Where to Paddle Yellowstone&Tetons

Packing up the Honda Element and heading out west in a few weeks. Never done a trip like this, NO SCHEDULE, NO RESERVATIONS. Go where we want to go, do what we want to do (Hmmm, that sounds like the “Mamas and the Papas”). Looking at Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone. In the Tetons we would like to hit the Snake, but I’m thinking of busting the bank for a guided fishing trip in one of those Guideboats for the Snake. Interested in day trips, since the wife tends to be a bear magnet and she says she’s not sleeping outside the Element. Not sure what boats I’m taking, but leaning toward taking the wife’s Bell Bucktail for her and my Sawyer Autumn Mist. We have a 16’ ‘glass tandem and a 15’ plastic tandem, but I prefer solo boats. We have spray covers for both solos. Just looking for advice/tips regarding where the best paddling spots are out there. Thanks. WW

Book in Store
Not sure if you saw this book in the store but it’s a good one:




No, Hadn’t Noticed It
Ordering it today. Thanks, Brent! WW

Sounds like a good trip Terry!
No schedule? No reservations? Alright! Go for it!

Have a good trip!


Yes, that is the way to take a trip. That is what i want to do. Just strike out with no plan. Maybe never come back :slight_smile:

Have fun Terry. We will expect pics.


Go For It!!
Just the kind of plan I like. Head west, take the boats, and enjoy whatever floats your canoe.

One reminder. If you pass the Niobrara River in Nebraska and need a break from the road, don’t hesitate to put in for a day paddle. The last time I looked I didn’t see any bears in Nebraska.

Have fun, take plenty of pictures, and make sure to to leave that POS HP camera at home :slight_smile:

Probably WILL Do The Neobrara
Didn’t get to last time we were through there. Hey, why don’t you all come with us? We’ll have a TRAVELING RENDEVOUS! I’m leaning toward taking the two tandems for versatility, but I hate to leave that Sawyer at home. I can just hear it begging me! maybe it’s time to get a trailer; hey, Jay, didn’t you have some TRAILER ADVICE at one time (LOL)? WW

Some Wyoming hotspots
Out side of Cheyenne take “Happy Jack Road” to Laramie. Much more intimate than I80, real Wyoming landscape. Stop by the “Vedauwoos”, a native spriritual outcropping of red granite for a picnic lunch.

Another scenic drive, heading west from Laramie take Wy 130. 130 will turn and hook back up with I 80 after crossing the beautiful Snowy Range.

After the turn heading north on 130 stop by Saratoga Wyoming,and relax in the Saratoga Hot Springs Hobo Pool. Free and open 24 hrs a day.

Northbound on WY191 towards the Tetons stop by Big Sandy Lake and State Recreation Area to the west. It won’t be as crowded as anything up in Teton/Yellowstone country.

Pinedale Wyoming has the Mountain Man Museum. Big Freemont Lake is a few miles outside of town, with the Wind River Range in the background.

I couldn’t pass thru the Tetons without paddling on Jenny Lake, and another day on the Snake River.

Lewis Lake
On the way to Shoshone Lake.


We paddled up to the rapids in the river that leads to Shoshone, then you have to portage through some shallow rapids.

It was kind of neat paddling over some hot springs, but then decided we didn’t know if they were mini geysers, so we moved on.

We paddled by a lone Bison and when we were on the river, a wolf trotted along beside us on a ridge for several hundred yards before heading into the woods.

Either plastic or composite boats will work fine.



String and Leigh Lakes
My wife and I have paddled String and Leigh lakes in Teton park a couple times. We’ve always stayed overnight but it’s also a good day trip. Unlike Jenny and Jackson lakes, there are no motors allowed on Leigh and String. Cool old or 2nd growth forest at the far end of Leigh too. I suggest breakfast or lunch at the “Trapper’s Cafe” (or some such rustically named place) in the visitor center near Signal Mountain.

We’ve also canoe-camped on Shoshone. Big gnarly COLD waves in the afternoon. Be careful. There’s a great geyser basin at the far end of Shoshone but I doubt a person can get there and back in one day from Lewis Lake.

You’ll have to register your boats at both parks if you paddle them. It just takes a few minutes at the ranger station but at least plan that into your trip.

Another cool place to go is Quake Lake about 30 to 45 minutes north of West Yellowstone. It was once a river but an earthquake in the 1960s caused a massive landslide that dammed the river and obliterated a campground. It’s spooky paddling over partially submerged pine trees that are probably 30 feet tall all the while looking at the landslide scar and rubble at the end of the lake. There are still something like 30 people buried in the rubble. Good chance for seeing moose, eagles, and otters too.

Sounds like a grand trip, Terry. We’ve done a couple of those just go and be spontaneous trips up in the Pacific Northwest and they’re by far my favorites we’ve ever done.

Sorry I can’t help with details on trips in the country your headed to. Ought to be some hints of fall up there in the rockies, yes?

Have a great time!

What About the Belle Fourche in WY?
Thanks, all. Jose, there used to be a ski area named after the Snowy Range, it was the 1st place Margaret and I went skiing when we moved out west. Spent Christmas '89 in Laramie. When looking at Jack’s slide show, the pics of Devil’s Tower reminded me of the Belle Fourche River that you can see looking down from the trail arround the tower. Anyone paddle it? Thanks all for the advice. Hate to wish my life away, but I can’t wait! WW

The Yellowstone
Although it’s getting pretty “suburban” and you’ll be amongst a lot of drift boat trout fishermen, the Yellowstone through Paradise Valley is still a pretty spectacular river. I haven’t done it in a canoe, but in all the times I’ve been on it in a drift boat, I don’t remember any really serious rapids that a canoe couldn’t handle in summer/autumn levels, once you get below Yankee Jim Canyon.

