A Complete Guide To Kayaking Yellowstone Lake In 2024

This location was called neither by French fur trappers seeking for pelts in the late 1700s, nor by John Colter, a member of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition who went out on his own and discovered into a region so strange that his claims were disregarded as pure imagination. Yellowstone was named by the Indigenous Hidatsa people, who used the term Mi tsi a-da-zi to describe the distinctive color of the stones that line the Yellow Rock River. This guide on kayaking Yellowstone Lake will help you to get the most experience coming on your way.

The uniqueness of Yellowstone

Yellowstone’s distinctive terrain has altered dramatically and subtly over thousands of years. It has also attracted visitors, whether they are Hidatsa forefathers watching a winter game, colonial-era settlers, or vacationing family on a traditional summer road trip. There is no poor time to explore Yellowstone National Park. With 10 months of the year open, there’s always something new to discover. While certain factors, such as fauna and weather, are unexpected, one thing is certain. Whether you’re coming for the first time or have returned many times over the years, you’re in for a treat every time you enter the park.

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Yellowstone National Park Information

This was a very average span of rivers, mountains, and green valley’s millions of years ago. Then, in the northeast, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Snake River Plain, a geologic hot spot that formerly stood under what is now Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument moved. After a long, sluggish journey to the junction of what is now Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and one catastrophic eruption, Yellowstone – with its famed geysers, hot springs, and travertine falls – was created.

Yellowstone’s living, breathing environment has continued to change since then. A gigantic super caldera lies under the boardwalks where travelers crisscross to witness the park’s thermal characteristics, beneath the rolling rivers and the claws of bears and wolves. It is the mouth of a succession of major eruptions, the most recent of which happened 630,000 years ago. The park’s vibrant, superheated paint pots, springs, and boiling rivers are the result of ongoing volcanic activity beneath a thin layer of the earth’s crust, while the park’s dramatic canyons reveal where the Yellowstone River has carved through millennia of hardened lava flows to form stunning basalt cliffs and ridges.

The Indigenous groups that wintered in Yellowstone specialized in obsidian tools, which were manufactured from the area’s plentiful volcanic material. These arrow and spear tips were so valuable that they were discovered at archeological sites east of the Mississippi, following lengthy, established trading lines between tribes. Despite its unusual features and plentiful resources, European colonists were not interested in Yellowstone until after the Civil War, when the Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition arrived in 1869.

Kayaking Yellowstone Lake

You can’t kayak on Yellowstone’s streams, which is understandable given that half of them have names like the Boiling River. Yellowstone Lake, Lewis Lake, and Shoshone Lake are among the lakes and ponds where you may kayak. There’s enough to see, and the upper-body exercise is well worth it.

Anglers will be rewarded with an abundance of fish, including several park-specific species. Wildlife enthusiasts will love the ability to witness wildlife on the beach without being stuck in a bison herd or bumping into other guests. Yak packers also have the unique opportunity to access distant regions of the park via paddling, rather than walking.

If you don’t have your own watercraft or are traveling long distances, you may arrange guided Yellowstone River rafting cruises, kayak tours, and even overnight paddle adventures out of Gardiner, Montana. At Bridge Bay Marina, you may hire rowboats and outboard motors, as well as a variety of watercraft from private enterprises outside the park.

Bring your diving gear and explore under the surface of Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb Geyser Basin, and the Firehole River near Mystic Falls, all of which are off-the-beaten-path scuba attractions.

When Should You Go?

Yellowstone is available to tourists all year, with the exception of two brief shoulder times to transition between seasons. Each year, Yellowstone shuts between March and April to allow personnel to plow the roads and prepare the park for peak season. In September and October, the park closes to winterize its infrastructure.


Yellowstone is most popular in July and August, when families are on vacation and temperatures are at their highest. It’s best to visit towards the beginning or end of the summer season to avoid large crowds, however temperatures may be somewhat colder.

Yellowstone’s summer weather is warm and comfortable during the day, with highs in the 60s and 70s, but it can still drop into the 30s and 40s at night (Fahrenheit). It’s usually a good idea to bring clothes and sunscreen, as well as camping gear suitable for cooler temps.

Winter in Yellowstone is criminally underappreciated, with superb viewing possibilities for bison, elk, foxes, weasels, and even the park’s fabled wolves. Except around Christmastime, there will be almost no people, allowing you plenty of opportunities for photography or just taking in the contrast of fire and ice.

Temperatures may drop to below zero in the winter, but the low humidity makes layering simple, particularly if you’re planning an energetic day of snowshoeing or skiing. Wear wicking, insulating materials like silk, wool, or synthetic base layers instead of cotton, and make sure you have decent socks and gloves.

Air Travel: Getting There and Getting Around

Flying into one of the region’s airports, such as Jackson, Wyoming; Bozeman, Montana; or Idaho Falls, is the most convenient method to get to Yellowstone. Billings, Montana and Cody, Wyoming are all viable alternatives. You may also fly straight into West Yellowstone, Montana, during peak season.

Bozeman is often the greatest value, plus it’s a great college town with enough to see and do on the way in and out. If you have the opportunity, stop by Montana Ale Works for a drink and a bite to eat. Meanwhile, Jackson, Wyoming has established itself as a mountain town deserving of a vacation in and of itself — if time permits, stop by Snake River Brewing, where you’ll meet across everyone from young guns to backwoods mystics to serious western old timers.

By Car

Depending on whether you’re coming from Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming, Highways 20, 191, 89, 212, and 14/16 all connect to or border Yellowstone National Park. By traveling north via Grand Teton National Park, you may reach Yellowstone from Jackson on a road trip. Another alternative is to travel west from Devil’s Tower National Monument on the Wyoming/North Dakota border, or northeast from Craters of the Moon, which will give you an idea of how powerful Yellowstone was millennia ago.

Once within the park, the Grand Loop Road, Norris Canyon Road, West Entrance Road, North Entrance Road, South Entrance Road, and East Entrance Road are a few important routes that connect the park’s five entrances. The Grand Loop Route to 212 via Tower Junction between the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana and Cooke City, Montana is the only road available during the winter months.

In most popular national parks, patience is a virtue. During peak season, when the park is busiest, traffic may be delayed, particularly if there is a “bison jam” created by visitors stopping in the middle of the road to photograph adjacent animals. Keep cool and keep your eyes open, and when you have the opportunity, fill up at one of Yellowstone’s few gas stations.

Summer Lodging in Yellowstone National Park

In the summer, you’ll have your choice of lodging options, including lodges, cabins, campsites, and even yurts, with a broad variety of options within each category depending on your preferences and where in the park you’d want to stay.

You’ll want to book your lodgings well in advance, particularly if you want a great room in the Old Faithful Lodge or your selection of campsites during peak season. Even in years when travel is restricted due to a worldwide epidemic, Yellowstone may sell out months or even a year in advance.

The landmark Old Faithful Inn, built in 1904 and near to both Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin, is a notable example of “parksitecture” and a tribute to almost a century of Yellowstone visitors. After a long day of touring, snuggle up in front of the big stone fireplace.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is another beautiful piece of Yellowstone history, with sections dating back to 1911 and the majority erected in 1936. The whole establishment was refurbished recently, with sleek renovations to the guest restrooms and several changes done with sustainability in mind, such as recycled glass worktops. The Elk Sliders with tarragon aioli are a must-try, as is the Bison Top Sirloin.

Final words

Now you know everything about kayaking Yellowstone river. Keep these tips in mind and get the most out of time that you are going to spend in here.