RIDGWAY — Located along the banks of the Clarion River in downtown Ridgway, Lazy River Canoe Rental offers an abundance of outdoors actives for residents of the Tri-County Area and beyond.
Owner and operator Tim McClain started the family-owned business in St. Marys in 2010 before moving to Ridgway a year later to take the place of Love’s Canoe Rental, which had severed the area for 30 years before closing its doors.
“I’ve been on the (Clarion) river since I was 12-years-old and so I just thought it was a good opportunity to start my company and just share my passion for the river with other people,” McClain said.
The business offers a little bit of everything, from kayak, canoe and tube rentals, to bike repairs and trail hiking as well as being a full-service stop for fishermen.
McClain said the kayak and canoe rentals are what brings in the most business, as he noted groups will come in from around the state as well as Ohio, New York and Virginia and sometimes even from out of the country to go on paddling trips.
“I think what drives why people want to paddle the river is that it’s federally designated, wild and scenic and it’s just very secluded,” McClain said.
While McClain often led guided tours in the early years of the business, he noted most of the groups are going out on self-guided tours, camping and fishing along the river.
He noted another factor that draws in campers and fishers is the fact that a large portion of the river is bordered by national and state forrests.
“It’s just a good place to spend time on the water and make a weekend adventure out of it,” McClain said.
He estimated that of those tour rentals, it is close to a 50/50 split between recreational paddlers and sport fishermen.
Lazy River Canoe Rental offers everything a fisherman could need, from having a bait shop to all the equipment needed for day of fishing on the water as well as the opportunity to obtain a fishing license on site.
While the business typically opens its doors in early to mid-April for the start of trout fishing season, that will likely be pushed back this year due to the limitations brought on by the state due to the coronavirus.
The peak of the season goes through September, but LRCR also offers ice fishing equipment for rental when there is a need and ice on the river.
During the offseason, McClain noted the bicycle shop helps to keep the business going as they rent and sell ASI and Fuji bikes as well as provide servicing and repairs.
He added that they get business from people who travel to the south for the peak of winter, as they come in to make sure their bikes are tuned up before heading out of the area.
McClain noted there are a lot of paved secondary roads that bike renters like to ride on around the area of the shop.
“If somebody is looking for more of a forest ride, we have the rail trail that starts in Ridgway and goes to Brockway, there is a connecting trail from Brockway to Brookville,” McClain said. “That offers about as much biking as people are up for.”
Tubing rentals are also a key part of the business, as McClain noted a lot of families take the approximately two-mile tubing journey from Arroyo to Irwin Run canoe launch.
“You get a lot of people that aren’t comfortable with canoeing or kayaking and they just want to go out with their kids for the day and spend a little bit of time on the river,” McClain said. “There are a couple swimming holes along that stretch, it takes about four hours and the water there is good for that type of activity.”
He added that the tubing rentals pick up around Memorial Day and is a hit for out-of-towners and accounts for about 30 percent of the business.
McClain said the start of the season is in a bit of as limbo right now due to COVID-19 as he noted it has already had an impact on the business.
“I’ve had several people call asking about shuttles and we just can’t do it,” McClain said. “I guess it just all depends on how the COVID-19 virus plays itself out and the kind of restrictions that we have.”
He added that LRCR will continue to comply with state restrictions and due what is best for themselves and their customers.
“We will be here, regardless of how long it takes,” McClain said. “Basically we’re gonna be on standby.”
McClain stressed that as soon as they are able to open for business, they will post on their Facebook page as well as on their website at lazyrivercanoerental.com.