North Fork Shoshone River: Yellowstone National Park to Buffalo Bill Reservoir


GRADIENT - 40 ft/mile

LENGTH - 35 miles

FLOAT TIME - 7 hours

BLM QUAD MAPS - Carter Mt. Wyo.

PUT IN - Three Mile Campground

PUT IN - Google Map

TAKE OUT - Upper Buffalo Bill Reservoir Campground

North Fork Shoshone River

USGS Gage Station CFS near the Wapiti Bridge.

North Fork Shoshone River


The North Fork Shoshone River is a terrific trip. Due to the velocity, frigid temperatures, and drop in elevation, it's a solid Class II with a few Class III sections. Most of the river can be scouted from US-14 and from numerous campgrounds and access points along the way. The upper 25 miles lie in the Shoshone National Forest and flows through a beautiful mountain canyon. The lower 10 miles pass through a small valley surrounded by private land.

The best starting point for the upper section is at the Three Mile Campground or Sleeping Giant Campground. Just below the campground the river bends out of sight of the highway and goes through a short section of rapids. Another run (Morman Creek Rapids) out of view of the highway is at mile #6. The waves are not high, but the half-mile section is narrow and fast with a Class III hole. There are a few rocks to contend with and the steep banks make landings difficult. Just above the BSA Bridge (mile #8.5) is a short "S" curve and below the bridge is a small rock garden. This area can have some fair sized standing waves. About one mile below the bridge, Fishhawk Creek comes in from the right and adds a considerable volume of water to the river.

Further downstream, where Gunbarrel Creek comes in from the left (mile #12.5), is the head of another short set of rapids. The swift water, steep rocky banks, and standing waves also rates a Class III. Below this quarter mile stretch is a short recovery area and then another set of smaller rapids. Depending on runoff, there can be some standing waves below the Blackwater Pond Bridge (mile #15) and at the June Creek Bridge at mile #17.

The stretch below June Creek is less difficult until you reach the Holy City (also known as the Devil's Elbow) at mile #25. This is a solid Class III section. Just below a picnic area on the right, the river makes a sharp "S" curve in a restricted area and then flows along a rock wall. You need to stay to the right through here as the current tends to pull you into an undercut. This area also has a tendency to pile up timber and form some bad strainers.

At mile #28 you leave the national forest and go beneath a county bridge. Downstream a bit is a Game and Fish public access (mile #29). Although this lower section is less difficult, the current is still quite fast. The only tricky area is at the Wapiti Bridge Game and Fish access point (mile #32). Here the river is constricted and there can be some fair sized standing waves. About five miles below Wapiti is a county bridge and the upper campground at Buffalo Bill State Park (off US-14 at mile marker #37).

Photo Caption (image not shown): The North Fork Shoshone River as it drops by the Holy City (also known as the Devil's Elbow).