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North Platte River, Wyoming




North Platte River

August 2000: Pick Bridge. In summer of 2000 when driving to Seminoe Reservoir (highway 130 - a beautiful route across Medicine Bow National Forest and Snowy Range Pass) I tried to paddle North Platte River below Saratoga. I started at Pick Bridge and managed to go upstream with my CLC Patuxent kayak just above Pick Ranch: 1 mile in 1 hour. The current was pretty strong. Going downstream took me less then 10 minutes.




April 2002: Saratoga-Fort Steele. Two years later I returned back to Saratoga to spend a weekend with my wife and my mother. We rented the Stagecoach Wrangler Cabin on the North Platte River shore. While they enjoyed the Saratoga hot spring I choose the wind and cold water of the river.

The upstream gauging station at Northgate did not work. The downstream station near Sinclair was affected by ice but was reporting the flow about 1000 cfs.

Saratoga
North Platte River

04/06/2002. I was warned by locals that the river below Pick Bridge could be frozen. So, we started Saturday with checking the river near I-80 and a few miles upstream near Hogback area. No ice, just a little bit of snow in shadows. We returned back to Pick Bridge and I managed to start paddling my safari boat at 9:00.

The river flowed along rugged hills, bluffs, and arid grazing lands. Some ridges rose several hundred feet above the river. The mountains of Medicine Bow visible from a distance still had a lot of snow. The current was quite swift and the river didn't look low at all but maybe I paddled the shallow South Platte too much recently. Blue and red signs marked public and private land on the shores.

North Platte River
North Platte River

Below Oxbow Bend about 10 miles above I-80 there was a diversion dam (some fresh rocks across the river, maybe 1' drop, a huge rock cliff on the right). Was it "Eagles Nest Rapid"? I ran it without a full cover and took some water.

I finished my trip at Fort Steele landing under the railroad bridge. It was a very uncormfortable take-out but I needed to reach a parking lot near the Fort Steele historical site.

36 miles, 6h 50 minutes including about 1 hour of breaks for adjusting rudder cables, eating and making pictures, so it wasn't really race pace. The last 10 miles were really slow due to a strong head wind. I saw a lot of waterfowl, eagles, deer and one human - a cowboy on horse.

04/07/2002. Next morning I started directly from the cabin at Saratoga for a short 10 mile paddling to Pick Bridge. I anticipated somewhat rougher water but the river was quite mellow. Nevertheless, the full spray cover for my canoe was useful. There were many places with a swift current, confused chop and 1-2' standing waves.

North Platte above Pick Bridge
Pick Bridge The diversion dam below Saratoga had hardly any drop. Despite of early morning I had to struggle again with the strong winds. It took me 1.5 hour to reach Pick Bridge.

In our return way I checked the river access at Treasure Island. The river looked somewhat shallow there.

We were driving back to Fort Collins through Walden and Cameron Pass: no snow at all on eastern side of the pass and in the Poudre Canyon.




North Platte River - Treasure Island

May 26, 2003: Treasure Island to Pick Bridge. A day paddling trip with Sea Wind from Treasure Island above Saratoga to Pick Bridge (~23.5 miles). It was much higher flow than during my April 2002 run: N. Platte @ Gateway ~1000 cfs + Encampment River ~1500cfs, N. Platte near Sinclair ~3500cfs, easy paddling, no obstacles except the Pick Ditch Dam below Saratoga that was fun to run, a lot of floaters. I tried to paddle upstream after launching. After a very heavy workout I managed to reach a swinging bridge at Treasure Island.

I had my Canon PowerShot camera mounted in the front deck all time and I recreated this trip in a video clip.

There was still a lot of snow in Medicine Bow Mountains.

North Platte River - Treasure Island



North Platte River above Pick Bridge

July 3, 2004: Treasure Island to Pick Bridge. My annual paddling on North Platte near Saratoga, WY. This time in Sisson Nucleus kayak. Water flow was still good but no big waves and almost no drop at the dam below Saratoga. There were several diversion dams exposed at that water level above Saratoga but it was easy to paddle around them. Weather was good with a typical head wind later in morning and getting stormy in afternoon.

I tried upstream paddling after launching at Treasure Island to compare it with my previous year experience: no problem! Slower river, faster kayak or better paddler? Paddling upstream of Poudre River was certainly helpful.

Mosquitoes were terrible!!! Connie with our two Newfoundlands (Worf & Dax) had really hard time waiting for me at Pick Bridge. I didn't shoot any pictures or videos. I just paddled the entire trip without stopping. When driving home across Snowy Range we let our dogs to play a little bit on snow.

GPS trip odometer: 23.5 miles, moving time 3:05 h stopped time: 0:01 h, moving average 7.6 mph, max speed 11.9 mph.

Flow: N. Platte at Northgate ~700cfs, Encampment River at mouth ~250cfs, N.Platte near Sinclair ~1500cfs.








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