The Colorado, Green, White and Gunnison rivers are all rivers close to home and good for multi-day float trips. However, there is one other river with similar characteristics which the other river rats have floated but, I had not . . . the North Platte River. The North Platte River section they float, in Wyoming, begins north of Saratoga and ends at Interstate Highway, I-80. Take a look at the Upper North Platte River Float Map for more information. The listed brochure also has some good detailed information. You’ll especially want to note the boundaries of private and public land. As is typical in southern Wyoming, there is a checkerboard pattern of private, BLM and state lands. There are some markers along the river to help identify some of the public lands (blue sign) and private lands (red sign).
There are several put-in/takeout access points along this stretch of river and we chose the Foote boat launch. This is a few miles south of the Pick Bridge access point and road. I mention this because the Foote put-in isn’t marked at WY-130 however, the road can be identified by the large 5N Ranch sign (Photo). We drove to the put-in at Foote on Thursday night, arriving around 10PM. There are places to park and camp right at the launch.
In the morning, we drove the Avalanche to the takeout at I-80. This is at the Fort Steele exit, Exit 228, which is also an exit to a rest area. To get to the parking area continue east on the rest area frontage road, passing by the rest area, crossing the bridge over the river, and then turning into the parking area on the right. We hired a shuttle from Hack’s Tackle in Saratoga, to take us back to the put-in, which is a nice option for our three-person/one vehicle group.
One thing to note about boating in Wyoming is the AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) license/permit/fee required for all boats to be used in Wyoming. This includes kayaks and canoes greater than 10 feet in length. If you plan to bring a boat from out of state, check the Wyoming AIS Requirements and purchase the appropriate AIS Decal . The fee is $15 per non-motorized, out-of-state boat and we purchased it only days before our trip, so we needed to keep the paperwork with us on the river. The boat must also be inspected upon entering the state. We had our boats, one kayak and one canoe, inspected at the Port of Entry just south of Cheyenne. They were open on Thursdays until 8:30PM.
Back to the river. We launched by 10AM in sunny skies and light breezes.
Right from the beginning we saw bald eagles flying around and perched in trees. Pretty neat. Shortly after we launched there was a large white cliff section river right.
Around noon we stopped on a sandbar for lunch and for a little fishing.
While stopped there a weather cell moved through with some strong winds and light rain. I mean, this is Wyoming after all; you’ve got to expect some wind. I think it only lasted 20 minutes or so, after which we got back on the river.
Later that day we scared up a large group of pelicans.
That night we camped on a nice shelf with a rocky beach, which was good for cooking, as it was away from the abundant mosquitos lurking in the tall grass.
Saturday morning was a beautiful morning and I made a nice breakfast of sliced potatoes, peppers, sausage and eggs in my cast iron skillet atop my Coleman 400A backpacking stove. We broke camp and packed the boats, and after launch encountered a slack pool right away which seemed just right for fishing. Nothing. It seems that I’ve got a few things to learn about fishing rivers. However, the other guys didn’t fare much better today. Our lunch spot, on a small island, could best be described as ridiculously relaxing. We set our folding chairs out in the river and just sat there for almost an hour. Very nice.
We passed Eagle’s Nest late afternoon and later ran into some serious wind. A few sections made us work a bit, just to keep some forward progress. John also landed a couple of trout today, so we know that there are fish in that river. We arrived at camp around 5PM. While setting up a sun shelter, we heard what seemed like a buzzing sound. I thought it sounded like a locust in the sage brush, but John thought it might be a rattle snake. After a little investigation I spotted the little rattle snake under the sage brush coiled and his rattle shaking furiously. We weren’t sure what to do, but decided that previous advice to “leave it alone and it’ll go away”, seemed like the right thing to do. We did, and eventually it was gone. We decided that there were likely more rattlers than we knew on most of our trips and while this was the first one I’ve ever seen, it was probably a good idea to keep a neat camp, without gear laying all over the place.
Sunday morning was even nicer than the previous two with the perfect temperature light breeze for floating. The noise of the I-80 travelers and the sight of the bridge marked the end of a nice float on the North Platte River. After everything was loaded we headed back to Saratoga for lunch at JW Hugus which is right next to Hack’s Tackle on the river.
On the way home we took Wyoming Highway 130 through the Snowy range, but that is for another post.
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