Paddling Journal:

Otter Survey August 2005
Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam


Black Hills


I was invited to go along with the UW Wildlife Society on a float trip down the Green River. They were planning on leaving on Wednesday floating two days, then taking out and putting in again for another two days paddling. I couldn’t do the first leg of the trip, so I had to catch the second part of the float.

I left Rapid City about noon and drove till Midnight to find the campsite at Fontenelle Reservoir on the Green River. Fontenelle is 24 miles southeast of La Barge WY. I pitched my tent grabbed some zzz’s and was greeted by Kaiti about 7 with “Good morning, good morning, its time for a healthy breakfast”. I got up and we had a nice breakfast. We packed up camp and drove to Flaming Gorge Reservoir to make camp and set shuttle for the next days paddle. We stopped in Green River for some gas and snacks, and stopped in Manilla for ice cream and to grab some supplies. We made it to Flaming Gorge and had lunch at a nice vista overlooking the reservoir and looked for our campsite. We found our campsite and unloaded our gear. After setting camp and getting the gear set for the night we went down to the reservoir and I paddled around a bit, threw a couple of rolls and the other guys/girls swam a bit.

We headed back to camp and talked about what the plans were for the next day. We decided to set shuttle. Dad, Merav and I all headed to the take-out. We stopped in Dutch John so Dad could top off his gas tank, and I picked up a magnet for Andie. Setting shuttle involved driving down a steep, narrow, gravel road. I learned the CRV doesn’t really have a low enough gear, as my brakes got a bit hot going down the mountain. Luckily there was no serious damage to my brakes, just a year worth of wear. OOPS!


Dad drove Merav and I back to the campsite in his truck. Fortunately dinner was ready when we got to camp. The spaghetti was ready and the keg was tapped. Jason brought along the Fat Tire leftover from his wedding reception. It wasn’t very cold, but it hit the spot. We ate dinner and drank a couple of brews.

The next morning we got up early, ate breakfast, and geared up for the paddle. I took way to long getting my gear set, I’ll get better next time I hope. We loaded the rafts up onto the trailer, it was a leaning tower of rafts about 15 – 20 feet high. Crazy Stumpy was up there strapping the rafts together. We had to get everything organized so we could unload quickly at the put-in. Apparently you are only allowed 10 minutes to unload everything at the dam.

We drove to the put-in at the base of Flaming Gorge Dam and unloaded our gear. We took about 10 minutes to throw our gear off the trailers and get the vehicles unloaded. It took us a good hour to get the rafts all situated and push off. It was kinda amusing watching the rafts gear up. The volunteer at the put-in was concerned about my boat, and checked me for flotation.  We pushed off and paddled on down the river. The water was cold, and the river was really pushy. I had to switch paddles 5 minutes into pushing off. My white Werner just didn’t have a big enough power face to keep me on course in the pushy water.

The river was pretty mellow the first mile or so, a couple of little riffles, a single class II rapid, nothing serious. I practiced my skills, did some ferry’s and just got tuned in. Having not ever paddled my Wavesport outside of the pool, I was glad the boat fit and paddled well. I’m glad I grabbed my Y instead of my Dagger Honcho. I wouldn’t have handled the pushy water in my Dagger. I’d have gotten my butt kicked in my Dagger!

We paddled down the river and took out frequently to look for otter poop and anal jellies. I had fun learning about the process for sample collection, and looked for otter poop. The only turds I found turned out to be turtle turds. No poop for me! The river was flowing at about 3500 CFS, so it was moving along pretty well. We saw a ton of fishermen in many different boats. Mostly fishing boats, but a few kick-boats, and even a couple of inflatable kayaks. The inflatable paddlers asked about my boat, and we had a little chat about my boat. About 3 miles down the river there was little rapid. It was big enough that you couldn’t see over it. It turned out to be nothing, but it got my adrenaline running. My first big water rapid! We lunched at a nice little pool on river left at about mile 4. After lunch we paddled on downstream and about 1 mile further downstream (mile 5) was a big rapid (Mother-In-Law Rapids). I eddied out and river scouted it. I let all the rafters go down it, and then I shot the rapid. I had psyched myself up for it, but it wasn’t too bad. I ran river middle left and hit most of the big waves and cleaned it pretty well. I didn’t exactly grab the line I wanted, but I was close. I almost got worked at the bottom of the rapids, but was able to punch the wave and stay upright, yah! My Y punched the waves really well; I was very impressed by the boat!

We paddled on scouting for turds. We passed Little Hole, which is where most of the fishermen take out. At little hole we saw an otter. He mugged for the camera and we watched him for about 10 minutes. We paddled past Little Hole, and kept on down the river. I stopped at a riverside groover drop a duke. After dropping the kids off at the pool, I got back in my boat sans helmet. I didn’t notice this however until about a quarter mile downriver. I paddled back upstream, and found my melon-bucket after a fair amount of swearing. I met the group at the campsite, Big Pine and explained my stupidity. Oops! We cooked up dinner (chili, yum!) and BS’ed around the campfire. We read a few groover stories out of Up Shit Creek and had a good campfire.

The next morning I was a touch sore, but I dumped the mud out of my boat and jumped into my Y. I was feeling a little more confident about my skills after 1 day on the river. We looked for turds and got really lucky at 1 site. Dida managed to find a full otter skeleton at one of the dens sites we were exploring. It was really neat to find a fully intact skeleton. Merav said it was most likely an adult male. The next site I stopped at had 2 anal jellies there. My first whiff of those nasty things, the “butt-jam” was probably one of the smelliest things I had ever sniffed. Nasty stuff! About 2 miles from where we found the skeleton was Red Creek Rapids. Dad had warned me this was where they had the nasty spill with their canoe last year. We could hear the rapid almost a quarter mile away. I got out and scouted the rapid from river left. The rafts ran the rapid river right, one by one with 1 passenger. I woosied out and took the easier line river right. In retrospect I wanted to do river right, but was concerned to take that line. I didn’t think I could get safety if I took that line. Next time, I’ll take river right!

We paddled through about 2 miles of flat water, and took out at a campground to empty the groovers. There was a nice ramp to takeout on, and an outhouse for groover dumping. About another mile downriver and we took out at Indian Crossing.

At the take out we rinsed the rafts in the river, unloaded our gear and deflated the rafts. A couple of the girls made lunch while we cleaned up the gear. Dad and Merav arrived with the other vehicles and we loaded the vans.

We drove to Rocksprings and then took I80 to Laramie. I was lucky enough to get a passenger to keep me awake. I crashed at Kaiti and Jason’s and then drove home to RC. A great trip!

Here’s some beta on the river and some trip pics.