String Lake to Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National park
Here are some pictures and details about the kayak/canoe from String Lake to Leigh Lake (about three miles from the launch to the campsite, with a 150 yard portage) and camping the De Anza Outdoor Club has done on Leigh Lake on our trips to Grand Teton National Park between summer and fall quarters.
A virtual tour of String Lake is available at:
and below, a photo/map at the String Lake to Leigh Lake trailhead:
For most of our Grand Teton kayaking we kayak two people per craft, but for the overnight we go as single paddlers, with our sleeping bags, clothes, etc. in dry bags and the seats adjusted as needed. Note that the kayaks the college owns are open and more like small canoes than the river kayaks that enclose your legs.
Below, Jessica Hoyer on the 2005 trip, backpackers and paddlers on the 2011 trip:
Below: portage sign at the shore at the end of String Lake, landing at the end of String Lake (Jessica Hoyer, Alan Ahlstrand, Daniel Krohn and Shannon Mathey), the portage with a trailer Alan made,
The portage trail sometimes has traffic jams. We’ve seen up to twenty craft in one time period in the afternoon and packers bring through horseback riders. (2007 and 2013 pictures)
At both ends of the portage trail there are metal food storage lockers so people who overnight on Leigh Lake can safely store their food from bears while they carry their craft along the portage trail. Since we usually have a big group we can have a person stay with the boats and gear at either end of the portage to prevent thefts by bears or people.
Since the group campsite we got a wilderness permit for is regularly used, since 2006 we have anticipated a lack of firewood in the area and collected a bunch along the portage trail. Our record late start in 2006 meant that we we just beat the start of the afternoon wind, and it was a good thing because the canoe with most of the wood supply was a bit top heavy (see below).
Below: a controlled slide of a loaded canoe down the portage stairs to Leigh Lake and underway on 2.8 mile long, 250 feet deep, Leigh Lake, with portage stairs showing in background.
Why the record late start in 2006? The very flat tire on the kayak trailer tow vehicle…
Could it have been caused by the four-wheeling people did the day before? That road had been named “we’re gonna bottom out road” by previous trip 4-wheelers.
The craft beached at a Leigh Lake campsite:
Swimming after we got camp set up, 2008 photo on the left by Mark Nevill:
Below: a view of Mount Moran through a front tent door at our Leigh Lake backcountry campsite.
With a permit, people can camp in the Grand Teton backcountry either in a camping zone, or, for example at Leigh Lake, at a designated backcountry campsite. Designated group sites are chosen to be able to withstand larger impact. Most designated sites are at least a football field length away from the next site giving plenty of privacy as long as all users in the area respect each other’s need for quiet.
below: a campfire at dusk 2005 and at sunset 2007, the lake after sunset 2011:
Pack in haste, repent at leisure… trying to use a hatchet as a can opener:
At ten p.m. on the 2006 trip coyotes chorused for us. Much later that night Debbie Adams heard a moose walk through the campsite very near her tent but was too nervous to confirm it by looking. Alan and Mary stood out on the beach at about 2 a.m. stargazing and watching the Milky Way reflected in the still lake water, and heard a moose walk out into the lake and back down the shore. We found bear tracks in the sand on the beach just steps from camp the next morning.
below, morning mist on the lake:
Some years we have been lucky enough to hear (and occasionally see with a spotter scope), Loons:
It was 38 degrees overnight on the 2005 trip and we found frost
on the lifejackets in the morning:
the morning of the 2010 trip a Pine Martin dug and dug near the campsite then came up with breakfast in his mouth
This picture doesn’t do justice to the wind and choppy water
we had in 2005 on the paddle back. (We always all have real rain gear instead of floppy ponchos, great non-cotton longjohns and we eat regularly to keep the calories coming.):
On the paddle back in 2010 we fought strong wind and the lake had small whitecaps. We heard thunder within minutes after we got back to the parking lot trailhead.
On the 2006 portage back from the overnight, club President Shannon Mathey hitched a ride (wink, wink) from Alan and Debbie:
There is a bigger copy of this photo at: Picture: Debbie Adams and Alan Ahlstrand give Shannon Mathey a portage ride at String Lake, Grand TetonsSept. 2006
At the end of the 2005 trip it was too windy and cold for swimming and after the 2006 trip the flat tire needed a repair, but in fall 2002 after paddling on shallow, relatively warm (less cold?) String Lake people swam with and without spring suits or full size wetsuits.
Below, Eric Marxmiller, Michael Gregg, Alan Ahlstrand, Mouzhan Yousefi, Duong Nguyen and Raquel Garza:
If you want to go on an overnight kayak with us will need to show paddling strength during the rest of the trip or on a previous trip.
You will need to agree to:
paddling a kayak by yourself on the overnight as there is not enough room for overnight gear and two people in the De Anza tandem kayaks.
the area around the campsite has been denuded of potential firewood so we collect it along the portage trail on the way there. You must agree to pack lightly for the overnight so your kayak will not be too heavy for you to paddle and will have room for some firewood and a share of group equipment.
stay in talking distance, not just line of sight, of the other kayakers in the group at all times.
think before you act so as to not get an injury, including, wearing Tevas for swimming, wearing shoes that protect your feet (not tevas/flipflops) for the paddle/portage and loading/unloading,
prevent hypothermia by not wearing cotton clothes such as blue jeans/sweatshirt, and bring a good rain jacket/pants even if the weather seems clear.
and in the interest of preventing burns and so you don’t have to choose between packing out or disposing of water used to boil pasta, for example, you will choose no-cook meals, or meals that only require hot water to be poured over them or a simple simmering and will wait to fully clean pans until after we return to civilization. You will not cook/heat water over the campfire. You will wait to wash hair until our return to civilization. If you must wash yourself/clean pans you will carry water 100 feet from the campsite/lake and use small amount of biodegradable soap. You will strain food particles from the dishwater so they don’t attract animals and scatter the dishwater at least 100 yards from the campsite/lake.
protect wildlife by keeping all food/toiletries/trash within arms reach while eating/using them or while not using any food/toiletries/trash keeping them in the latched food lockers near the campsite or in a locked personal sized bear canister the club can loan you.
never leave a campfire unattended and put out the campfire completely using quantities of water. Pack out everything you bring in, including trash and used toilet paper. Hike 200 feet from the lake before you dig a toilet hole at least 6-8 inches deep.
Participate promptly, fully and at least somewhat cheerfully in trip chores such as: portaging (carrying, trailering or dragging) the kayaks between String Lake and Leigh Lake, collecting firewood along that portage and transporting at least some of it to the campsite, dragging the kayaks up from the edge of the shore right away as we arrive at the campsite so they won’t be swept away by waves caused by afternoon winds and so they can be locked together overnight, cleaning up the campsite on arrival and when departing.
and finally, you agree that if you are in charge of guarding gear at either end of the portage you will actually stay with the gear.
Yup, you guessed it, more rules when you sign up for the trip.
Grand Tetons is the main page about the De Anza Outdoor Club trips to Grand Teton National Park.
Backpacking Advice has food ideas.
Grand Teton trip 2014 video by Jennifer Chiou
you can see Leigh Lake below.