Part 2 – Unlocking Wyomings Secret Stash, Laprele Gorge

By September 2, 2009 No Comments

Wyoming traffic jam on the way to the river

Mulkey running Hall Pass

As the ice begins to melt each ice season all I start thinking about is kayaking and it becomes an addiction to scan over maps and search for creeks of the unknown. Ever since my first trip to Casper to paddle with Mike on the First known descent of Box Elder my mind was constantly thinking about what other creeks were hidden in the range. Deer Creek is one of the bigger creeks in the range and is in my top 5 trips in Wyoming. Deer creek remained unknown for many years after its first descent in 1995 by Ed Conning, Steve Varland, and Calvin Burgstrom. A group of us got to paddle this incredible creek last year, trip report with photos here DEER CREEK TR.

Living in Wyoming this granite range seems to be the perfect start for any creeking assault early in the season. With so many micro creeks and massive canyons its hard to know what has water and what doesn’t. A couple of creeks stuck out on the map and one in particular ran thru a very obvious canyon known as the Laprele Gorge. This creek then dumps into a reservoir that has pretty much dewatered the creek below it, hiding it from the elusive kayaker that passes by on I-25.

I was able to round up Nate Winning from Red Lodge, Mt and Matt Mcfadden and Ben Stookesberry were contemplating meeting us for a Sunday run if things looked good. I had 2 creeks in mind and made numerous phone calls trying to figure out access issues. I was fortunate to have climbing partner and friend CasperKenny to help with logistics and private property issues. We had no idea if anyone one had ever ventured into these canyons.

Who needs a nalgene when you have a Clorox jug for water!

Kenny is pretty much the man to have behind the wheel on any adventure. Without him this run would have never happened.

Cool temps and snow were forcasted for the day and before we knew it we were trying to navigate thru blinding snow and huge drifts. The storm would lift every few minutes allowing us to try and gain our bearings but after too long we were shut down.

It was deeper then it looked Kenny told us!

Time to get the chains out…..

We decided to navigate back and ended up in the Laprele creek drainage. The storm started to lift and so did our spirits as huge granite outcroppings began to rise out of the valley above the gorge.

We drove across a side creek that flowed into the main Laprele creek and decided there was enough water to get down to the confluence above the main gorge.

Unsure if the rest of the crew was going to show up we decided to put on and paddle into the unknown. The side creek offered some mank and some fun drops that reminded me of Arizona paddling. After a small rapid we were at the entrance to the gorge that had a mandatory 20 foot waterfall/slide that we named Hall Pass.

Mulkey running Hall Pass Photo: Nate Winning

The next rapid has a punch, with 3 big boofs over chundering holes and a slide at the end that we named Mean Streak. After running the right side successfully Nate decided he didn’t like the odds and chose a left line that ended up having a hidden hole at the end with some serious teeth. I watched Nate recirculate with his boat a couple times and then was able to rope him and his boat out of the nasty hole. With no paddle to be found and Nate very cold we had no choice but to abandon our mission and come back the next day with our crew. As I looked downstream it was like a kayakers dream of steep granite walls and pool and drop rapids. The hike out sucks and we were lucky to follow a narrow passage way up and out of the canyon.

Looking downstream before hiking out

As soon as I had cell I was on the phone calling in the troops and by morning Ben and Matt had arrived along with a foot of fresh powder. Despite the cold temperatures and snow falling we were motivated to get back on the river.

It was fucking cold and shitty out im not going to sugar coat it but our motivation to explore the canyon further was pushing us.

Ben Stookesberry not worried about the snow and 28 degree temps

Gorgeous canyon and slightly intimidating

We pushed on further into the canyon and each drop got better and better and so did the weather. After a few hours the sun started to break through the clouds and gave us a little warmth.

Ben gives a big boof on Classroom Bully. Don’t ask about his pink boat or his classic old school paddle.

Matt Mcfadden in the midst of Classroom Bully

Matt running Bitches Brew

Ben running Left Ventricle

The Moratroium …must boof!

Ben running The Moratorium

Mulkey and Stookesberry running One Arm Bandit

With some many drops and freezing cold temps I wish we had taken more pictures of drops but trying to stay warm somehow was more important at the time. After One Arm Bandit the river stepped up a notch and big drops started to form…..

To be continued part 3 very soon!