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!
Camping options can be found here:
Click on the following thumbnails for pictures of John Blue
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.
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:
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:
Camping options can be found here:
Click on the following thumbnails for pictures of Spur
More pictures of John Blue Canyon and Spur
Canyon can be seen on Jeff and Becky's Canyoneering Page.