We have been admiring the Madison River for the past week while we were camping in Ennis, Montana. We had determined that it was flowing too fast to try one of our boomerang kayak trips where we paddle upstream and then float back to the car.
A company in town could take us 7 miles up the river so we could float back to the car, but the $30 shuttle fee didn't fit into our travel budget. We need two vehicles to be able to shuttle ourselves. Guess what? On moving day we have two vehicles on the road. The motor home is a rather large shuttle vehicle that won't fit into most river launch parking lots. But we had already scoped out our options south of Ennis, Montana and had a plan. When we pulled out of Ennis RV Village, Denisa drove the car to the take-out spot we had already scouted at the Palisades boat launch.
Mark followed behind in the motor home and picked her up, and we rode together 7 miles to Lyons Bridge where we would put the kayak in the water.
It was a cool morning, and we were certainly hoping we didn't dump ourselves into the chilly water on this float trip. It was windy, and between the wind and the current, we had some white caps in front of us.
There were plenty of obstacles to help dump us. Rocks were sticking out of the water at irregular intervals. These were actually some of the easiest obstacles, because at least we could see them.
The trickier obstacles were the growlers. That is river-talk for large rocks just under the surface of water. You can't see them until your kayak is on top of them. That's when you can get dumped. Before we even got on the river, Denisa apologized for not seeing these rocks from her vantage point at the front of the boat.
An unexpected obstacle on the river were the boats of fishermen and women. We knew that the Madison River was a popular fly-fishing destination, and it was interesting to see the professional guides rowing their customers gently down the stream. We found that the going rate for an 8-hour fishing trip with a guide is around $600 with tip. So our free kayak trip is looking better all the time.
Sometimes we had all those obstacles at the same time. In the picture below we have a boat on the left, a growler in the middle, and rocks on the right. Considering that the Madison isn't a very wide river, it's hard to squeeze a kayak in between all those things.
Mark is a great rudder-man, and the current was doing all the work. Denisa's oars rarely touched the water in the entire 7-mile float down this picturesque river. We were obviously traveling faster than the fly-fishing boats, as we passed 23 of them. This is the river where the Robert Redford movie, "A River Runs Through It" was filmed, highlighting Montana's love of fly-fishing.
Our car was parked at the take-out at the Palisades Cliffs. It was a beautiful place with the tall rocky cliffs high above us.
Up to this time, our float trip had been flawless. Mark managed to miss all the obstacles, and kept the kayak floating through the rough water. But we misjudged the entrance into the boat dock and ended up on a gravel bar. We both had to get out of the kayak--it was almost a perfect trip!
So many things could have gone wrong with this kayak trip. What if we missed our take-out spot and floated past the car? What if we had forgotten to get the key to the car in the boat? What if we had forgotten the pump for inflating the kayak? There were lots of things to remember, but luckily we remembered all of them.
When we got the kayak dried and loaded into the car, it was a seven mile trip back to the put-in spot where the motor home was waiting for us. It was a successful self-shuttling river float trip using our two vehicles! Now it was just 35 miles down the highway to our next destination--Baker's Hole campground. This is a popular public campground just a few miles from the western entrance of Yellowstone National Park and there were more adventures waiting for us just to get a camping spot. But that's part of the next blog.