First Time Flat Water - Stillwater Canyon

MattSnow

New Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2017
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3
So we're off on our first overnight canoe + sea kayak trip next week, 6 days from Mineral Bottom to Spanish Bottom. Shuttle and rentals, including a "Tex-Catamaran" are being provided by Tex. I've done a bit of day-packrafting and one overnight whitewater rafting trip (a long time ago down the Middle Fork of the Salmon), but never floated like this before. I've read through some great trip reports but still have some questions (sorry if they're discussed somewhere else, I'm new here):


  1. How should we pack gear? One large backpack? Lots of smaller? Does everything go in drybags or just the sleeping bags and a change of clothes? Garbage bags? I'm pretty limited on dry bags (usually just use them for canyoneering) but can buy/rent if needed.
  2. Suggestions for day and overnight side hikes and trips? Ideally our trip includes at least one overnight through hike into the Maze (some of our group would shuttle canoes), but we're open to overnight loop hikes as well
  3. We are especially interested in any technical or non-technical canyoneering along the way. We have a few very experienced people open to anything out there if it's higher on the quality side, and are open to vague suggestions or PMs.
  4. How bad are the bugs? I was thinking of sleeping under the stars (maybe jumping in someone's tent in case of rain). Will I need bug spray? A tent? Or will the stars be fine?
  5. Comfort in the canoe...Can I use my full size camp chair in the canoe? Should I take something else? Do I need some type of pad for my knees?
Thanks in advance!

-Matt
 

Nick

Spiral out.
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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,887
Depends on your boat and how things will fit, but generally medium to large sized dry bags stack together the best, in my experience. The really huge ones take up too much space and don't let other things around them very well. You'll also want an easy access daytime bag.

Three Canyon and one of it's forks have technical canyoneering. They might better done with a 4WD vehicle though. We did Three Canyon here: https://backcountrypost.com/threads/three-canyon-moonshine-wash.178/. The exit up to the rim is best done with a pre-set rope unless you are really strong and confident climbers. I haven't done the technical fork but it's in the same side canyon that the exit is in. Oh shoot, nevermind. I was thinking Labyrinth, not Stillwater. Sorry.

I slept on the ground when we did Labyrinth in October one year. Bugs weren't an issue then. Just a guess, but I bet they're not a big deal in April either. May is probably different. I know that the water level peaking out tends to help mosquitoes out by leaving pools behind.
 

MattSnow

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Joined
Apr 14, 2017
Messages
3
Three Canyon and one of it's forks have technical canyoneering. They might better done with a 4WD vehicle though. We did Three Canyon here: https://backcountrypost.com/threads/three-canyon-moonshine-wash.178/. The exit up to the rim is best done with a pre-set rope unless you are really strong and confident climbers. I haven't done the technical fork but it's in the same side canyon that the exit is in. Oh shoot, nevermind. I was thinking Labyrinth, not Stillwater. Sorry.
Yeah, we drove past Three the other weekend but decided on another nearby. Can't seem to find much on that lower (Stillwater) section as far as canyons go...been looking through topos and sat images, but not sure we want to commit to all the gear without having a better idea.

Thanks for the other advice!
 

gnwatts

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Joined
May 19, 2012
Messages
1,773
So we're off on our first overnight canoe + sea kayak trip next week, 6 days from Mineral Bottom to Spanish Bottom. Shuttle and rentals, including a "Tex-Catamaran" are being provided by Tex. I've done a bit of day-packrafting and one overnight whitewater rafting trip (a long time ago down the Middle Fork of the Salmon), but never floated like this before. I've read through some great trip reports but still have some questions (sorry if they're discussed somewhere else, I'm new here):


  1. How should we pack gear? One large backpack? Lots of smaller? Does everything go in drybags or just the sleeping bags and a change of clothes? Garbage bags? I'm pretty limited on dry bags (usually just use them for canyoneering) but can buy/rent if needed.
  2. Suggestions for day and overnight side hikes and trips? Ideally our trip includes at least one overnight through hike into the Maze (some of our group would shuttle canoes), but we're open to overnight loop hikes as well
  3. We are especially interested in any technical or non-technical canyoneering along the way. We have a few very experienced people open to anything out there if it's higher on the quality side, and are open to vague suggestions or PMs.
  4. How bad are the bugs? I was thinking of sleeping under the stars (maybe jumping in someone's tent in case of rain). Will I need bug spray? A tent? Or will the stars be fine?
  5. Comfort in the canoe...Can I use my full size camp chair in the canoe? Should I take something else? Do I need some type of pad for my knees?
Thanks in advance!

