Shrouded in lore and mystery, the Box Canyon of the Clarks Fork Yellowstone is one of the definitive multi-day class V kayaking trips in North America. It is also one of the most dangerous. The third deepest canyon in the United States and by far the least accessible, the Box is home to uncountable sieves, undercuts, and powerful cascades on the grandest of scales.
In places, sheer granite walls 1200' high rise dramatically from the tumbling class V waters. Scouting from shore, one cannot contain the spectacle at a glance. It is simply too immense. The roaring waters and solemn stone are in perfect harmony here, singing of a secret few have shared. It is like no other place on earth.
The rapids found deep in the gorge are pure bliss for the intrepid kayaker. Steep and demanding, the physical challenges coupled with the unparalleled aesthetics of the canyon itself leave little to be desired and the knowledge that escape on foot is impossible for nearly the entire length of the run adds a level of intensity rarely found in kayaking.
Though hiking around the numerous mandatory portages is painstaking work, it is well worth the effort as each offers a surreal view of powerful, raw elements churning and crashing in a humbling display of ferocity. The Box is an epic in all regards. Its grandeur will forever elude eloquence and imagery.
In August, 2003, a group of seven paddlers, including myself, dropped below the "last chance" eddy above the sixth and final portage. Coming down an easy slide to a blind corner, we realized our mistake too late. All 7 boaters were flushed into a terrible, unrunnable cascade laced with caves, sieves, and undercuts. Daniel Louis Crain, a great man, was lost. Though several members of the team had not been through the Box before, three of us had made the portage a combined 5 times. Not one of us remembered the spotÃ¯Â¿Â½ The Clarks Fork Box is not to be taken lightly. An experienced group of solid boaters, with their guard down momentarily, can be met with disaster in the blink of an eye. Taking on this run without the benefit of someone who knows the Box well would be a daunting task indeed. Do your homework, know your flows, and exercise extreme caution if you choose to pursue the Clarks Fork Box.
Check out Mike Albrecht's photos of The Box
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The various reaches of the Clarks Fork Drainage:Styx and Stones (Class V+/VI),The Upper (Class IV/V+),Honeymoon (Class IV/V+),The Box (Class V+/VI),Lower (Class IV/V), andCrandall Creek (Class IV).
Clarks Fork @ Belfry
Permits are not required for this reach.
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Coral Creek Strainer
Deliberation. Bottom looking up
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
The National Forest Service is currently in the process of implementing a new river management plan for the Wild and Scenic Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River. The USFS proposes to maintain all exisiting designated roads but take steps to curtail off-road use that is damaging ecological and recreational values of the river corridor. Today, American Whitewater submitted a letter to the USFS in support of their proposed actions.
Cody, Wyoming - This August 19 & 20 the Wild West Paddle Club is hosting the 2017 Wild West River Fest in Cody, Wyoming. In celebration of the beautiful Shoshone River, the Fest has events for everyone - Slalom Race, Class II Sprint, Shoshone Canyon Boater Cross, and many other fun activities for the whole family! Weekend festivities are free to the public, with the exception of race registration fees for competitors. You can find a full schedule here and all competitors need to register online in advance.
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