The History of Ohiopyle

Old historical photo of Ohiopyle Falls on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park


Monongahela Mound Builders were among the first group of Native Americans to inhabit the area. They ultimately disappeared before the arrival of European colonists. Various other tribes inhabited the area, but were removed following the French and Indian War. Ohiopyle is derived from the Lenape phrase ahi opihəle which means "it turns very white", referring to the frothy waterfalls.

George Washington tried to use the Youghiogheny River as a means to reach Fort Duquesne and take it back from French soldiers, but was forced to abandon the river passage by the waterfalls in the Ohiopyle area. He quickly setup Fort Necessity in response to threats of an imminent French attack. The colonial forces of Washington were overwhelmed by the French and their Indian allies in the Battle of the Great Meadows at Fort Necessity. The loss at Fort Necessity marked Washington's only military surrender. These battles are considered the opening shots of the French and Indian War which would spread to the Old World and become the Seven Years' War.

The B&O Railroad

The above photograph shows the B&O Railroad Station which reached Ohiopyle in 1871. The site is now an open lot that is often used for parking and also as a Great Allegany Passage access point.


Ferncliff Hotel

In 1879 the Stewarts built the four story Ferncliff Hotel on the 100 acre Ferncliff Peninsula. It was the picture of glamor with running water throughout boasting eight hundred electric lights, and the best in cuisine and service. An archway bearing its name led travelers from the B&O station down a long boardwalk. “Our porters meet all trains” was part of their ad then. The boardwalk led up to the hotel on the hill and down to the river where a bathhouse, bowling alley, and pavilion were built for the enjoyment of patrons. “Western Pennsylvania’s Outing Resort” had a dining room that sat 150, hot and cold baths with iron and sulfur water, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, fishing, bathing, and picnicking