Free boat rides Saturday during Big Horn Lake Celebration

Free boat rides will be offered at Big Horn Lake this Saturday during the sixth annual Big Horn Lake Celebration, sponsored by the Friends of Bighorn Lake and the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

The day begins with the Big Horn Canyon Triathlon, which begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Horseshoe Bend swimming beach (see related story).

Boat rides for the “Day at the Lake” commence at 8 a.m. at the Horseshoe Bend dock and boat ramp and continue through 4 p.m.

“We’ll have 16 boats running, and we encourage everyone to come early,” Friends of Bighorn Lake board member Bob Croft said Monday. “Some years we’re a little light from 8 to 9 a.m., then we get snowed under in the middle of the day and people have to stand in line.”

The average boat ride is 30 to 35 minutes, Croft said, and riders will get to “peek” at the south end of the lake near the south narrows, then head into the canyon to the north.

Visitors to Big Horn Lake will find the swimming beach and picnic area open, and the marina sells food and beverages and rents tubes, paddle boats and kayaks. Hidden Treasure Charters also offers lake and canyon tours for those who want to stay on the water longer.

Croft also noted that the Friends will once again offer a shuttle service from the dock to the parking lots.

He also invites visitors to stop by the aquatic invasive species information table near the fish cleaning station and the Bureau of Land Management information table.

Excellent conditions

Lake conditions are excellent, Croft said, with the lake elevation just five feet from full pool at 3,635 feet above sea level. That’s much lower than last year, but it also means less debris in the water compared to a year ago.

“It’ll stay pretty much at that level (during the summer),” Croft said. “It’ll maybe go to 3,631, but then it’ll come back up. The Bureau (of Reclamation) is staying on top of it. They’re doing a good job.

“Buffalo Bill is full, and they will release some water from there, which will help keep our water level up.”

Boats can be launched at 3,617, so the lake is well above the level needed for a summer and fall of excellent boating, Croft emphasized.

“There’s plenty of water to launch, and the lake is pretty well driftwood free,” he said. “The water clarity is some of the best we’ve ever had, and it’s moss free. All of the ramps are open, including the Kane ramp. Fishing has been pretty consistent, and the water is in the high 70s.

“As far as lake conditions go, we haven’t seen this good of water since we got the water back.”

Croft encourages people to visit the Friends of Bighorn Lake website, complete with statistical information on lake levels and a new webcam at

He also noted that the new camp sites in the Trail Creek area near Barry’s Landing are open, and the lake level is perfect for finding beaches for canoe camping.

By David Peck