Kayaking the Beaverhead and Jefferson Rivers

Kayaking the Beaverhead
and Jefferson Rivers

Clark Canyon Dam to Three Forks

 Total length 158 miles

ClarkCanyon1


Segment #1: Beaverhead River; Clark Canyon Reservoir to Twin Bridges: 78 miles.

The headwaters of the Missouri lay high in the mountains bordering Idaho and Montana west of the small rural crossroads of Grant, Montana. The officially recognized starting point is Sacagawea Springs near the summit of Lemhi Pass. From Sacagawea Springs Trail Creek (the Missouri’s first name) leads down out from Lemhi Pass and into the Horse Prairie Creek valley before emptying into the Clark Canyon Reservoir. My route on the Missouri went from Clark Canyon Dam to Three Forks. So my route on the Missouri started at the base of Clark Canyon Dam, the beginning of the Beaverhead River.

ClarkCanyon2Route of May 4th 2002

On May 4 2002 I drove from Seattle to Dillon, Montana where I picked up the last of my supplies in preparation for my 70 kayak trip down the length of the Beaverhead River, from Clark Canyon Reservoir to Twin Bridges, Montana. After this final stop I drove out of town west on Interstate 15 to the turn off for Grant. Just after 4:00 in the afternoon crossed the Clark Canyon Dam and turned onto a small dirt road leading down to my put in site at the base of the dam. I was surprised that the river at this point was barely 20 to 30 feet across and maybe 6 inches to 2 feet deep with a rocky bottom. After loading the kayak with my supplies and camping gear I shoved off and for about 10 seconds I was moving rapidly along in the swift currant before running aground for the first of what was to seem like several thousand times in this shallow fast moving stream/river. I spent the first four hours of the trip alternately splashing along in class two rapids and crab-walking the kayak along through 6 inch deep water. Several times I was sure that I would hole the boat on the rocks as got caught up in the currant and slammed into rocks just below the surface. It was a bumpy ride, but at least I was making headway. By 7:00 that evening I had gone seven miles and had just passed the west entrance to Beaverhead Canyon Pipe Organ Rock (mile 9). Not wanting to get too far into the canyon that night I searched the shoreline for a suitable campsite and soon found a nice spot in a grassy area on the right side of the river. I set up camp (mile 10.5) and made dinner before settling back with a good book and reading until it got dark around 8:45 when I snuggled down into my sleeping bag and read by headlamp until 9:30 before turning in for the night.

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