June 14-15, 2008: Rockhounding (by Kayak) in Wyoming

One of many trip reports by Alan Silverstein.
Last update: June 23, 2008


There are some fabulous agates at Glendo Reservoir, Wyoming, and collecting there is legal with permission. Last year my wife and I enjoyed a weekend of camping and kayaking on the north bay. This year I went back alone for more.

The reservoir's level goes up and down fast. To boat on the north bay, you must catch it at the right level. Last year mid-June was just right. This year the lake was eight feet higher, a lot colder and muddier, and still rising a little!

Saturday, June 14 -- Round-About Enroute

You can do anything you want, but the details and logistics can really take some time! After a leisurely morning preparing and packing, I finally rolled from home after 10:30 with the kayak on the roof of my car. The direct route to Glendo is two hours up I25, but I wanted to take a back road north of Laramie through the mountains from Bosler to Wheatland, partly to stop into a labradorite site to gather a few buckets of rock for a friend at the USGS. So I went via US287 instead.

After buying gas ($3.99/gallon) and losing 15 minutes to construction delays, I got to the Laramie post office at 12:15 to drop off a couple of packages. Then I met two friends for lunch downtown, whom I hadn't seen for a while. I called them on the way up, and to my surprise they were available! It was good eats and nice conversation.

I made a quick stop at the Safeway for a few food items, then was on my way north again at 2:30 pm. I still imagined I might get to Glendo in time to float the boat that night...

About 14.5 miles east of Bosler on WY30, I stopped at a prominent black roadcut with large, sparkling crystals. I don't know what it was, but it was unusual. I filled my first bucket here and at a second, similar cut a little over a mile east. It was a warm, sunny, windy day (not unusual for Wyoming). The hills were a pretty spring green, out there far from any towns.

From 4:00 to 5:30 I crawled all over the main labradorite road cut 22.4 miles east of Bosler. Unlike two weeks ago with the rockhounds club, I didn't see a single crystal with blue or green schiller. But I had fun trying to find the source of the largest crystals, and filling two more big buckets with samples.

Now I was pretty sure my kayak wouldn't be on the lake until tomorrow. I enjoyed the rest of the drive east and north to Wheatland, and had a good dinner at a Subway. Despite the sun not setting until 8:38 pm, I arrived at the little town of Glendo less than an hour before.

I detoured south to the entrance station, and paid my $12 to camp plus $4 more to stay through the next afternoon -- such a deal, even for non-residents. Arriving at the Elkhorn camping area, about five miles north of town on the south side of the north bay, I saw it was overrun with RV campers! Well, not side by side, but crowded. Also with the lake being up (4638'+), there were no camping spots between the trees and the water -- the cottonwoods had their feet wet.

I found a decent spot on the grass, down below the gravel road, where I could leave my car parked and launch my kayak in the morning. I decided to throw up my tent (without rainfly) for bugs and privacy. I also spent time getting gear ready for the morning, while shooting pictures of a rosy sunset. By 9:15 pm I crawled in for the night. It was just breezy to windy at times, bright with a nearly full moon. Very comfortable.

Sunday, June 15: Across The Lake, and Back Home

I awoke from a solid sleep at 6:05 am -- with the tent dripping from dew. The next hour involved breakfast, moving the tent to sunshine to dry faster, and really finally totally getting ready to launch my kayak. Unlike last year, the water was cold enough to be dangerous if I found myself swimming in the middle of the bay, so I wore my wetsuit in both directions. Getting it on and off, along with everything else, was laborious.

"Why did the rockhound cross the lake? To bring back some of the other side."

Finally at 7:15, eager to be underway, I started paddling. It was a cool, breezy day, very quiet except for a couple of early-riser boats out with people fishing. I warmed up a little by exploring the cottonwood and bush area nearby where we'd camped last year, now a flooded "swamp", then took off across the lake.

My destination, a prominent limestone ridge north and a little west, lay across the wide bay that vanishes every fall when the lake drops. It took about 25 minutes to get over there; later the GPS said it was about 1.1 miles. I noticed there was some wind, and it came from an unusual direction, the southeast.

I made first for a steep shoreline, frosted with alluvial pebbles, to the east of the ridge. After pulling out the boat and getting back out of my wetsuit, I spent some unknown amount of mellow time finding a wide variety of pretty tumbling rocks here. Then I paddled west, without a wetsuit, staying close to the shoreline, into the back of the cove northeast of the main ridge.

More logistics... I locked the kayak to a huge log on shore, dug out my daypack, etc. Finally set out on foot to the west and north to the very top of the ridge, several hundred feet higher, through lots of limestone shelves and rock-strewn hillsides. Throughout the morning I noted the time but didn't keep track. I was probably out on foot for 3.5 hours with one liter of water!

The top of the hill at the north end of the ridge had a commanding view of the north end of the lake, Laramie Peak to the west, etc. It was my first time up that far, and a great place to eat the rest of my breakfast and make a few phone calls (new cell tower!) The skies clouded up and looked a little threatening while a cold wind blew, but as the day went on it got warm, then hot, and clearer. There were interesting rocks all the way up the hill and back down, both alluvials (rounded) and banded/crystal pockets (rough) weathered out of the limestone.

I decided to loop around below the top of the ridge, but never made it to the far end. I found great treasures and was loaded down with rocks, so eventually I made my way back down the hill (steep and loose) to the shoreline, then left/north back to my kayak. The brisk breeze, still adverse to my return across the lake, continued to send small waves ashore and made a few whitecaps out in the middle. I found and collected some trash blown ashore (sigh), mostly various cans and bottles.

Back at the boat, tired and mellow, it took a while to load it up and float out again. I swore I'd wear a wetsuit back across the pond, and later I did, but I wanted to make a couple of stops first along the shore. I picked up more trash I'd left piled, then found a place to (barely) pull out and beach the kayak on a rocky shelf at the south point of the ridge -- or so I thought -- actually a few hundred feet shy of the point.

I made another short trek up to the top of the ridge, observed it to be 0.41 miles GPS from the hilltop (that's a lot more terrain to explore for awesome agates), loaded up my collecting pouch, and got back down to the boat. Geared up again, observed happily that the wind, waves, and boat traffic had died down, and launched for home at about 2:30 pm.

"What do you get when you cross a lake with a rockhound in a kayak? A boat that nearly doesn't float on the way back."

I was careful to balance the rocks in the kayak, and limit picking up the heftier agates. There were some on shore that were 10-20 pounds each! The boat seemed to be riding well, and it took on no water going home, although it took me nearly 30 minutes to get back.

Whew! Once beached by the car, I spent over an hour cleaning up, drying out, loading, and getting ready to depart. Dumped the trash in a nearby pail, and headed home at 4:10 pm. Non-stop down I25 nearly 150 miles, 2:02 to the Avago plant in Fort Collins, where I worked for an hour!