summer trip out west

Thanks to all who posted about the Ill. usage stamp. I’ve decided think I’ll try to pick one up enroute since I’m only drivin’ 4 hours that day . My wife and I are planning a 34 day trip out west from wv this summer. Nine days will be spent paddling. I’m open to suggestions, since I’m still in the planning stages of the trip, and if anyone else wants to join me for some paddlin’ at some point that would be great. I’m taking three boats: a double ducky, a single ducky, and remix xp10 kayak. We’re taking a roadtrek camping van. The ducks ride on the back on a hitch buddy and the remix slides in the center aisle. A folding bike for shuttles has yet to be purchased. So here’s the full day destinations (class II and III whitewater): 1 day on the Elkhorn River Frankfort, Ky with my brother, 2 days on the North Fork of the Shoshone Wy, 3 days on the South Fork of the Payette Id, 2 days on the Deschutes River in Or with my sister, and 1 day on the Klamath River in Ca. For the most part I’ve tried to keep the driving short on the way out so there are some places I’m looking to paddle briefly, for half a day or less: Washington County Lake Ill, Loutre River (Graham Cave) Mo., Wilson Lake, Ks, Swanson Res. (Republican River) Ne, Big Horn River at Thermopolis Wy. and perhaps a paddle on the coast of Oregon (in my xp)in a sheltered area since I’m camping three days on the coast . So this trip is about paddlin’ but also sight seein’ and just generally havin’ a good time. I’ve even cross referenced the trip with the foodnetwork locator map so we can eat well. I’ve paddled the elkhorn in ky and on the south fork of the payette before but the rest are all new destinations. So fire away, suggestions, personal experiences and the like.

Don’t count on the Elkhorn

– Last Updated: Dec-30-13 11:45 AM EST –

The Elkhorn Creek is about the closest thing to where I live in Evansville, IN that can realistically be called whitewater. It relatively infrequently has sufficient water to be paddled in the summer months. Of course, you might get lucky and hit it after a solid rain, but it tends to spike up and down pretty quickly after the trees get leafed out. Unless you have prior low water experience on the Elkhorn, my personal recommendation would be to consider 500 cfs the minimum for an ELF run on Elkhorn Creek, although I have heard of some paddling it at even lower levels.

I assume you are traveling west through southern Indiana on I 64. A possibility in southeastern IN is the Blue River. About 20 miles or so west of Louisville, KY is the exit for Corydon, IN and about 5 miles west of there I 64 crosses the Blue River. The Blue is a worthwhile Class I - I+ paddle if it has enough water. In the summer it might not, but there is a somewhat better chance than for the Elkhorn. There is a nice stretch on the Blue from Rothrock's Mill to Stage Stop Campground that is very conveniently located to I 64 since that Interstate basically crosses over the direct midpoint of that run:

If there is sufficient water that would be a nice place to plan to stop for about a 4 hour paddle.

If you want to just do a little flat water paddling you could check out Lynnville Lakes near the little town of Lynnville at exit 39 off I 64, a bit northeast of Evansville, Indiana. The Interstate basically goes right by the lakes. And in Indiana "we don need no stinking canoe badges".

About 30 minutes from my house and about a 7 mile drive south of I 64 on I 164 just north and slightly east of Evansville are some flooded strip mine pits that actually make for a pleasant flat water paddle at the Blue Grass Fish and Wildlife Area. If the weather is decent, it would be a nice place to stop for a 2-3 mile flat water paddle.

The Wabash River, which you will cross going from Indiana to Illinois, can always be paddled but for the most part is pretty boring with one exception. At the right level there is a reasonably decent little park and play spot at the site of an old, breached dam. This is just south of New Harmony, Indiana which is a short distance south of where I 64 crosses the Wabash.

If you let me know when you will be coming through I can check on the levels for the Elkhorn, the Blue, and the Wabash to see if any of these would be a go. If there is enough water and I am not out of town, I would be happy to meet you at one of the above locations.

I’;ve felt some of those low water blues
your talkin’ about. The elkhorn is on my list because my brother lives in Frankfort and I’ll be stayin’ in the campground located right at the put in. So its an opportunity to paddle together with my bro. I’ve done it blown out and scraped down it as well but haven’t done it since aw and the bluegrass paddlers got the designated take-out built off of peaks mill road. The leg downstream runs more (canoe livery service) but would be slow in a duck so if the ww run is too low I’ll check out some of the tourist sites nearby instead of paddle- I’ve already done the old granddad tour, visited the ky state capital, and the military museum. That leaves the bourbon candy tour and Daniel Boone’s gravesite as possibles for this trip.

I like your idea of meeting up for a southern indiana paddle. I think that makes as much sense as tryin to paddle in Ill and get a permit. I’ll send you an email and discuss options.

