John Sweet’s fame lies two hours south of the Youghiogheny, in the swirling waters of the Gauley River. And his entry into boating lies two hours north of Friendsville, in the winding streets that surround State College. Between those two places, he spent a decade dominating slalom races and pioneering new runs. Bill Bickham taught him to boat in the early 1960s, but only a few years later he would surpass him as both a racer and a river-runner. John would pour over topographic maps looking for new rivers, and his fellow boaters at the Penn State Outing Club would follow him each weekend for a new exploration. While the final rapid of the Upper Gauley bears his name, there are dozens of other runs he opened up for future boaters.

You can hear the story of how John and Bill Bickham completed the first descent of the Savage River here