Canoeing in the Backcountry of Yellowstone National Park | Outside


Sunrise started to peak over the mountains to the east as we drove across Lake Lewis on our Shoshone Lake excursion in Yellowstone National Park.

The early morning water on Lake Lewis was calm, just as our tour leader Scott Reardon had predicted.

About 45 minutes after leaving the boat launch at the Lewis Lake Campground, our two canoes ran aground on the north side of the lake.

We hid the electric motors and batteries under tarps and began a three mile journey up the Lewis River Canal to Shoshone Lake, where we spent three nights in the backcountry.

Two miles of the Channel crossing was in water deep enough for paddling, which was a learning lesson for Alred Diaz and myself. We had taken Al’s canoe out a few times before the trip, but neither of us had much experience handling canoes.

That’s when Scott’s expertise came to the rescue. Scott provided instructions on the work of each paddler, with the bow providing the power and the helmsman at the stern directing the canoe.

It wasn’t as easy as Scott claimed. He could outrun Al and I even when his archery paddler, Josh Hallowell, put down his paddle to take pictures.

But Al and I got better and we were able to enjoy the peaceful ride up the Channel.

We saw where the devastating Yellowstone fire of 1988 burned the surrounding area.

A bald eagle landed in a tree by the water’s edge and kept an eye out for us as we passed.

The fairly easy paddling ended, however, when the Channel became too shallow.

It was time to carry the canoes.

And it was up to Josh and I, the younger member of each of the two canoes, to haul the canoes and equipment the last mile to Shoshone Lake.

Scott and Al got out and hiked a trail to meet us at Shoshone Lake.

It wasn’t too difficult at first, but then we hit 1,200 feet of rapids through submerged rocks.

Not being able to see many rocks through the moving water, we tripped on our way up the English Channel.

Once through the rapids Josh and I still had a long way to go to pull the canoes, and Josh traded canoes with me.

Thanks Josh!

Their canoe’s tow line was in a much better position than ours, which made the trip easier for me.

We finally reached where Scott and Al were waiting by the lake.

Then it was back in the canoes for the 2.5 mile paddle to our first camp on Shoshone Lake in South Narrows Beach.

We had a family of otters swim off the beach to examine us along the way, getting close enough to the canoes while playing in the water.

Once we reached South Narrows the beach looked damp, but it turned out to be water washed obsidian and other rocks glistening in the sun.

The camp was located on a cliff above the beach. The cooking area overlooked the lake, while the camping area was located several hundred feet back.

The food and sleeping areas are separated because of the bears. All food and items that can smell like food should be stored 10 feet in the air to avoid attracting bears.

Scott, who has been visiting Shoshone Lake with his family since he was a toddler, said the area is not typically a habitat for grizzly bears, but it doesn’t hurt to take every precaution to avoid it. to run into a bear.

Al and Josh tried their hand at fishing, to no avail.

Josh hooked his decoy to an underwater log, but managed to retrieve it – the first of two times he achieved this feat with the same decoy during the trip!

So we dined on MREs (ready-to-eat meals) for dinner and went before sunset.

The next day, after more MREs for breakfast, we packed the canoes again and hiked another 2.5 miles to our next camp, called Hillside, at the west end of Shoshone Lake.

The day’s trip was a lot easier than the first day, and after setting up camp over the lake again, we hopped in the canoes and headed north to the Shoshone Geyser Basin to fish.

The year before, Scott reported that he had brought fish after fish back to the bay.

But, as Al and I had fished in the rivers of Yellowstone before on the trip, the warm weather had warmed up the water and the fishing was not as good this year.

Josh and Scott brought some fish and loaned Al and I a gold lure from Jake to try. We had used a silver Jake’s, but the trout can be tricky!

Soon after, Al brought back a lake trout, about 18 inches long and almost 3 pounds.

And then, using the same golden lure, I hooked up a brown one, who fought well before being brought into the canoe. He was about the same height as Al’s.

So we rowed to Scott and Josh’s canoe, and Scott said three of the fish would be enough for dinner, and released several of their trout to be caught on another day.

Back at camp, it was a team effort to clean and cook the trout for dinner.

While Scott spearheaded cleaning the fish on the beach, Al was baking cookies.

Then I boiled each piece of fish so Scott could remove the bones, and Josh and Al coated the fish and pan-fried it.

Delicious, we all agree!

And then, just as we were finishing dinner, a thunderstorm hit, bringing rain with it.

We weathered the storm differently; Scott rolled up in his hammock, Al found a grove of trees on the beach to protect himself, Josh went to his tent and I went to our tent to read.

The thunderstorms finally passed and we woke up to a mist over the lake the next morning.

We still, after breakfast, packed most of our gear and put it on the beach.

We hung our food and related equipment from the branch above the cooking area and headed back to the Shoshone Geyser Basin. We would go fishing a bit more, explore the area, then hike to see the geyser basin.

Scott’s family spent about four weekends a summer in a cabin in the basin while he was growing up. Her father worked at the Old Faithful Ranger Station every summer and could bring the family to the cabin. They hiked the Lone Star Trail.

Scott shared stories of his childhood around the Geyser Basin, and we sat next to Minute Man Geyser and other thermal features in the area along the Continental Divide Trail.

This old cabin, built around 1916, Scott felt, was ultimately a victim of progress. In the early 1970s, another ranger hut was built on the north side of the lake, and the park, unwilling to keep three huts, decided that the Shoshone Geyser Basin hut was consumable.

Around 1973, the Shoshone Geyser Basin was emptied of its contents and set on fire.

But Scott indicated where he had been, and some of the hot springs they had used to cook some of their food.

By the time we got back to the canoes it was early afternoon and it was time to head back to camp to pack our gear for the 6.4 mile trip to our last camp of the night, which was just over half a mile from the English Channel for our return trip.

Scott had predicted that the afternoon winds would be behind us for the last long paddle, and sure enough the wind pushed us east and we made the trip in about two hours.

At our last camp, aptly named Channel, we had aggressive chipmunks chewing on bags of food as soon as they got out of the canoes. Indeed, the small rodents jumped IN the canoes in search of food.

Guess threading our food 10 feet in the air wasn’t just to protect it from bears!

In the morning we packed the canoes for the last time and headed for the English Channel.

Fortunately, downstream we were able to paddle most of the time.

Every now and then we had to go out and drag the canoes over some rocks, but it was a much easier trip downstream than the portage upstream!

We resumed our engines and batteries, which brought us back to the boat launch at the Lewis Lake Campground, and our trip ended.

We had experienced the backcountry of Lake Shoshone, a trip few are lucky enough to take.

We thanked Scott for his expertise and leading the expedition.

Scott and Josh headed north through Montana on their way back to Walla Walla.

Al and I took a wrong turn and headed for Idaho Falls above Teton Pass – not recommended! It’s a 10 percent incline, which makes traveling with a trailer difficult.

We paused at the bottom of the pass to let the brakes cool off and headed for our first shower in over a week in an RV park.

But we got home the next day, reliving what for the most part is a once in a lifetime trip.

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