I live in Albany, OR so if you have any

– Last Updated: Dec-30-13 8:49 PM EST –

questions I might be able to help you out. Several estuaries/bays would provide calm conditions for you but summer can also provide a flat ocean sometimes do don't rule out that idea entirely. Coastal conditions generally induce flexibility in plans.

Edit. Oh yeah, with all the talk about "permits", you will need an aquatic invasive species permit to paddle, the money going towards the prevention of the spread of invasives.

Check out some meetup groups has a lot of paddling groups. They would be a good source of information - even trolling their paddles will give you some ideas. You can search that site by location as well as by interest.

There is some park n play at the Falls of the Ohio, ranging from intermediate to instant death. It depends which location and if the gates are open. Viking Canoe Club is there a lot and would have more info.

Loutre River
I suppose you are thinking of the Loutre because it’s close to I-70 in MO, but it probably won’t have enough water to paddle anywhere that it isn’t completely boring. Middle section has somewhat of an Ozark character with hills, bluffs, riffles, and gravel bars, but typically doesn’t have enough water in the summer. Lower section is practically dead water, with little in the way of scenery.

I-70 takes you through some of the less interesting parts of MO. Not much worth paddling close to it unless you live nearby and just need some place to paddle. To get to the more scenic and interesting paddling in MO, you’d have to swing farther south, either taking I-44 through the state, or U.S. Hwy. 60, which is a nice 4 lane highway from Poplar Bluff to Springfield. LOTS of great paddling along either of those two highways.

I was wondering if Loutre was a seasonal
stream. It looked like it from a photo on the Graham Cave State Park Website. I’m trying to compromise between getting there (out west) and enjoying some places along the way. The ozarks are certainly a worthy destination in their own right (I’ve paddled the current, camped at buffalo river) but a bit out of the way for going to Oregon. I’m I64in’ from wv to St.Louis, I70in’ to just past Salina Ks. Things get a bit more complicated after that on my route.

Hiking on the appalachian trail there are white blazes and blue blazes. White marking the actual trail and blue indicating side trails. I’m willing to blue blaze a little bit on my trip but I’m still mostly focused on where I want to go, the white blazes. So I’m thinkin’ about this trip the same way, only vehicle based. Decidin’ if its worth the time and energy to leave the main path/highway, and how big a diversion it is.

Incidently We’ve got a lot of great paddling near the interstates in wv. off of I64- coal river, paint creek, new river, greenbrier, glade creek, off of 77 you’ve got the bluestone, campcreek,and brushcreek. Off of 79 you’ve got the birch, elk, the west river, whiteday creek-a lot of it is seasonal, some of it mild and some of it wild. I’m usually gawkin’ at the water levels while the wife drives us down the highway. So I probably extrapolate that thinkin’ to other places where it ain’t so convenient. Yet even in wv if your drivin I70 through Wheeling I cant think of much up there other than the Ohio River- them guys that live up there that I know all head to southern pa and specifically the yough or slippery rock creek to get their paddlin’ jollies.

I checked it out,
there certainly are a lot of paddling meet up groups out there-who knew?- many based near major population centers-

I attend some old school “meet up groups”- a church, a paddling club, and a job but none of it was listed on the meetup website. Yet it’s nice to see that not everything is overly commercialized on the internet, grassroots based interest sharing done through technology- a good concept. A lot like!

Tahoe and/r Pyramid Lake
Pyramid likely less crowded

good suggestion
and fits with my traveling plans- I’ll check it out.

west coast paddling
I can tell you that rock gardening in an LL XP10 is a lot of fun but please be aware of surf zone hazards if you’re not familiar with ocean paddling.

My suggestion for experiencing the Mendocino Coast in Northern California is to hook up with Liquid Fusion on Noyo Harbor in Ft. Bragg. If you’re new to coastal paddling they’ll help you be save while you enjoy one of the best rockgardening locations.

Good luck.

another monkey wrench or two…
I’m wondering why you are taking I-70 all the way into Kansas. If it were me and I wasn’t going to do the blue blaze detour into the Ozarks, I’d take I-70 to Kansas City and then I-29 up to I-90, and take I-90 at least to close to Montana. Of the three interstates crossing the Great Plains, I-90 is by far the prettiest and most interesting. I-70 across Kansas is purgatory, and I-80 across Nebraska is only marginally better. If you took I-90, you could spend a half day paddling the Missouri River around Pierre SD, a half hour off the interstate, or Lake Francis Case right on the interstate, which is a prettier lake than those flat Kansas lakes you mentioned. And/or, spend some time driving through the Badlands NP and the Black Hills. Then take off the interstate at Sheridan WY, taking Hwy. 14 across Wyoming to the North Fork Shoshone.

