Rafting in Stillwater County

raftingBuffalo Jump: Class I-II

During high water levels, a stretch beginning two to three miles above Nye is good beginner-intermediate water. A large eddy pool allows warm-up paddling into the flat water current. The flat stretch lasts about 1.4 miles above the bridge at the Buffalo Jump Access, where Class II waves and a few exposed rocks give beginners a taste of whitewater. There’s a good takeout just past the bridge. This section is suitable beginner water for open canoes with flotation. Good boat control and some knowledge of river hydraulics is necessary. The second part of the Buffalo Jump run starts at the bridge with Class II water, similar to that just above the bridge and continues for about one-half mile. A small island creates two channels below the bridge – both can be paddled. Water volume picks up below the island as the West Fork of the Stillwater runs in. A short set of exposed rocks on river right, on the outside curve, can create problems for beginners, but they’re easily avoided on river left. The river eases for about five miles with a few short sections where the current pushes against the shore line. The Buffalo Jump run ends at the Moraine Access on the left shore.

Moraine: Class II-III

Moraine is a 12-mile Class II and III run that normally ends at the Cliff Swallow Access. It features long, extended rock garden areas, many holes and pour-overs, some good-sized waves and countless eddies. It’s a great opportunity to practice eddy turns, surfing, ferrying and all whitewater play techniques. Reasonable boat control and a leader familiar with the run is a must for beginner paddlers during higher water. Difficulty does increase significantly with high water.

Stillwater County 14

White Bird: Class II

The White Bird run begins at the White Bird fishing access about 6 miles south of Columbus. At low water, there are a number of small hole-playing and surfing areas; at high water the holes can become quite sticky for side surfers. Good canoeists with flotation and river skills, as well as rafters, enjoy this run.

Woodbine: Class V

The deceptively named Stillwater River flows out of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area through a beautiful, glacially carved canyon. A nurturing and tame river for much of its length, the Stillwater is wild as it plunges out of the canyon that marks the edge of the wilderness area. The first rapid, Aqua Velva, is just above the trailhead to Sioux Charley Lake, and is easier than it looks. If this rapid seems difficult, take out at the bridge to Woodbine Campground. Only 100 yards after the Stillwater flows past the bridge, it careens left and drops over a dam of large boulders. The action backs off a bit after these initial drops, but stays fast and furious for a mile with just enough time between rocks and holes to make the difference between fun and fear.

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