As noted in my previous post about our July float on the Gunnison River, the water levels were late in falling to what we call normal water flow levels. The North Platte River was higher than normal, but it looked like a low enough level so we gave it a try (about 1050 cfs). Like the Gunnison it seems to smooth out and actually it was easier to float without dragging bottom which is what normally happens. On this trip we brought a new boater, Sunho, who never paddled a canoe on a river before and this river seemed just right for a first trip.
We arrived in Saratoga, Wyoming on Saturday evening, August 3rd. John and Sheri would stay at a Hotel in Saratoga, while Marty, Sunho and I would camp at Pick Bridge across the North Platte River from the boat launch in a designated camping area. The mosquitoes were bothersome until it cooled off, and the sky was mostly clear which allowed us clear views of the International Space Station when it passed overhead, some constellations we could identify and also the Milky Way. Overall, a nice evening (most evenings on the river seem nice, of course).
In the morning we made breakfast, packed up camp and drove down to the Foote boat launch, which is a pretty popular place this time of year as these waters are prized by fly fishermen. Fortunately, we rarely encountered boaters on the river.
John and I shuttled the vehicles to the takeout at Fort Steele and then back again and launched before noon in partially cloudy skies.
Sometime in the early afternoon we we arrived at the Pick Bridge Boat Launch and stopped for lunch. There is a creek which enters the river just upstream for the launch, so for a beginner paddler like Sunho and an amateur canoe captain like me it was a little challenging to get right, but we landed fairly gracefully . . . fairly. Well, nobody fell out!
Eagles . . . we typically see one or two bald eagles, but this year we encountered more than I had ever seen before. It’s difficult to say how many were actually present along the nearly 40-mile stretch of river we floated, but I’d say we saw about 30 birds.
There’s something neat about seeing bald eagles as they perch on cliffs and in trees. Sometimes they’re flying low to the water and other times soaring far over head. We saw a couple of young ones as well.
We camped on some BLM land the first night on the river. Bring a map and know where you are because there is a lot of private land along the river and you can’t stay there without permission.
Our spot, which we’ve used before, is at a bend in the river with a higher shelf where we set up tents, but then stay out of the grass to reduce the number of mosquitoes flying around. Below the tents is a rocky shore which provides a nice place to cook and relax and has easy access to our gear in the boats. Unfortunately, the skies were overcast, so now star gazing this night. In the morning we heard a weird sound. Sherri was already up and spotted a mountain lion running along one of the cliffs above us.
Back on the on Monday we had clear skies and it promised to be a hot day with temps expected in the mid-80s to 90F. Along with more eagles, we saw beavers swimming along and pelicans, some deer, cattle, and a rattle snake.
For lunch we stopped at a place near a small island. Instead of staying on shore, we stayed away from the bugs by setting up our chairs in the river. This is great way to cool down, though this is where we encountered the rattlesnake. It was swimming across the river seemingly towards us, but eventually passed us and slithered up onto the small island.
Even though the Wyoming scenery can seem flat and lifeless at times when driving on the interstate highway, along the river it’s got a nice variety of open areas and cliffs. We passed by the cliffs known as Eagles Nest without issue. I was concerned that the water would be more turbulent at this water flow, but once again was proved wrong.
As the floating day came to an end we landed at a second camp we used once before, but weren’t quite happy with it, so we floated another .4 miles to another camp we used on my first trip here. Our fire wood was still there, so it doesn’t appear that many, if anyone have used it. It’s a little higher and away from the river, so we carried our gear upwards to the open camp site and gathering area.
I made a chicken/vegetable and noodle atop my 1963 Coleman 502 stove for dinner. It was a breezy evening and it cooled off nicely.
The skies were clear and made for a great evening for star gazing except for the partial moon which added a little more light than would have been ideal.
In the morning we woke to clear skies . . . beautiful. Sunho, like the rest of us, was aware that this was the last day on the river and was amazed how fast the river miles go by. We were making breakfast when Sunho’s Coleman 502 stove seemed to get clogged (I should have cleaned that generator, I guess), so I gave him mine and I cooked breakfast on the M-1950 stove which I had been only using to make coffee. As my son showed me earlier this summer on a backpacking trip, the old military burners work pretty well when using cast iron skillets, too!
We floated to Interstate 80, taking out at Fort Steele, loaded up, picked up the shuttle truck and ate lunch at J.W. Hugus in Saratoga. They have good hamburgers and I was full for the rest of the day which included the 4+ hour drive home.
We stopped in the Snowy Range along Wyoming Highway 130, specifically at Lake Marie and the lookout tower. What a nice place and not too far out of the way if you’re ever driving across southern Wyoming on I-80. I commented on it in a previous post about Southern Wyoming.
I guess our float season will be pretty short this summer, compacted to two consecutive weekends so, well need to dream about lake paddling and backpacking for the rest of this year.
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