Also…I’ve never floated the NF Shoshone but I’ve fished it. It’s a pretty river, but is almost all right along the highway and the highway is busy in the summer. An alternative that I’d recommend would be to take Hwy. 14 to Cody and then take 120 north out of Cody to the Chief Joseph Highway, 296, to 212, the Beartooth Highway. You could go either way on the Beartooth, but I’d go east over Beartooth Pass just to see it, down to Red Lodge MT. That highway complex from Cody to Red Lodge may be the most beautiful stretch of highway in the U.S.

Then to get in your paddling fix, take Hwy. 78 back to I-90, I-90 west to Livingston MT, and float the Yellowstone River south of Livingston through Paradise Valley. It’s a big river, not wilderness but gorgeous, flowing between the Absarokas and the Gallatin Range, class I and II unless you want real whitewater, in which case you could try Yankee Jim Canyon on the south end of the valley, class III and IV. Then head on into Yellowstone Park through the north entrance and explore it and Grand Teton before heading on to Idaho.

Also just wanted to mention…
to keep in mind that those western rivers are often too high to paddle between mid-May and early July. If you’re going in June, you may find any western river that’s not dam-controlled to be too high from snowmelt. Some years the Yellowstone is a brown torrent until the second week of July, other years it will be okay by mid to late June, but on average it’s pretty high and muddy until around July 1st. After that, the only floods on it are the flotillas of driftboats with fly fishermen.

I’ve soloed a number of class 2+ runs
in the west, and for many I can provide a link to my trip report with pictures.

For Nebraska, consider cutting up to the Niobrara if water permits. I did the wilderness section below Valentine. Below that are a bunch of outfitters and a few interesting rapids.

In CA, and alternative to the Klamath is a selection of roadside runs on the Trinity. That river gets trout water in the summer, so it can still be runnable.

In Oregon I’ve done the Clackamas, and the North Fork of the Santiam. The former gets tortuous at low water. I haven’t gotten to do the Deschutes yet, but I recommend scheduling to avoid the crowds. In Washington I did the Husum Falls section of the Salmon, which gets fairly steady runoff water from Mt. Adams.

I forget whether you thought of doing the Snake in Grand Tetons. A good wide open scenery run with multiple choice 1-2 rapids. Haven’t done the gorge below yet.

There are several runs on Henrys Fork in Idaho. I did the Box run, short, class 1-2, scenic.

In Colorado you may find that water has dropped too much by summer. However, the Taylor can have water due to release for ranching and farming. There are some real nice campgrounds along the Rosy Lane section, class 2+. Wagon Wheel Gap is scenic on the upper Rio Grand, near Creed. The Animas town run in Durango is amusing if it has water. I’ve done the upper Dolores below Rico, but you aren’t likely to get water there. The Black Mesa run on the San Juan below Pagosa Springs might be an option. Fishermen have made it more interesting by shoving rocks in the river to create pools and ledges. Really nice scenery.

If you go through on I-70, check the AW pages for the Green Reservoir section of the Blue River. Very scenic, but short. Plenty of time to get to a bar. I did the Pumphouse run on the Colorado. Some nice scenery, and OK in spite of low water, but crowds of rafts may be a distraction at times. The Town Run on the Yampa in Steamboat Springs is pleasant, but just a B movie. The Elk north of town scared me off. Too turbulent and too few rescue options for a solo boater.

That should be enough for now. Lemme know if any seem interesting.

actually I’m thinkin of a more protected
paddle on the coast, in a cove or estuary rather than rock gardening. I’m clueless when it comes to ocean paddling- and I know it.

At thanksgiving I did paddle in a couple of salt marshes near James Island SC with Castoff, a fellow pnetter. It was educational, I’ve got a lot to learn about the salt water environment. We’ll save the rock garden adventure for another trip.

I like your route suggestions
I’m checkin’ it out. One of the things that bothered me with my plan was that I made a loop from Salina Kansas west but I think it would be more interesting to loop from Kansas City. I was feelin’ bad about havin’ the wife miss the Tetons, she’s only been west once- out to the four corners. So let me recalculate it a bit. I am looking for roadside runs though- with car camping and the shoshone fits that bill pretty well.

yep, gotta come up with some plan b
paddles- its always about the water levels- and the western river scene boats with a lot more volume than we do in the east. Their idea of low and mine are completely different.

plenty of good ideas there,
I’m checkin’ them out as well. Thanks.

Yellowstone is roadside…
but the river swings back and forth across the valley, so you’re often a mile or so from the highway. Public access points every five miles or so, and some of them allow camping. There’s also a nice KOA campground along the river, but it’s usually full all summer. Shuttles are available…though a little expensive at $30-40. I live on the outskirts of Livingston half the year, and will probably be there in July and August, so I could give you more up to date info if that’s when you’re planning the trip. If you are coming west earlier than July, if the Yelllowstone is still blown out, the Madison, an hour west, is dam-controlled and almost always floatable. Mostly class I, except for Beartrap Canyon, which has a class V and several class III-IV rapids.