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Old 10-09-2005   #1
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creeking in the bighorn range

Anyone have any beta on creeks (III-V) in the Bighorn range? I was there this summer and viewed quite a few interesting but very remote runs.

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Old 10-10-2005   #2
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With the unfortunate & sad passing of Dan Crain & Todd Andrew, much of the real knowlege of the bighorns runs is lost. There are some really good runs up there, & some that aren't so "remote". Aaron Mulkey at Core Mt. Sports in Cody knows a little about a couple of the creeks (paintrock & tensleep) .. Your biggest challenge is going to be in hitting them at appropriate flows & knowing when they're running. Todd used to run over to Tensleep from Spearfish & call us saying if it was running or not.

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Old 10-10-2005   #3
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Thanks, Tensleep was one of the creeks I visited, although I can see determining levels would tough. Ever hear of anyone running Shell Creek?
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Old 10-10-2005   #4
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TA got me all fired up on Shell Cr canyon a couple yrs ago & said that we'd need to do a ton of work on it ... scouting & wood removal. We never did. To my knowlege, it remains unrun. Said it wouldn't be for everybody, meaning i think, that it woulda been a huge project for some hard, possibly manky, whitewater.

There's a bunch of other stuff those guys did. I dont have my maps handy & I can't remember the names of everything. From video & pics, it all looked like very continuous boulder mazes of varying difficulty ... and long too, not just a mile here & a mile there ...

I used to spend a ton of time in Wyo for work & never got on any of that stuff, even when we knew it was running .. I'd think that unless you were planning to spend the summer in Sheridan it's gonna be hard to hit & even harder to find someone to hit it with.

My bro Gordon comes out to the Rockies every summer & runs a buncha shit that the locals have never heard of (props), & got on some stuff up there with Todd & Dan a couple yrs ago. He sometimes posts on here, so I'll let him know about this thread & maybe he can shed some light ...
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Old 10-11-2005   #5
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The Bighorns

Like Gilman said above: when Dan Crain, and then Todd Andrew, passed on we lost a lot of Bighorns beta. Those boys had pioneered so much of the 'horns and had it wired.

We did a First-D on Shell Creek Canyon back in 2002 (I think). In fact the first waterfall pic in the Gallery here sure looks like the one at the little overlook above where we put-in:

I think Dan and Todd had run a lower section of Shell down to a little town earlier, but we hiked in up higher and did the First-D on the Canyon section. Cool desert area. Fun, manageable IV+/V- water. Todd said there is more stuff upstream. We scouted another roadside waterfall up there. Not a particulary pretty drop but probably runnable.

Tensleep Creek is cool. Again, Dan and Todd had probed out a lower section above the town of Tensleep (?) and then we all went in higher, above where the road crosses the creek. We did the first-D'd on another 2-3 miles of the upper stuff. I remember utterly continuous class IV+ and V water with smooth boulder gardens going on and on and on. As you go farther down into the limestone, the sharp, undercutty calcium-carbonate stuff becomes more prevalent. It's a beautiful little canyon ain't it? We found a good biker bar type joint in the little town (Tensleep?) where we realized that Todd had taped over our massive Big Timber footage with less-impressive Tensleep footy. The bartender chick was NOT impressed.

You may also want to check out Paintrock Creek. We did a long second-D on that one. Another non-stop 12 mile boulder garden - with heavy flow! We checked in at a ranch to get access and the ranchers were totally cool with it. I think the South Dakota boys (Dan and Tood) had first-D's on some of the Paintrock tribs too. It is beautiful up in there. We had a semi-epic day/night there...

Check out Goose Creek too. Todd talked about that a lot and had been working on some new sections of it right before he left us.

I think they ran a Boulder Creek too but I could be wrong on that.

Check out the March/April and May/June 2003 issues of American Whitewater. I put a 2-part article in those issues that described some of the Bighorn stuff.

Also check out That was a bighorn site that Dan told me about.

Dan also added info and pics to the site with a bunch of Wyoming and South Dakota runs. That should be a big help to you.

Maybe I'll post some WYO pics sometime. There are some on in the Nooz section. Scroll down a ways.

I'd love to get back to the Bighorns someday soon.

That's a lot of beta. Hope it helps.

Props to Dan Crain and Todd Andrew - the Bighorn Boys.