Thanks, Al
I still remember how gorgeous those Yellowstone Cutthroat were even though it’s been 30 years since I was there. Hope I can catch a few! WW

Welcome to my playground…
I just returned a few weeks ago from Shoshone & Yellowstone lakes and I’m leaving again on Thursday to go play in the Tetons. There’s actually some water in Jackson lake again!

Been paddling the region for near 30 years now, usually get 3-4 trips in anually. (I live about 5 hours away.)

Don’s book is the best compendium of trips available, a few errors here and there but minor and editorial in nature.

Don’t try the Shoshone geyser basin in one day. You’d have to head out at the crack of dawn and then you’ll make it only if Ma Nature allows… and she frequently does not in this region.

You can certainly hit the lower half of Shoshone in one day and it makes a fine trip. Please be prepared for big water conditions as noon approaches, especially this time of year. I recorded record water temps this year - actually swam in Shoshone without a drysuit. Low to mid 60s! This is about 8 degrees above the norm.

Consider the short Snake river trip from the dam to Pacific Creek landing. Its but 5 miles but you’ll experience the Oxbow Bend. A wonderful three hours or so. Cameras are the order of the day with plenty of otters, birds, raptors, and moose. Get an early start for best wildife opportunities and stay river left so you don’t miss the channel into the Bend. Plenty of local shuttles available. Names and numbers at the park office where you get your boat permits. (BTW, buy your permits in Yellowstone, they’re still half price as compared to Teton Park and they’re good in both.)

Definitelly hit Jenny, great views and shoreline. Easy 2 to 2-1/2 hour paddle. Plan an extra 1/2 hour or so to put out and hike to Hidden Falls. Very nice stuff.

String to Leigh is also great. String is really shallow and you can watch the fish and be amazed at the rock formations and submerged boulders. Early hours or late evening often sees numerous elk crossing String just before you reach the little portage that goes to Leigh. Pretty cool to paddle amongst several head of wading elk!

The portage to Leigh is no worries, developed trail and only about 120 yards. Caution at the end where the big timber stairs are. Easy to misstep there.

Leigh lake is cool beyond words. Paddle to the west side of Boulder Island and you’ll be looking straight up Mt. Moran. That’ll make ya feel insignificant! Mystic Island (no landings allowed) is home to many osprey. Easy to see the nests and their sentinels. If an afternoon storm crops up you can get some high altitude ‘surfing’ in between Mystic Island and the north shore of Leigh. There’s a big bar there and the wind waves will give you a ride on a three footer that you’ll enjoy!

Hmmm… I could go on forever but I’m probably boring everyone to death about now so I’ll simply offer my email in the event you have questions that I might be able to help with. Feel free.

Take care and pleasant waters to ya.


Holmes has it right

– Last Updated: Aug-30-06 7:33 AM EST –

Holmes has given you great advice. I live 2-4 hours east of the paddling sites mentioned.

The Oxbow, on the Snake River just below the Jackson Lake Dam, is a MUST do. Do it as stated: EARLY or LATE in the day for best viewing. The put-in and take-out are simple and easy. It is also possible to enter/exit directly from the road at the overlook to the Oxbow. Just a little grunt up/down the embankment. My 13 year old daughter and I can do it without much complaint from her.

Additional places to paddle on Yellowstone Lake: (1)Sedge Bay and Marys Bay on the NE shore of the large cold Yellowstone Lake are fun, depending on weather and ability; (2) The West Thumb/Grant shore-line get you close to visible thermal activity; (3) the Bridge Bay/Gull Point shoreline is rather protected from the prevailing SW winds. This lake is to be carefully respected! Cold and subject to big winds. Yes, the temps are 5-10 F warmer this year!

And don't miss the Buffalo Bill Historical Center here in Cody. "The Smithsonian of the West" cannot be seen in just a couple of hours: Western Art, Guns-Guns-Guns, Plains Indians, Natural History and... Buffalo Bills boots! See www.bbhc.com OOPS, make that .org!

2 great trip idea
You can do it as one trip or two but…

PUT IN AT FLAGG Ranch on the Snake, paddle to Jax Lake on the west side and camp at the many sites on the west side. ONce near Bear Paw Bay, a short portage thru the woods to Leigh Lake and paddle it camping on the west side as the various sites etc. SO far youve gone anywhere from 2-4 days, plenty of side canyon hiking. Now keep going and portage over to String Lake and either end there or load up the car and head to the Dam at the lake and put in below it. Paddle the Snake thru the park and camp just beyond park boundary near Moose. Camp again between Wilson Bridge and s.park bridge and take out around Astoria Hotsprings. All in all this is a week long+ trip with plenty of hiking, paddling and wildlife.


I would definitely paddle the Snake…
below the Tetons. The last time I was there I did Deadman’s Bar to Moose Landing and it was simply the prettiest paddle I have done. Well, the San Juan is pretty cool too, but the Tetons jutting up from the flat river plain is a must. Stop into one of the rafting guide places and ask for what the river is like now. They will give you a good idea of any current problems. They are on the river every day.

This web page has a brief blurb on the popular stretches. http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_national_park/wy/pad_gt.htm

If you go in through Cody, the Shoshone below the dam is a fun river.

On the other side, out through West Yellowstone there is the Island Park area, the Buffalo, the Henry’s Fork are both very nice.

Thanks, All
I ordered the “Paddling Yellowstone and Grand Tetons” guide from P.net, but I was really hoping for personal accounts like this from fellow P.netters. THANKS A BUNCH! WW

Shoshone River at Cody
The Shoshone River from the Buffalo Bill Dam east through Cody is indeed nice. But it is Class II-III in spots. I have done it in a 14’ Dagger Savannah, but eddying out was a several time problem! Probably my skill level! The Shoshone is very different from the Snake in GTNP.