Kayak Camping Stillwater Reservoir

Pano from iPhone on the morning of Day 3.  The fog is just staring to lift. 

It has been a while since I had a companion to do any significant backcounty activity with.  This weekend, however, I did an awesome 3-day kayak camping trip around Stillwater Reservoir with my friend, Jeff, who I met at my ACA Level 2 Instructor Course.  Not only is Jeff an excellent camping and paddling buddy, but also a skilled photographer.  Jeff gets it.

Jeff capturing the sunset during an evening paddle session.

This is my second time camping at Stillwater and Jeff and I ended up camping on the same island that I stayed at last time I was here.   Camp site #17 is in a small island tucked in a cove off a small channel inlet on the north side of the lake.  The sandy beach and lack of boat traffic makes it ideal for kayakers looking for seclusion.   

Admittedly, when I first camped at Stillwater, I didn’t take the opportunity to really look around.  I pretty much went out and back to my campsite, using my kayak more as a means of transportation than a vessel for exploration.  My trip with Jeff was a different story.  Over the three-day period, we logged just over 35-miles, most of them on the second and third days.  Looking at the trip’s GPS track, we covered a large portion of the lake, but still left parts unexplored like Loon Lake and the far east end of the lake. 

Exploring one of the many rock islands on Stillwater.

Exploring one of the many rock islands on Stillwater.

We spent a decent amount of time discussing the lake’s potential for guided trips.  Its protected inland waters make it suitable for beginner paddlers with only real potential dangers, which are unlikely, could be severe thunderstorms, frigid air and water temps, and/or bears.  The other concern, from a logistic standpoint, is its lack of cell phone service in the event of an emergency situation. 

In all, the weather cooperated with us on our trip.  I feel a bit betrayed by the National Weather Service and their forecast of sunny skies (which only appeared on our last day).  Despite this, the weather was accommodating, albeit windy with a looming threat of rain on our first and second days. 


But we woke up to significantly colder temperatures on our third and final day that created a fog so dense it limited visibility to less than a 100 feet.  Paddling in these conditions were surreal.  Pictures I took of Jeff paddling made him look like he was floating on nothing.  We had to grope our way out of the inlets and coves to reach the main portion of Stillwater.  And even once we reached the lake, I had mild concerns of getting ran over by some semi-intoxicated bass fisherman who might be throwing caution into the wind.  But once the sun rose and air temperatures started rise, the fog burned off and yielded to a cloudless, sunny sky while we paddled the southern leg of the reservoir.     Just look at what a difference one day made: