North Platte River - Bessemer Narrows
This afternoon trip from the Sechrist Launch to the Bessemer Bend-Stark Launch covered a distance of 6.4 river miles. The Bureau of land Management calculates the float time at 2.5 hours by canoe during high water, but scouting for campsites on the east side of Bessemer Mountain ate up another 2 hours.
The river was high as the Bureau of Reclamation was moving a lot of water from the upstream reservoirs to the downstream reservoirs in anticipation of the spring runoff from snowmelt. The flow rate would be as high or higher during the irrigation season, but much lower in the fall, winter, and early spring. The water was clear with just a trace of moss starting to grow.
The first mile below Sechrist Launch passed through prairie, with sagebrush growing up high on the banks and red willows, Russian olives, and tall grass growing nearer the water.
The river then turned left between Bessemer Mountain on the west, and Coal Mountain on the east, becoming deeper and faster, and with 1 to 1.5 foot-high standing waves in some of the drops - but still only Class I+ water. There were occasional large rocks within a few inches of surface and I scraped one due to paddling solo in a high wind and being too intent on fishing. Tandem canoe paddlers or kayakers focused on the float would do better.
The upper slopes on both sides of Bessemer Narrows are lined with juniper trees somewhat thinned out by recent forest fires, but with enough of them left be scenic, and enhanced by cliffs and the bright red Goose Egg formation contrasting with the green of the trees. Luckily the junipers are most dense where primitive camping is allowed by the BLM on Bessemer Mountain - located about 1/3 of the way through the Narrows on the west side. The cliffs and red rock formations contrast nicely with the green Junipers.
The wind was initially from the SW but shifted in all directions including dead calm depending on location, but with minor effect on total paddling time.
The River broke into braids and large islands in the last third of the Narrows and by staying in the westernmost channels a semi-wilderness experience could be had away from the riverside houses and state highway on the east bank. During low water periods, however, all but the main channel would be dry.
This trip was supposedly to have ended at the Wyoming Flycasters Launch near the Speas Fish hatchery, but having not adequately scouted the bank I found it too steep and brushy to take out, even at the trail where the waste spring water from the hatchery gushes out of a pipe.
I continued another mile and a half to Bessemer Bend picnic area located to the north of the Bessemer Bend Bridge. (The restrooms and picnic tables made waiting for my shuttle more pleasant than at the zero-facilities boat ramp area on the south side of the Bridge) Unfortunately, the absence of wind-breaking trees in the picnic area means that shuttle vehicles must line up directly into the wind with ropes and straps pre-positioned for a quick tie-down!
It's possible to shorten a Narrows trip by taking-out at Hartnett Launch which has an acceptable dirt ramp but no toilet facilities. The wind would be less, though.
Wildlife is common in the Narrows, including antelope, deer, beaver, muskrat and birds, but the only wildlife sighted during this trip were a pair of blue herons, some mallard ducks, and a few Canada geese. I didn't catch any fish, but a family fishing on private property opposite the BLM landing caught several nice trout with bait while I scouted for tent sites.
The mountain-style scenery, camping opportunities on Bessemer Mountain, the fishing below the class 1+ riffles, and proximity to the city of Casper make this one of the best short floats on the North Platte River.
I would rate this float easy, but moderate in a high wind.
There is dispersed (primitive) camping along a 750' long stretch of BLM land on the west bank of the Narrows. (Bury human waste 200'+ from the River) The blue side of the signs indicate public access, and the red side private property.
There are also pit toilets and a concrete boat ramp at Sechrist Launch, and a concrete boat ramp to the south of the Bessemer Bend Bridge and a picnic area with pit toilets to the north.
If your boat comes from out-of-state, a $5 non-invasive species sticker for paddle craft must be purchased and affixed before floating in Wyoming waters
SECHRIST LAUNCH (PUT-IN)- W/SW from Casper,WY go 18-1/2 miles on Hwy 220, turn right and drive 3/16 mile to boat ramp
BESSEMER BEND (TAKE OUT)- W/SW from Casper, WY, go west 13 miles on Hwy 220, turn right onto Bessemer Bend North Road, go 1-3/4 miles and turn right at junction with Bessemer Bend South Road, go 5/8 miles to Bessemer Bend Bridge ramp on left, picnic area on the right.
BLM Map - "Casper Surface Management Status", 1:100,000 Scale
USGS Topo Map - "Bessemer Mountain", 7.5 Minute Series
USGS Topo Map - "Emigrant Gap", 7.5 Minute Series
BLM Map/Brouchure - "Float Access Guide - North Platte River, Gray Reef to Casper" FREE!