Eric Martin: Wilderness Voyageurs (Ohiopyle, PA)
Eric Martin’s parents started leading rafting trips for scouts on the Youghiogheny River in 1959. They launched Wilderness Voyageurs five years later, becoming the first whitewater rafting company on the Youghiogheny, and the entire east coast. “I grew up deep in the rafting business,” Martin says. “I got my first kayak at age 10, after my dad made me cut grass all summer to earn it.”
When Martin took over in 1992, Wilderness Voyageurs was already an institution. In addition to the company’s flagship whitewater rafting offerings, WV operated a rock climbing school, kayaking instruction, and mountain biking. But Martin was just getting started. He introduced multi-day river trips, fly-fishing, and bike tours along the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail, becoming the first operator to offer bike tours from Pittsburgh to DC. In 2002, he built a brand new facility complete with retail space and a pub-style restaurant serving 75 beers—the first full-service restaurant to open in Ohiopyle in 30 years.
Perhaps most importantly, Martin resurrected rafting on the class V rapids of the Upper Youghiogheny, which his father had pulled the plug on decades ago due to safety concerns. “That was a different era,” Martin says. “The Upper Yough is really special — a beautiful stream with predictable class V that gives you a true wilderness experience right out of the gate.”
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