Jonah Bank to Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park
Put-in was at LAT 42.848277-LONG 106.333667, on the opposite shore from Jonah Bank & by the bronze statue of a fly fisherman. The Friends of the Library have a "Private Property" sign on the Walnut Street approach, but pedestrian access has been ongoing. The hewn-stone staircase was good for hauling gear, but it was easier to just slide the boat down the grass alongside. The landing itself is on flat-topped granite boulders mortared-in at various elevations, making a launch easy at all water levels.
The 1st Street & railroad bridges came up within a quarter mile of putting in, followed by the Parkway Launch with its concrete ramp. The twin bridges of Interstate 25 immediately afterwards were, as always, wide & low enough to trap a lot of cool air the 60 F water, even with the 85° F air temperature out in the open.
As the river turned east into North Casper, a right-hand braid 15' wide and 50 yards long that had been dry in early spring now had 4" of water, enough for a solo-paddled tandem canoe. To me, these narrow, overgrown channels always seem to give an intimate feel for both the land & water at the same time.
The residential neighborhood of North Casper on river right was sometimes hidden by either high banks, or a screen of willows, Russian olives & cottonwoods, while the more open river left was a largely-undeveloped city park. This made the river seem more rural than it actually was, but still wild enough to support American Mink (Neovison vison) one of which raced me along the north bank!
The river was running around 1,800 CFS during this trip, much faster than last autumn at 400-500 CFS. The concrete ramp of the Soccer Fields Launch 2.6 miles downstream passed by in less than 45 minutes! This is a good Launch even during low water due to the hard cobble bed of the River here.
Another hour put me at the Reshaw Park Lower Launch, named for the Richard (French pronunciation) Bridge of pioneer days, a replica of which stands just west of the Launch. It's just upstream of the Beverly/Brian Stock Trail Bridge & while there's no ramp & was slippery, the bank was low enough for an easy step-out. The trees here do not have broad or dense shade, so it's smart to scout the tables carefully before tying up your boat & getting out.
After the Bridge the river slowed, deepened & widened as it entered the area where Knife River Corporation was mining sand & gravel between Casper & Evansville. Low banks, cattails, & mucky shallows with carp kicking up mud clouds at my approach all indicated a warmer, more stagnant environment - even the air seemed hotter! While the maps showed gravel pit lakes close to the river, good management by the Company kept the banks in shape and the river from breaching out of its channel.
Cliffs rose on river left downstream of the gravel pits, and the river now felt healthier, confirmed by a twelve-inch rainbow rocketing 3' out of the water 20' away from the boat � chasing a bug, probably. The mud-daubed nests of cliff swallows were packed beneath the ledges, & although those birds were long gone, a pair of bald eagles tightly spiraled around each other high overhead in what appeared to be a late-season courtship flight.
The low banks and slow current continued until the approach of the Little America Refinery. Unlike the Casper refineries of yesteryear, there was no oil sheen on the river, probably due to the corrugated steel containment barriers hammered into the banks to keep subsurface oil from leaking into the river.
Having previously scouted the Cole Creek Bridge Launch from shore earlier in the week, I now paddled up Claude Creek Channel until hitting bottom, but instead of taking out, just pushed back to the river and continued downstream. There were clouds of trout fingerlings in this shallow water, & the creek bed was quite firm with sand, gravel, and rock, making it a fine launch regardless of water level. That steep 100-yard carry to the parking lot won't change, though.
To escape the 90° F heat I put-in under the shade of the Cole Creek Road Bridge just 50 yards downstream of Claude Creek to cool off & re-hydrate. The clay soil near the water was quite moist, so my icebox came in handy as a seat. For some reason the shade under this particular bridge was not as cool as the others, possibly due to its height, but there�s plenty of level ground under it for a bad-weather camp.
Another two miles & the hard-to-see Edness Kimball Wilkins Boat Ramp came into view on river right, straddled by a small rapid. With a good map & prior scouting, I was able to commit early & tie up fast even wearing my moon boots! Total river distance for this day trip was just over 10 miles. Cellular phone service was excellent throughout the trip, so I launched the wife-shuttle while still "on the ramp".
While waiting for the shuttle I strapped on the portage cart & went looking for potable water in the State Park via its excellent paved roads. I finally found two spigots near the "Platte River" group shelter � of a mile to the northeast.
Next trip I'll likely paddle past the boat ramp & try out the First Bench Launch below the riverside guard rail north of the Swimming Pond. That landing has a moderate slope with boulder rip-rap for an easy climb up, & is much closer to the water spigots & the Swimming Pond. That would beat pushing a portage cart around in the 91° F sun!
Swimming, flush toilets, drinking water, green grass & a beach - Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park has everything but overnight camping! If you�re just passing through & need to stop only to fill up on water, though, it's better to continue past the boat ramp & land at the First Bench Launch at LAT 42.857602-LONG 106.179290. Just tie-up your boat, walk up the rip-rapped bank, then follow the parking lot south 100 yards to the nearest tap by the "Platte River" shelter. If putting-in to float downstream, however, the ramp is a far better choice.
This stretch of the North Platte River has a wild feel even in an urban/suburban setting. While there are fewer trout here than above town, they're larger, and with fewer boats & abundant cover there's a surprising number & variety of wildlife. The wind blows less here than upstream � a good thing in spring & fall, maybe less desirable in the summer heat. Some consider the industrial sites onshore to be an eyesore, but they have no obvious effect on the river itself. Best of all, a large group can send some members down the river while others shop, sleep-in, or pursue other sports but still get together later in the park for barbecuing, playing volleyball, hiking or swimming.
Here's how this 10 mile float breaks down:
|Fly Fisherman Statue||0 MI||0 MI||No|
|Parkway Plaza||0.3 MI||0.3 MI||Yes|
|Riverview Park||1.3 MI||1.6 MI||Yes|
|Soccer Fields||1.0 MI||2.6 MI||Yes|
|Reshaw Park Upper||1.5 MI||4.1 MI||No|
|Reshaw Park Lower||0.6 MI||4.7 MI||No|
|Cole Creek Rd. Bridge|
|3.1 MI||7.8 MI||No|
|Edness Kimball Wilkins|
State Park (Ramp)
|2.3 MI||10.1 MI||Yes|
Riverside RV Park & Resort, Evansville (RV's only)
Fort Casper Campground, Mills
Deer Creek RV Park, Glenrock
Motels in Casper & Glenrock
Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park (Day Use)
No fees at Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park unless picnicing with vehicle at the take-out ($4.00)
From Downtown Casper, drive West on First Street, cross the River Bridge and park left in the Jonah Bank parking lot. Carry down to the bicycle trail opposite & upstream of the Fly Caster statue.
From Downtown Casper Drive east on Interstate 25 for FIVE miles
Exit north on Hat Six / Cole Creek Road. Drive north � mile.
Turn right onto the Old Yellowstone Highway & drive east TWO miles.
Turn left into Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park, go north 250 yards to entrance kiosk, go another 100 yards and turn left, after another 400 yards turn right and follow the signs to the Centennial Group shelter and nearby boat ramp.
BLM Surface Use Map "Casper" 1:100,000 Scale