-Matt

Just did Stillwater.
A few suggestions.
Don't use bags of ice in your cooler. If you can, freeze some gallon water containers, and some smaller ones to fit in smaller coolers. Get an old insulite pad and lay over the top of your food inside the cooler.Then I duct tape my big cooler shut before i push off.
I use a backpack for clothes. Dry bags for everything else (you can rent them from Tex). I use a large net "sack" for preservers, and stuff that can get wet.
IMPORTANT: Have all of the stuff the NPS guys will require of you (if you are stopped, assume you will be) in one spot easily accessible, because you will be in mid river most likely if they stop you.
I like every thing in containers (they can be strapped down easier), trash bags are a little problematic.
I bring an extra 50' rope. I use my crazy creek chair, with some insulite underneath. After a few days your butt will get sore. I use long straps to secure everything, ropes kind of suck.
Bugs should not be a big issue. At least 2 weeks ago there were none. It was cold at night, and it always rains on me.
Why knee pads?
Camp spots are an issue. The Green will be crowded, you will not have any sand bars so you will camp in established spots, above water, with a hike up. Camping at Spanish Bottom will be crowded also.
You can do a loop hike up Water Canyon into the Maze and back down to Spanish Bottom. There are BCP trip reports on this hike. Fort Bottom is a good hike. Most side canyons are great but you will be slogging through the muck to access them.
Have fun.
 
Last edited:

MattSnow

New Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2017
Messages
3
So to follow up on my own questions, post trip now:

1. How should we pack gear? One large backpack? Lots of smaller? Does everything go in drybags or just the sleeping bags and a change of clothes? Garbage bags? I'm pretty limited on dry bags (usually just use them for canyoneering) but can buy/rent if needed?
Some brought one large pack, I ended up with several smaller that seemed to be easier to pack/access what I needed when I needed it. But not a critical decision. I had a few smaller dry bags with critical things and then used a doubled garbage bags inside duffle bags for other stuff that should keep dry, that seemed to work great. In the end nothing would have gotten wet even without protection.
2. Suggestions for day and overnight side hikes and trips? Ideally our trip includes at least one overnight through hike into the Maze (some of our group would shuttle canoes), but we're open to overnight loop hikes as well.
We ended up hiking up Water Canyon and ditched packs for a quick trip to the Dollhouse. Then on the way down into the Maze near Chimney Rock we grabbed our packs and set up camp. Day hike to the Harvest Panel was followed by a hike back up to Chimney Rock and then down Shot Canyon. This was probably the best part of the trip, very pretty and very cool 2 day trip (about 1200 ft and 12 miles each day). We would have liked to have hike the rim of Jasper Canyon as well, but timing didn't work out.

3. We are especially interested in any technical or non-technical canyoneering along the way. We have a few very experienced people open to anything out there if it's higher on the quality side, and are open to vague suggestions or PMs.
Didn't do canyon stuff except the non-technical hike up the slot in Anderson Bottom and back. A few good up-climbs but nothing too difficult. Pretty canyon. In the end glad we didn't take gear to try and explore.

4. How bad are the bugs? I was thinking of sleeping under the stars (maybe jumping in someone's tent in case of rain). Will I need bug spray? A tent? Or will the stars be fine?
I slept under the stars every night. Bugs were not a problem (still early in the year), but I did take bug spray. It rained a bit on us one night but not enough to bail into someone elses tent or get into the bivy sack I brought. With a forecast similar to ours (no rain) I wouldn't take a tent in the future, especially if others in my group had tents.

5. Comfort in the canoe...Can I use my full size camp chair in the canoe? Should I take something else? Do I need some type of pad for my knees?
Tex didn't like the idea of using a camp chair in the canoe, so I didn't, but I'm not quite sure why as I don't think it would have damaged the canoe at all. We saw other people on the river using camp chairs in their Tex canoes. I just rented a chair from Tex and it was fine. Knee pads definitely not needed, what was I thinking?

Overall the trip was great. We averaged about 5mph on the water due to the high flow, so we had plenty of time for side hikes etc. Thanks again for the tips ya'll, much appreciated!
 
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