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North Platte River in Wyoming

Trip Overview


I put in at around 11:00 A.M. under what is considered winter conditions elsewhere: 40F and 40 MPH, but with no ice on the river it was still "Wyoming Autumn". The car was parked in the lee of trees but as I left this shelter the wind blew the canoe out of my hands and rolled it down to the river. It's aluminum so no damage, but with the cold temps and impacts on the stony bank, a Kevlar boat might not have done so well.

With the irrigation season over the river was about 18" lower than in summer, but was still 2-3 feet deep and almost lake-like for a about a half mile below the Launch. I was paddling solo-reversed from the front seat in a 17' Grumman aluminum canoe but the high wind was not a factor in controlling the canoe, as the wind was initially at my back and then almost disappeared as I went around the first bend and was sheltered by cottonwoods.

During low flows the North Platte River essentially becomes a series of slow-moving pools separated by stony riffles 6" to 8" deep. Two people with camping gear would have had trouble with this float, but lining up on the riffles in a tandem boat paddled solo made it possible to avoid "grounding out" I still needed to read the water or I would have picked up scratches, but there was never any real danger.

About a mile downstream I flushed a flock of wild turkeys on the right bank and also spotted a deer another mile on. A bald eagle was circling over head - not sure how he did that with that wind. Beaver and muskrat are common but did not see any this day. Some disinterested angus cattle rounded out the animal life.

About 2-1/2 miles below the Bessemer Bend Launch I took a small braid to the left and went ashore at Emigrant Gap Ridge Landing, a BLM-owned 200' stretch of the river where primitive camping (bury your waste 200'+ from the water) is allowed. I scouted this landing and found two sheltered tent sites (the purpose of this trip) and then continued downstream.

The remainder of the river was a repeat of long, slow-moving pools punctuated by short shallow riffles, and by paddling continuously on this "flat water" I averaged about 2 knots, with a "net" paddling time about 4 hours. Since the river meandered I had alternating head and tailwinds. The high for the day was almost 50F (& 50 MPH) so the afternoon was comfortable - if you kept moving.

I used the first take-out in Casper (Robertson Road Bridge) because I started grounding out in the dark. I was prevented from pulling up to this Take-Out by an intervening gravel bar so I grounded on the bar and pulled the boat over one last channel to the ramp. (This bar is over 20 years old so keep hard to the left when approaching this take-out)

Since I live in Casper, I called up the wife-shuttle to get picked up, although with more daylight I would have continued to my planned take-out and pushed the canoe home with my portage cart.

In summer with higher water this trip would take two-thirds the time and heavy load/deeper draft would be not problem. I had the river to myself in November, but even in summer the crowd is pretty light by most standards. Trout fishing is quite good by the way, with average fish size around 20".

I rated this particular trip "moderate" due to the weather and shallow riffles, but super easy in the summer.

Accommodations:

Sheltered tables and vault toilets in Picnic Area, concrete ramp at the Launch. Motels and commercial campgrounds in the City of Casper.

Fees:

No fees or permits

Directions:

West about 11 miles from downtown Casper on Highway 220, right onto Bessemer Bend Road, west and north about 2 miles and cross over Bessemer Bend Bridge, launch ramp on the left, picnic area on the right.

Launches:

Bessemer Bend Launch

Robertson Road Bridge

Resources:

Bureau of Land Management-"Surface Management Status, 1:100,000-Scale Topographic Map", Wyoming Series - Casper

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip

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