Sand, Sun, and Fun in Casper
SUNNY DAYS AND SOARING TEMPERATURES...when summer hits the Rockies, it can get hot in a hurry. But that's what makes the variety of water activities in Casper, Wyoming so refreshing! Whether it's swimming, boating, kayaking or anything in between, Casper is the spot to dive into adventure.
Just outside our back door off of Highway 220, the waters of Alcova Lake and Pathfinder Reservoir offer a variety of recreational activities. Robert Grant, our water sports adventure guide and owner of Back Country Kayak School, says Alcova Lake is always a popular spot for adventure seekers. "Alcova is great for the water sports enthusiasts - the water skiers, and the jet skiers. There's quite a few people who scuba dive out at Alcova because the water's pretty clear," he says. "And a lot of people kayak too. It is beautiful up in there." To really feel at one with nature, you might even consider kayaking through Fremont Canyon under the moonlit skies at night!
Speaking of Fremont Canyon, rock climbers who love living on the edge - literally! - can dig their heels and toes into the cracks and crevices all around the area. There are hundreds of rock climbing routes between Casper and Lander, Wyoming. The routes range from 40 to 400 ft., with varying degrees of difficulty. It's mostly steep crack climbs, but there are sports and boulder climbs, too.
Swimming, boating, fishing, knee-boarding and tubing round out the possibilities at the lake. Most of the equipment for these water activities is available to rent or buy at the Lakeside Marina. This full-service marina comes complete with fuel for your motorized vehicles as well as a restaurant / lounge. Sometimes an overnight stay is necessary to enjoy all that the lake has to offer; fortunately, campsite services are available for a full weekend getaway.
Just past Alcova Lake is Pathfinder Reservoir, and although it can be utilized for boating, its real claim to fame is fishing. "Pathfinder is definitely more for the fisherman," Grant says. It's more remote than Alcova, so if your idea of "water sports" is casting a line and coaxing Walleye onto your hook, this is a great area to explore. And with plenty of picnic areas and restrooms, this makes another great camping spot!
But Alcova Lake and Pathfinder Reservoir are just the beginning of the wet and wild experience in Natrona County. Floating the North Platte River is always a popular choice for a relaxing summer day; there are several different entry points for longer or shorter trips, each offering breathtaking scenery and an opportunity to enjoy local wildlife.
"If it was a family group and they wanted to go down the river, they can get some inner tubes or a little raft and just float the river," Grant says. There are a variety of trips to take, each scenic in its own way. "You can float from Gray Reef to Lusby; from Lusby to Government Bridge; from Government Bridge to Bessemer Bend, or from Bessemer Bend to Robertson Road Bridge. Those are probably all going to be 3 or 4 hour float trips." The truly adventurous might even opt to float them all in one day!
For those seeking more heart-pounding fun, the Platte River Parkway White Water Park has several man-made structures to enhance the thrills of riding the rapids. "I'd suggest the White Water Park because there's a great play-hole for rodeo boating and freestyle kayaking," Grant says.
When it comes to kayaking, Grant says even beginners can have fun, provided they have a little instruction first. He teaches the fundamentals of kayaking in several classes, from how to catch and navigate an eddy ("any part in the river where the water is not moving at the same rate") to how to exit a kayak should it tip over ("as easy as sliding off a pair of sweatpants"). The most important thing, he says, is to observe basic rules of safety. "You should always wear a personal flotation device (PDF) and a helmet. And never kayak by yourself. Besides, it's just more fun with another person."
Don't worry about owning your own gear, either. "In all my classes, I provide a kayak, a spray skirt, a paddle, a PFD and a helmet," he says. But if you decide you do want your own kayaking paraphernalia, Casper has several options. "I sell kayaks and equipment; Gary Van Zandt with Platte River Outfitters sells it as well." K-Mart and Wal-Mart are also good places to check. If you're looking for something for motor water craft, Bundy's Marine and White's Marine Center are your best bet.
Chances are, you might find yourself hooked on the rush of white water kayaking. If so, you might consider getting involved with the Paddling Club. They not only make trips with people of similar skill levels, they also sponsor the Kayak Rodeo held in Casper. This year will mark the rodeo's fourth year of people coming together to compete. "They're judged on how many different tricks they can do," Grant says. "There's a 360 flat spin, a cartwheel and a loop," just to name a few of the events. Not only is this a fun way to enjoy the outdoors, it's also a great way to meet new people. "The boating community, the kayaking community - everybody is just pretty even-keeled," Grant says. "They're just super-nice people." For more information on the rodeo or the club itself, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
So no matter what your chosen water activity, Casper has it all. Can you think of a better way to beat the summer heat?
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