Lewis Lake and Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone - Recommendations & Guidebooks?

Hi all - I am planning a trip to Yellowstone on the last week of August this summer. I have my backcountry permits for campsites on Shoshone Lake (3 days 2 nights). I have read a number of accounts for this general trip on this forum and others.

My question is - can anyone recommend a guidebook that has any info on paddling these lakes & others in the region (also visiting Green River Lakes in WY)? I have read a number of Blog posts, but looking for something with more detail on route recommendations, thing to see along the way, general ‘watchouts’ (besides pop-up winds/storms & cold water).

My background is mainly in whitewater kayaking. We have drysuits & have done some recreational kayaking on Lake Superior & Lake Champlain, but not overnight. We will be paddling 2 solo inflatable touring kayaks - Advanced Elements Expedition Elite. Any comments on those boats are welcome as well.

Thanks in advance for any help that you can give me.

Craig

I’m no expert, but did the Lewis -Shoshone trip once. It was July. I didn’t go swimming, but walked up the river with my boat in tow, and I don’t recall the water being bone-chilling cold. Did not use drysuit.

Can’t help with the guidebook question.

Three recommendations:

  1. good water shoes and a hiking stick for walking up the river
  2. Have 30 - 40 feet of rope for throwing over the bars where you hang your food.
  3. Bring a trail map and find the trails through the geothermal features at the end of the lake.

Have you tested these kayaks loaded on windy lakes? A 13’ inflatable with a 32" beam and no skeg would not be my first choice for high altitude western lakes with up to 12 miles of reach. I do have a similar boat in my fleet (a 12’ by 29" Pakboat Puffin) so I know how this size and shape acts in conditions, especially when heavily loaded.

Average wind speeds there are 7mph but it looks like this week they are at 15 (though dropping to near calm for a few days later on) and the record was over 70. I’ve read reports of people being unable to cross the lake against the wind in inflatables about the size you are planning to use, even trying to stay close to shore.

If you are confident in the boats it does sound like you are aware of the intrinsic dangers of cold water and have done your research on the destination.

Thanks for the comments & pointers. Appreciate it. Hadn’t thought about trail map - good idea! Good to know about the water temp when lining the boat up the river.

Thanks!

Craig

Hi Willowleaf - thanks for the reply. Good points on the boats. No I have not used them in those conditions - this is sort of a test run for that case. Our campsite is near the river mouth on Shoshone Lake (2 nights, then heading back), so we’ll not be making an extended trip. There is an option for those boats to add a skeg on the stern - I may want to consider that.

I definitely appreciate your comments, I was hoping for some thoughts on the boats that we plan to use. So thanks for that. I will keep that in mind, as well as the option to “bail” (go back) as we make our way along the shore of Lewis Lake towards the river.

Yes, very aware of cold water risks - always good to have a reminder. Thanks for your thoughts!

Craig

There is a real advantage in the lighter boats (inflatables and folders) especially where you may have to walk them through the shallows or even portage. Based on your plans they will probably serve you well, though adding the skeg is probably a good idea. My first folding kayak (a Feathercraft Kahuna) had an internal frame (a little more extensive than the Advanced Element designs) and inflatable internal sponsons along the gunwales (so it had a similar hull profile) and was 14’ 9" by 25". I found it tracked poorly in even light wind or trying to paddle upstream. But once I added their small add-on skeg it was a huge improvement.

Remember that chambered air will shrink with cold and expand with heat. Having used folders and inflatables for 22 years I learned the hard way early on to be aware of how the air and water temps can affect them. If I launch into cold water I will usually find the boat needs to have some air added at my first rest stop unless I overinflate it a bit to start with.

And when pulling an inflatable onto shore on sunny and/or hot days, you need to release some of the pressure in all of the bladders so heat expansion won’t put too much pressure on them. I ruptured a sponson in my first boat by neglecting that. It was repairable but kind of a pain to do since the bladder had to be extracted from inside a channel inside the skin.

I’m sold! I have already scoped out where to get the skegs that drop right into my boats - makes alot of sense. I’m getting them.

Good comment on the inflation & air/water temp. I have to make sure to take a pump with me for the overnight. Back in my whitewater days I made a rookie mistake at a put-in … We inflated a raft & a couple of duckies on the riverbank (while in full summer sunlight), threw the pump in the shuttle vehicle which promptly headed downriver to the take-out. But when the boats hit the cold river water, they shriveled up like prune! No one was very happy! ! :slight_smile:

Also easy to forget the flip side as you said - to relieve the pressure. We all live & learn, then pass it on.

Thanks again!

Craig

Looks like the posts above cover things pretty well so I’ll add only 1 thing to the list which it to be aware the altitude is 7700+ feet, so go slow at first and don’t push too hard when you first get there. Being 1.5 miles above sea level is no joke, and it can take a bit of time to aclamate to it.

