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Guided Kayaking at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

National Park News

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is enjoying a successful first year of guided kayaking programs on Bighorn Lake. The park received a grant through the National Park Foundation’s Active Trails program to fund two goals focused on non-motorized recreation on the park’s waterways.

The first goal of the program is designed to raise public awareness of the recreational non-motorized boating opportunities available on the 71 miles of flat-water in Bighorn Canyon. The park is achieving this through press releases that have surfaced in four papers, a local radio show, and on both the park and the Wyoming Tourism’s Facebook pages. These Facebook posts have received 800+ “likes”.

Bighorn Canyon is also raising public awareness by running guided kayaking tours throughout the summer. The grant money has provided the park with a small fleet of high-quality tandem kayaks, a trailer, and an experienced kayaking guide to train the interpretive rangers and ensure the safety of the park’s visitors. So far the program is going very well with every available program and wait list filling quickly. Evaluations are being returned with glowing reviews as people are enjoying the unique experience of viewing the canyon’s majestic towering walls from the humbling position of a kayak quietly slipping through the water. Locals as well as visitors from other states and countries have participated in this program.

The second goal of the program is to create a waterway map and trail guide for all 71 miles of the canyon that lie within the park boundaries. The guide will be a resource that visitors can use to locate backcountry camping areas along the lake at different water levels. The guide book will include general safety advice for non-motorized boating, tips for planning and preparing for multiple day paddles, and suggestions for multiple trips varying in length. The first step to completing the guide is to collect data on lake conditions and campsite availability at different water levels. A generous park VIP has taken on this momentous task and has spent many weeks of the summer navigating the lake in his personal vessel, carefully cataloging data points, and taking pictures for the guide book. The next step will be organizing this data into an easy to use guide for the visitors.

This program has been designed so that it can be run by anyone in the future with detailed facilitation instructions and a thorough policy manual. With the setup and equipment costs representing the majority of the budget, the park should be able to run the program with fewer resources in future years. Direct any questions about the program or the possibility of implementing a similar program in your park to Ryan Quinn (


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