Gordon Dalton
Team Eskimo USA
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Old 10-11-2005   #6
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The bighorn area dosen't seem to have many resident boaters, so when I was there this summer I started looking through the maps and guidebooks then toured what I guess are Dan Crain and Todd Andrew's FD's, Tensleep creek, Shell creek, Tongue River canyon, two forks on the Tongue, and had planned to check out Goose Creek, but ran out of time. Indeed, props to them!

Years ago I heard there were some guys bagging many first descents in the Bighorns, so I'm not surprised. Two more questions: was D. punchbowl the waterfall at the overlook/park with the interpretive trail and (I hate to ask but have to) what happened to Dan and Todd?

Thanks for the beta guys! Funny that you should mention it, I have access to a sweet place a ways from Sheridan with a very isolated III-V creek nearby I'm planning on going back next summer, interested?
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Old 10-11-2005   #7
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RE, your questions:

1. I dunno about "D. Punchbowl" ... but what is commonly referred to as "Shell Cr. Falls", at the overlook, (& on tons of postcards), never looked particularly great to me ...

2. separate kayaking incidents. Dan died 3 summers ago on the Clarks Fork Box .. & Todd died about a year ago on the Potomac. They were pretty much the only resident kayakers in the 'horns. You can do a search on Mtbuzz & Boatertalk for threads with info on those accidents.

Gordon, I got yr email .. Paul's Cr. looks amazing. My folks said there was all kinds of rain in VA, so I figured you were hittin it. As long as I'm up here, you know you got a spot to base out of .. plenty of room. BC should be part of yr summer 06 plans.
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Old 10-11-2005   #8
Cody, Wyoming
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I was fortunate to paddle with Dan and Todd many times and was lucky enough to paddle in the big horns with them also, the last run I did with Dan and Todd together was the Tongue and it is still on of my favorite runs. After Dans accident Todd and I became very close boating and climbing partners he was like a brother to me. The summer before he died we ran 4 new creeks in Cody area and numerous runs in the big horns. So here is a brief of what know!

Ten Sleep has 3 runs and the gauge is just below the highway bridge on a rock. 11 inches is a good first time level and 1 foot you better know your lines and there are very few eddies. The upper run in 3 miles and consists of one big long continuous boulder garden class 4 to 5+. You can continue this run for a great long day on the middle section which has some very important portages. There is also a town run that is class 3-4 but I know very little about this run. Here is some footage of this run

Clear Creek is a another good run class 4-5 there is a cafe in Buffalo on the creek and todd used to call them to look out there window to look at the gauge he made it is aslo good at 1 foot.

Paint Rock is a steep boulder garden class 5 run which is very continuous for 8 miles. it is a little more remote then the other runs but is a very high quality run. There is a gauge on a bridge just past the ten sleep turn off and 1 foot is the level to put on.

Shell Creek has two sections one below the switchbacks that is class 4 -5 and there is an online gauge for this and 400 cfs tends to be the best level, I have run it as high as 900cfs but it's big with no eddies typical at flood level! the other run is from the Ranger station down to about a half mile above shell creek falls. there is another falls above shell creek falls that is even worse the shell. be sure to know the takout! Shell falls looks really bad most of the water hits the wall at the end. Gordon the picture must be of something else the top is a bit different.

The Tongue has 3 runs I know of one is above the highway bridge on the pass and the other is below, there is a foot gauge below the bridge and there is a realtime gauge. At 500 cfs the runs are good, Dan and Todd did the first d at 900 and they had some epic stories. The run below the bridge is classic and you take out about 1.5 miles below the confluence just before the box which i'm unsure if anyone has looked at and then start hiking you actually end up getting to the shuttle car and being higher then when you started. The lower run is very well known and is in the town of Dayton.

All of the runs in the Big Horns are very very good probably the highest concentration of good class 5 boating in Wyoming. I think the non stop class 5 has kept many people from venturing into the big horns. The Run Off season is tricky and short and sometimes never even happens for many of the creeks thus the logistics for some traveling to the big horns sucks, plus when things are running here everything everywhere else is also running. Typically things start to come off early May but that varies each year, the snowpack is very hard to predict. If anyone needs more info please feel free to contact me if i gave you all the info I would be here all day. 307-527-7354

Dan and Todd worked numerous days to open up these runs and to them we are in debt. These guys were great to paddle with and I feel lucky to have known both of them they were great friends. The creeks these guys opened up are amazing many of us would love to just find one creek like ten sleep or the tongue and really they discovered a whole new range for kayaking. For more info on Dan and Todd check out and go to the bottom of the page.

Aaron Mulkey

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