7-minute read + 1-minute video
by Sharon Brodin
Wyoming isn’t the first destination that comes to mind when one thinks of kayaking—especially a Minnesotan like me. But Fremont Canyon, an easy drive from Casper, is worthy of any kayaker’s consideration.
The morning I spent 2.5 hours in Fremont Canyon in a kayak
The only way inside this dramatic canyon is by boat. And for those who love to take in magnificent scenery like this slowly and quietly, the best way to explore the canyon is by kayak.
What Makes Fremont Canyon a Stellar Kayak Destination
Fremont Canyon forms the landscape along the stretch of the North Platte River between Pathfinder Dam/Pathfinder Reservoir and Alcova Reservoir. The canyon walls stretch up hundreds of feet high on either side—up to 500 feet in some places.
One thing that struck me as I paddled along were the various types, shapes and colors of rock, formed at various angles. (I wish my nephew had been along. He just graduated with a degree in geological engineering and could have told me what it all was!)
Canyon walls up to 500 feet high rise up on both sides
And looking down into the water is pretty cool, too. Being a flooded canyon, the water is 150-200 feet deep, with drop-offs right from shore in most places. Unlike many rivers in the West that can be muddy with sediment, the water in the canyon is clear and green.
The water in the canyon is clear…and cold!
It was one of those experiences when I kept stopping to look around and soak in all the beauty around me. But I didn’t want to stop too long because I was eager to see what was around each new bend.
What to Know about Kayaking Fremont Canyon
Here are a few things I learned through my kayak tour that may help you, too:
The Canyon is Popular All Summer Long
The canyon sees a lot of activity in the summer. It’s hugely popular with boaters, not all of whom slow down for paddlers! So there can be boat wake to deal with—not only from the boats themselves, but from the waves bouncing back off the canyon walls to hit you again.
For that reason, kayaks are a better choice than canoes and paddle boards, especially for inexperienced paddlers. Because of their low center of gravity, kayaks can handle waves and wake better than the others.
If you prefer to kayak the canyon when there aren’t so many others around, plan to go during the off-season (before Memorial Day weekend and after Labor Day weekend) or early in the morning before the pleasure boaters are out. If you can avoid a weekend, that's a good idea, too.
“What’s around the next bend?” is always the question in this winding place
The Water can be Frigid
The day I went in late May, the water temperature was only 47 degrees (Fahrenheit)! It warms up enough in the summer for people to swim in it, but at 150 feet deep, it’s not going to get all that warm.
Kayak safety practices tell us to dress for the water temperature. For my morning on the water, I wore my “shortie” wet suit, water-repellant pants (to combat paddle drip), water shoes, a long-sleeve tech shirt, light fleece layer, my rain jacket and neoprene gloves. Since the air temp that day stayed in the low 50s, all those layers felt great.
Though unlikely, just in case I had gone into the water I knew my wet suit would provide some good insulation until I could swim to a likely spot on shore. However…
There Aren’t Many Spots to Pull Off
Because it’s a flooded canyon, there are some stretches where the only shoreline is sheer cliff. Out of habit I found myself scanning for likely spots to pull off if I needed to, and there were some. But it’s not a given as it is in other kayaking spots.
The same is true if you’d want to stop for a snack or picnic. It’ll be tricky!
Local Wildlife to Watch For
The only wildlife I saw were Canada geese and a pair of mergansers.
A pair of common mergansers
I had heard that bobcats and cougars are native there, so I kept scanning the cliffs and rocks just in case. Alas, no cat sightings.
(And do you paddle closer to the shoreline in case you see something? Or keep away from the shoreline in case you see something?!)
Hike Along the Top of the Canyon
I had hoped to get to the hiking trails along the rim of Fremont Canyon, but it just didn’t work out. The road that would’ve taken me there in just a few minutes from Alcova Resort was closed for construction, and the other way around didn’t have good signage.
Even though I drove down to Pathfinder Dam and looked for some clues, I wasn’t getting good reception there to check my map app, and no one else was around. So I didn’t know which was the right road until after I got home. Next time!
Outfitting: Alcova Resort
If you want to bring your own kayak for a Fremont Canyon trip, prepare for about 7-8 miles of paddling. You can launch near the public campground just outside the mouth of the canyon.
You’ll paddle into the canyon about 3-1/2 miles where you’ll see a tall white tower high up in the rock that’s part of the power plant there. That’s as far as we can get by boat, so you’ll turn around from there and head back out.
An interesting group of isles sticking up out of the river
I was in Casper for a conference and didn’t have my kayak with me. Instead I outfitted with Alcova Resort, which worked perfectly for me and my time frame.
The folks at the resort are super friendly and accommodating. Even though the other two people from the conference had canceled, the staff encouraged me to do the tour anyway, that I’d love it. They were right! I’m glad I took them up on it even when it meant going out alone.
Alcova Resort’s tours take you and your party by pontoon boat into the canyon, along with the kayaks and gear. They drop you off and then give you 2-3 hours to paddle back, taking your time to explore and enjoy the magnificence.
The gentleman who drove me out gave me his cell number in case I wanted to be picked up at any point during my paddle. I appreciated that, as the temps were in the 50s and I was ready to pull out once I was back in Alcova Reservoir, after pushing against a headwind throughout the canyon’s last mile.
He also took a few pictures of me in the water before he left me there, which I also appreciated. These photos give a much better feel for the massiveness of my surroundings than my selfies do!
Starting my paddle from inside Fremont Canyon
How to Get There
From Casper, take Highway 220 south to Alcova Hill Rd/Lakeshore Drive and follow that to Alcova Resort. It’s 40 miles. It’s also accessible from Laramie and Cheyenne with a 2-3 hour drive.
The spaces are big out there in Wyoming, but if you’re in the state and love to kayak, Fremont Canyon deserves your consideration. You won’t regret taking the time!
Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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