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Szihn makes a good point. I recall a couple of times when I had only been in the mountains a couple of days, once moderately hiking in the Canadian Rockies at 8,000 feet and another just walking around town in Breckenridge, Colorado, at 9,600’ when I suddenly felt like my legs weighed 200 pounds each and i was having a heart attack – altitude hypoxia before my red blood cells had adapted to the low pressure. There are deep breathing lung pressurization exercises you can do to force more oxygen into your bloodstream and purge CO2 that help when that hits, but it does seem to take most people 3 or 4 days to really acclimate to those altitudes.

Oh yeah … altitude. Forgot about that too. I live near the Ohio River at about 500’ - I’ll feel it for sure. Good reminder. After leaving Yellowstone, we’re heading to Green River Lakes outside of Pinedale Wyoming to paddle around the lakes for a couple of days - @ 8,000’ elevation. Better get my lungs ready!

Thanks eveyone for some great info - will defintely help me be safe & enjoy the trip more! Much appreciated!

Craig

We will be expecting a trip report with photos!

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I did this trip with 2 friends. They were in a Klepper and I was in a Folbot. We took insulated waders to haul the boats up the river. We encountered pretty good wind and waves on Shoshone. Out on the lake a Ranger in a kayak came swooping in and checked us for our permits and campsite. Definitely must check out the geyser basin at the other end of Shoshone. At the time a bear education show was required before backcountry camping. My companions had done the trip before, so we did not have to do that. Bear bagging is required. A great adventure. Enjoy!

willowleaf - You bet!!!

paddler1372989 - sounds great, can’t wait! Thanks!

Altitude, critters, cold water and remoteness.
It is a great place to paddle.

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Two veteran and professional former park rangers and retired Grand Canyon river guides lost their lives on Shoshone Lk.

It is unclear what transpired in September of 2021. Kim Crumbo was a former Navy Seal and well regarded in whitewater circles. His step brother Mark O’Neil’s body was recovered as well as a canoe and paddle. Crumbo was not found AFAIK. Their campsite was on the shore opposite to where the canoe fetched up. Google has details and more information.

Big water, cold temperatures, higher altitude, strong winds are possible. I was a fishing guide in YNP and GTNP for for many years. You can have tee shirt weather or heavy snow in the summer.

Yes, all true.
Not that it should frighten off the OP, but I would tell him to take these wild lands and waters very seriously. Enjoy but stay vigilant.

It’s as real as it get up here.

MuddlerMinnow - yeah I had read that story. Definitely sobering & a reminder of the risks. None of us are immune. In the whitewater community there is a saying … “as much as you love the river, it doesn’t give a damn about you.”

szihn - Got it. Simple mistakes can quickly spiral into bad situations. Vigilant & aware (of conditions & own limitations) is a good mantra.

… have enjoyed the input & this thread.

Craig D

Yeah, for those of us who are drawn to wild places, we face the odds that Nature can and will be more powerful than anything we can deal with at some point in our adventures, no matter how well we think we are prepared.

I was reminded of that last night while reminiscing with other members of the local outdoor club I’ve been a member of since 1972. Several of our most expert members (many of them dear friends) have died over those years in alpine mountaineering, rock climbing and kayaking mishaps, among them some of the most skilled experts, instructors and pro guides in those activities.

We even lost two family members, my cousin’s husband and 13 year old son, 30 some years ago while they were out for their near-daily swim off their home beach on Lake Michigan. One of those freak summer storms whipped up out of nowhere in minutes and swept them out in wild steep surf beyond the breakwater. The investigators guessed that the son got drawn out first (his body was found over a mile off shore two days later) and his dad went after him, then turned back and was smashed by the violent waves against the rocks on the breakwater, knocked unconscious and drowned before he washed up on the beach. Both were strong and fit swimmers, and the water was warm, but any of us can be squashed like a bug by the forces of the natural world.

I’m not going to pass judgement on the victims of the Yellowstone Lake incident, but over the 50 plus years I’ve been involved in wilderness adventuring (including as a guide and trip leader), I have seen a lot of hubris among people with “expertise”, including those with Special Forces training. An overconfident attitude of “toughing it out” can lead to seriously narrowing the margin of safety when things start going wrong. After a number of incidents that could have been really tragic except for swift intervention, I tended to hoist an internal red flag when I would learn that a new outing participant broadcast that they had “Special Forces” training.

I made the same trip back in 2011 with my then 11 y/o daughter. I think this is the guide I used:
https://www.amazon.com/Paddling-Yellowstone-Grand-Teton-National/dp/1560446277/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?crid=180JTCA2HX6HT&dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.eSTK-mSUGwVVbBYReCeRhHQ6pYgp1zo9hYy5sUDeEy6TCU1UR67qNvn-zjnZzFCTIQQqxjIZKz_cAkbQcqN2e63Pew1T4laTHxuvQskEqvk.aLgpvvlp0AnjwHsB88xAOGhD2gNxkhR9-2xQY91UtrY&dib_tag=se&keywords=paddling+yellowstone+backcountry+guide&qid=1718390796&sprefix=paddling+yellowstone+backcountry%2Caps%2C164&sr=8-2-fkmr0&asin=1560446277&revisionId=&format=4&depth=1

I can’t add much to what has already been said except to reiterate - respect the wind. I would also encourage you to bring a radio capable of tuning in the NOAA weather broadcasts.

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