10:30 a.m. until around 10 p.m. Admission: $17.49 to $35.99. Details:

Soakzone, west of Ligonier. Admission: $21.99 to $29.99. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Details:

— Susan Jones


There are plenty of places to get wet at Sandcastle waterpark. Enjoy 14 fun-filled waterslides. The Blue Tubaluba slides are Sandcastle’s first dual-rider, enclosed slides. The Boardwalk Blasters body slides are for strong swimmers only because you race down two 25-foot long slides to a soaking surprise ending — a 7-foot free fall into a 12-foot-deep landing pool.

Brave thrill seekers will enjoy the Monster, a free-fall slide, starting 85-feet above the finish, with a gradual slope glide of 25 feet that drops to a steep 60 feet, hitting speeds up to 25 miles per hour.

There is a 20,000-square-foot wave pool. Willie’s Water Works is a pool where children control 20,000 gallons of water by pulling ropes, twisting valves and turning handles that unleash geysers, fountains and sprays. Surrounding it all is the Lazy River, a gently flowing stream a quarter-mile long.

Purchase a season pass and get wet as many times as you like.

Sandcastle, West Homestead. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays-Sundays (Memorial Day to Labor Day). Admission: $18.99-$29.99. Details: 412-462-6666 or

— Joanne Klimovich Harrop


Two museums on the North Side have dedicated their top floors to playing in water.

• Bright yellow balls, clear tubes and lots and lots of running water make the Carnegie Science Center’s Exploration Station Junior a popular destination for the 3- to 6-year-old set.

The comfortably child height and brightly colored area is a great place for exploring scientific concepts like using a corkscrew device and wheels to raise water or just splashing around. Oversize blue and yellow vinyl bibs help ward off wet clothing and there’s a small hand dryer for damp spots.

Just outside the preschoolers’ station older kids and adults have their own area for water play and hydraulic exploration. At hip high metal troughs, they can construct water dams or connect clear tubes to direct the flow of water.

Carnegie Science Center, North Side. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays to Fridays and 10 a.m to 7 p.m. Saturdays: Admission: $17.95; $9.95 for ages 3-12. Details: 412-237-3400 or

• The Waterplay exhibit takes up the whole top floor of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Kids can build a boat to float down the River and make its way through a dam. Or don boots and a slicker and walk through bubbling water jets that you can re-direct by making spouts with interlocking pipes. Better bring a change of clothing, because even the most cautious kid usually gets wet.

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $11; $10 for age 65 and older and ages 2-18. Details: 412-322-5058 or

— Alice T. Carter

PPG Plaza

The spurt and splash of the PPG Plaza fountain’s 140 water jets could help you chill even if you just watched them from beneath the shade of one of the plaza’s umbrella-covered tables.

The water forms complex, ever changing patterns as liquid columns soar up to 15 feet around the plaza’s central column.

Kids love the fountain’s flat no-barrier surface that allows them to meander or sprint through the unpredictable eruptions, risking or inviting a good soaking.

Guards enforce the plaza’s clearly posted rules which include no running; no beachwear, towels or sunbathing; no bikes, skateboards or animals; adult supervision of children and no drinking the water.

PPG Plaza is bordered by Third and Fourth avenues as well as PPG buildings 1 and 4, Downtown. The fountain operates every day through Oct. 1 with continuous operation from 6 to 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. and intermittently at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Details: 412- 434-1900 or

— Alice T. Carter

Water steps

Gravity does the work at the Water Steps at North Shore Riverfront Park. From a pool in front of Hyde Park steak house on North Shore Drive, just west of PNC Park, the water descends over broad steps of sandstone blocks toward the Ohio River.

Each level provides a restful yet refreshing blend of cool water and warm sun, where you can sit in the stream and take in a spectacular view of Downtown. Straight ahead is the river, on which ducks may be seen enjoying the sight of humans in water.

The steps’ steady yet gentle flow of water fits the idyllic family-friendly environment.

— Mark Kanny


For the ultimate in sunny day relaxation therapy, set your bottom into an inner tube and allow a gentle river flow to propel you downstream between tree-lined river banks. This past weekend, the water temperature was a perfect 78 degrees.

The Pale Whale Canoe Fleet on the Clarion River in Cook Forest State Park offers tube rentals that include a drive upstream to your put-in. Choose from a two-hour, 2 1/2-mile float ($10 for a single, $18 for a figure-eight double) or the four-hour, 4-mile trek ($14 for single, $26 for double).

The river is a mild family friendly one that averages just 2 to 3 feet in depth. But even so, kids are strapped into life jackets for your set-your-own-pace river ride. Add an extra tube to strap on your cooler — or rent a floating cooler — and the day will be complete. There are plenty of stops — atop rocks or on the river bank — to enjoy a snack and cold drink.

From Pittsburgh, take I-79 north to I-80 east to the Brookville exit. Following Route 36 north, cross the Clarion River Bridge and make a right on River Road. Pale Whale will be on the left. Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, renting until 4 p.m. Details: 800-680-0160 or

— Sally Quinn

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633