A fellow camper once told me, “The great thing about Yellowstone is you get to meet people from all over the world.” Maybe so, but when it’s time to ditch humanity, heading into the backcountry is a surprisingly easy task with Shoshone Lake as your destination.
Why Shoshone? Or, rather, why not nearby Yellowstone Lake, where paddlers can put 10 miles of wilderness between themselves and the nearest Winnebago? Because Shoshone is a far more manageable trip for a father traveling alone with an eight-year-old daughter. From backcountry geysers to fishing that can be scandalously easy, the trip offers plenty of adventure on a scale that’s not quite as daunting as the broad expanses of the bigger lake. In just two days, paddlers can penetrate the wilderness and come back to pavement. In four days, they can have a thorough look at it.
The trip starts at the Lewis Lake boat launch, about 10 miles inside the park’s south entrance. Paddlers should follow the lake’s western shoreline, where the hills provide a screen from winds that kick up most days. Hot springs trickle into Lewis Lake from the west, and visitors can soak where the scalding and frigid waters mix. Resting at nearly 7,800 feet, Shoshone Lake often isn’t ice-free until mid-June. The water temperature is only slightly above freezing. The Lewis River Channel is the highlight of the trip for wildlife watchers. Pelicans are a common sight, and uncommonly lovely, flying stark white against the blue sky. This is where the otters hang out, too, particularly in the lower reaches, where the channel is broad and sluggish.
Fishing is best in October, when the trout move into the Lewis River Channel for spawning. The fishing “gets overlooked because it’s quite a bit of a hike back there,” said Rob Orsini of Jacklin’s Fly Shop in West Yellowstone, Montana. “You can easily find a stretch of river to yourself.”
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
More information about paddling Shoshone Lake and other activities and sights in Yellowstone National Park is available by logging on to www.nps.gov/yell or by calling (307) 344-7381. For more about the numerous outfitters in the area, go to www.yellowstoneparknet.com.