Destinaiton advice - long canoe trip

Getting the itch for a long canoe trip with just me and the dog later this year and am looking for some suggestions west of the Mississippi. I’m thinking at least a week long and over 100 miles.

I’d prefer rivers if for no other reason than I find them more enjoyable than paddling lakes and the general lack of portages. Something like the BWCA or Quetico is a possibility but I’ll admit the thought of repeated portages doesn’t appeal to me.

Been looking at the upper Missouri and that looks nice.

I’d love to get back to the PNW but I’m not having a lot of luck finding river paddling that doesn’t involve whitewater (I’ll be portaging around anything more than an easy class II). Any thoughts on places out that direction? The Bogachiel river on the Olympic peninsula looks promising (although short) but it’s a no dog zone in the national park.

I’d prefer to see as few people as possible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be remote. No desire to spend a week paddling with power boats and vacation homes lining the shore. Good birding would be a definite plus but not a priority.

Any ideas greatly appreciated.


Consider Buffalo in Arkansas
Think it is about 100 miles from Pruitt to the White River takeout. That avoids the more white-water and possibly low water sections above Pruitt.

Probably could start even lower on Buffalo and do some of the White if it looked like low water levels. Not sure what is on the White for the sections after the confluence with the Buffalo.


Yellowstone River
Many hundreds of miles of paddling and floating and reportedly great fishing. As I drove alongside it for many miles in Montana in 2004, I wished I could be paddling it.

Here’s one trip report:

down the Firehole to the Madison to

– Last Updated: Jun-08-12 11:59 PM EST –

the Missouri. ANYONE, did I get that right? Been so long ago I read about and dreamt of fishing the area...might've mixed the Madison up for the Yellowstone.. Anyways just don't get burnt up in the Firehole. Maybe getting in the Firehole and/or Madison with canoe is verboten?

You might consider the Niobrara,
though I’m not sure if you can get as much as 100 miles. Very interesting scenery, and enough spring input from the Ogalalla Aquifer that the season is usefully long. A few interesting rapids.

Green River, WY and UT.

Bowron Lakes Provincial Park, BC Canada. (no dogs)

Columbia River Water Trail

Sacramento River, CA. Redding to ??? (all the way to the Bay if you wish).


– Last Updated: Jun-11-12 5:55 PM EST –

Great suggestions so far. I doubt I'd have found many of them on my own. I'll be spending some time researching them all.

Anyone had any experience on the Snake river? Sounds nice through Hell's Canyon (an area I'd like to go back to) without too much whitewater. What about up and downstream from that? Sounds like it's mostly a string of reservoirs to the north.


2 ideas
Current River, Missouri has the advantage of being fed by numerous springs and is runnable just about always. Very popular so expect crowds during paddling season and especially on weekends. Class I

But the Green River in Utah would be my favorite for scenic beauty. About 100 miles from Ruby Ranch to the Confluence with the Colorado. Barely Class I

Hells Canyon

– Last Updated: Jun-13-12 2:56 AM EST –

Pretty sure Hells Canyon has a lot of big whitewater, and you get to share it with jet boats. Big jet boats.

I don't know the area downstream, but everything upstream from the canyon to Grandview (Owyhee county) is pretty much flatwater with a couple dams. A float trip from Swan Falls dam (south of Boise) to Brownlee res would take a few days - I don't know how many. 3 or four, maybe - with no wind. I've considered doing it, but haven't actually studied it enough to know how long it would take. edit: Starting at Grandview and portaging Swan Falls dam (easy) could add a couple days.

Good birding. Lots of protected islands. Mostly rural but not remote. Not much boat traffic and some fairly "wild-ish" sections. A few easy cl2 drops just below Swan Falls and then basically flat to Brownlee. I've run Swan Falls to Walters Ferry - takes a good part of a day.

