Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area

Jeff Baird has contributed the beta and photos for John Blue Canyon and Spur Canyon. Though they aren’t in the Northwest, the canyons are definitely worthy of inclusion.

John Blue Slot
This is a short canyon you can probably do in an hour or less. It has many drops less than 20 feet. We rappelled the first two drops, because there was a convenient tree at the drop. All the other drops we down climbed. To get there, from Lovell Wyoming, drive East on Highway 14. Turn North at 44.8567 108.1749 and drive into John Blue Canyon. If you have time, stop and take a look at John Blue's Cabin, and old mountain man's cabin (N 44.901167 W 108.154900). You'll soon come to the exit of the slot canyon. There is a 4 wheel drive road that runs parallel to the slot canyon. There's not many good places to park along that road, so you will probably want to park at the exit, then hike up the road until you get to a good drop in point. Then just scramble your way down into the canyon, and then the fun begins. Watch out for rattlesnakes!

Topo Map:
www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=12&n=4976065&e=724885&s=25&size=l&u=1&layer=DRG25

Camping options can be found here:
www.nps.gov/bica/pphtml/planyourvisit.html

Click on the following thumbnails for pictures of John Blue Canyon.

Bighorn Canyon Prospects
Bighorn Canyon, in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, is an impressive 55 mile canyon that crosses from Wyoming into Montana. After the building of the Yellowtail Dam in the 60's, the canyon became a 60 mile lake. The book Wild Wyoming, by Erik Molvar describes the canyon as being pocked with caves, grottoes and slot canyons. I took a canoe trip down a 20 mile section of the canyon and it looks like there is some potential for canyoneering.Probably the best potential route is Layout Creek in Montana.

www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=12&n=4994466.00010572&e=717502.000206875&u=1

The down side to most of these canyons, is you'd have to ascend back up canyon after descending it, unless you can get a boat to pick you up. For information about the area, go to www.nps.gov/bica/index.htm. This has park maps and camping information etc.Topo Map of the beginning of the canyon in Wyoming:

www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=12&n=4984352.00010038&e=717216.000202596&u=1


Spur Canyon:

I found this canyon from a satellite picture. It didn't have a name on the topo map, but we started calling it Spur Canyon. It's in Northern Wyoming, near the Montana border in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The time needed for the canyon depends on how you approach the canyon, and how close you can drive to the head of the canyon with your 4 wheel drive. When we did the canyon, the water level in Bighorn Lake was very low, so we were able to get to the canyon from the bottom. But since then, the water has risen quite a bit, so the best option, unless you have a boat drop you off, is from the top of the canyon. It'll probably take around 4-6 hours. Since the exit of the canyon drops into Bighorn Lake, you'll either need to return back up canyon, or have a boat pick you up. There are several areas in the canyon where you can escape, so if you don't have a boat, simply head back up canyon and out one of the exits. From Lovell Wyoming, drive East on Highway 14. Turn North at 44.8567 108.1749 and drive into John Blue Canyon. If you have time, stop and take a look at John Blue's Cabin, and old mountain man's cabin (N 44.901167 W 108.154900). You'll soon come to the exit of a short slot canyon in John Blue Canyon. From here, head up the 4 wheel drive road that runs parallel to the slot canyon. There's a lot of crisscrossed road, so a GPS is the best way to get to the canyon. Drive until you reach about 44.9508 108.1593 and turn left. From here, stay left until you can get as close as your car will handle to the top of the canyon. We got to within a 1/3 of a mile. The drop in point for the canyon is about 44.9689 108.2271. The first drop can be downclimbed, rappelled or bypassed on the right. The next short drops can be bypassed by ledges on the right (LDC). You'll then immediately come to the first mandatory rappel, which is about 20-30 feet. There is a tree at the top of the rappel you can use as an anchor. From there, do some bushwacking to get to the next rappel, which will be your biggest. It's about 40 feet down into a beautiful grotto. For an anchor, we used a scrawny tree that was a ways back from the lip of the rappel. From that point on, there's a lot of bushwacking, fun down climbs and narrows. Keep an eye out for some of the exit options as you head down canyon, because unless you have a boat, you'll need to come back up canyon and out one of the exits. There wasn't any swims when we did it, but there was some wading. The canyon ends in a short tunnel that empties into Bighorn Lake. From there you can back track to your exit, then hike back up to your car. Watch out for rattlesnakes!

Satellie picture of Spur Canyon:
http://terraserver.microsoft.com/image.aspx?t=1&s=12&x=897&y=6228&z=12&w=1

Topo Map:
www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=44.964&lon=-108.2314&s=25&size=l&symshow=n&u=1&layer=DRG25

Camping options can be found here:
www.nps.gov/bica/pphtml/planyourvisit.html


Click on the following thumbnails for pictures of Spur Canyon.

     

More pictures of John Blue Canyon and Spur Canyon can be seen on Jeff and Becky's Canyoneering Page.
http://worldzone.net/recreation/jumar/canyoneering.html

 


Photo: Jeff Baird