No Large Flat Water Stretches

– Last Updated: Jun-12-12 8:35 AM EST –

Most of the western rivers mentioned in this post have sections of flat water. Some of them are only 10 -15 miles long, nothing like 100 miles to do a three or four day trip. Most of the rivers are also not suitable for a beginner paddling alone without other paddlers. For the green river there are a few sections above and below Flaming Gorge dam where you would be OK, a stretch near Moab, and Ruby and Horsethief Canyons on the Colorado. You might consider Lake Powell, but I have not been for many years and do not know the water level situation. Also the lower Colorado below lake Havasu and down to Yuma is suitable for beginners but very very hot in summer and best done in Winter, Fall or Spring.

The upper Yellowstone where it leaves the park is has considerable class II or III sections. That is the only part I am familiar with. I do know it flattens out, but when on Western rivers in flat country you are paddling through farms and ranches (often where you are not welcome) and you often encounter fences, diversion dams, no access to the river, manure and dead cows in the water. Not my idea of excitement.

There is a guy who posts here from time to time: looks like he posted a trip report for Ruby and Horsethief

He could also tell you about the South Platte - lots of flat water, camping not so exciting. There are also two guys from Montana who post from time to time, they can probably give you the real info on Lower Yellowstone. I have done float trips with my uncle on the upper Yellowstone, Firehole, and Madison, great fishing many years ago, but no 100 miles of flat water.

Upper Missouri and
also the Green River between Green River UT and Spanish Bottom.

I want to do the first as people who have been there rave about it

I want to do the second since the first trip was so awesome last October.

Or you could do as we are doing and redefining West. We will paddle the Teslin River next month and continue on the Yukon to Dawson City. About 500 miles. Its about a week to Carmacks.

yellowstone river
I just read the trip report referenced earlier by Glen Mac Gradey above. We lived in Billings Mt for several years and paddled most parts of their trip at one time or another. His report is good in terms of river hazards, wind etc. It is parallelled by highway and railroad so help is close if needed but traffic noise is frequent. Best time to go is late July and August. Be prepared for lots of sun. High water season is late may through early July most years. Check levels on the Billings guage. from 3.5 to 5.5 is good. Camping on islands use to be uncontested but you should verify with county sheriffs offices I would guess. In low water islands can be heavily fouled by cattle looking for shade.

When do you plan to go?
The Buffalo is always a great choice for float camping, but I wouldn’t count on anything above Tyler Bend unless there’s significant rain before your trip. That said, Tyler Bend to the confluence would be a fantastic float for you. It’s about sixty miles of gorgeous water and scenery, relative solitude, more gravel bar camping than you can shake a stick at, and excellent fishing. It’s a float made for a man and his dog. There’s only one hazard just below the last put in (Rush), and it’s not a huge deal, just something you need to be aware of in order to avoid a nasty surprise. Here’s a very helpful link for water levels and general info.

The Current is nice too, and by later in the year I assume you mean after summer, in which case you wouldn’t have as much company. It has good flow and some really neat stuff to see. I’ve only paddled it once, but it’s really pretty country. It’s similar to the Buffalo in many ways, and I like it a lot, but I much prefer the Buffy. You could conceivably spend some time on both of them if you wanted.

Go LONG in Utah
The Green River from Green River city / town to the confluence of the Colorado River. 126 miles. Through beautiful canyons.

Alan - I was thinking about one of my guidebooks (Paddle Routes of the Inland Northwest) after reading your post, and there is a trip on the Flathead river in western Montana that has 54 miles of class 1 which takes 3 days. Not as long as you were looking for, but probably pretty nice (and on my “to do” list). It’s on reservation land, so you have to get a permit (easy and unlimited, according to the book). Flathead lake and Glacier NP also nearby, of course.

Matter of perspective
I see you’re correct about lots of big rapids in Hell’s Canyon. The first couple trip reports I found only mentioned a couple large rapids with smaller ones in between. Took me a while to realize they had different ideas of “smaller” ones that I do.


Green water levels late in year

– Last Updated: Jun-14-12 2:26 PM EST –

The more I hear about the Green the better it sounds. So you ran it in October...what were later levels like then? I was afraid it would be too low in the fall.

Oh, and I prefer sleeping in a hammock rather than a tent, are there suitable trees along the bank?


Looks great
Thanks! Never would have found that one but it looks great. Any idea what it’s like below Flathead reservoir?