Grand Teton National Park
Floating the Snake River offers a chance to experience an outstanding natural area. Flowing west from its source in the Teton Wilderness, the river enters Yellowstone National Park, then flows south through the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway, and into Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Regaining its free-flowing character at the Jackson Lake Dam, the river winds through the park.
The Snake is a complex river to float. The beauty and lack of whitewater often lull floaters into inattentiveness. A tangle of channels and constant shifting of logjams present difficulties found on few whitewater rivers. Accidents occur often. Use caution whenever you float.
Information on flow rates and additional caution areas are posted at river landings, visitor centers, the Rockefeller Parkway Ranger Station, and the Buffalo Fork Ranger Station. Reports are updated weekly or whenever significant changes in river conditions occur. Even boaters frequently floating the Snake should check conditions before every trip, as the river can change overnight. River flow varies greatly throughout the summer. Water depths average two to three feet, but exceed ten feet in a few locations. Boulders and bottom irregularities cause standing waves up to three feet high.
Typically, spring flows will be muddy, extremely cold, and very high, increasing the difficulty of all river sections. As snowmelt diminishes, volume decreases and waters clear. In spite of reduced flow, the current stays deceptively strong. Logjams and tight turns remain. Always set up maneuvers well in advance and make decisions early. Take into consideration traditionally strong upstream winds, especially when canoeing.
Suggested Float Trips
Jackson Lake Dam to Cattleman's Bridge Cattleman's Bridge to Pacific Creek
Beginner These stretches provide scenic views, calmer water, and the fewest obstructions. When flow rates exceed 5,000 cfs, there is a portage at Cattleman's Bridge. Fast water at the Pacific Creek landing requires boaters to land their craft in quiet waters about 100 yards upstream from the actual landing.
Pacific Creek to Deadman's Bar
Intermediate More difficult than the preceding section, this stretch of river drops significantly, increasing the current. Braided channels make route-finding difficult and require more skill. Boating experience on lakes has proven to be of little help to river runners on the Snake.
Flagg Ranch to Lizard Creek Campground
Intermediate The braided channel makes route-finding a challenge. After the Snake River winds through the Rockefeller Parkway for six miles, it flows into Jackson Lake. During the remaining four miles on the lake, the predominant southwest winds can be moderate to strong and strenuous rowing is required. Afternoon thunderstorms and strong lake winds can produce high waves that can swamp rafts and canoes. Motorized craft are prohibited on the river; however, motors can be carried on vessels and used on Jackson Lake.
Deadman's Bar to Moose Landing
Advanced Most river accidents occur on this section, the most challenging stretch of the river in the park. The river drops more steeply, with faster flows than in other sections south of Pacific Creek, giving boaters very little time to maneuver their craft. Complex braiding obscures the main channel. Strong currents can sweep boaters into side channels blocked by logjams.
Moose to South Park Boundary
Advanced This section of the river is as difficult as the preceding section. Fast moving water, braiding, channel selection, logjams, and route-finding require advanced boating skills. The park boundary extends five miles downriver of Moose on the west bank and two miles downriver on the east bank; there is no take out or access to the river at the park boundary. The next take out is at Wilson, 12 miles downstream from Moose.
Southgate to Flagg Ranch
Advanced Southgate Launch is 0.5-mile south of the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The river slopes steeply and the narrow riverway provides challenging whitewater for rafts and kayaks. In spring, increased water volume creates large standing waves, haystacks, laterals, and large holes capable of flipping rafts. It can be scouted by walking the canyon rim trail along the west bank of the river. During flows greater than 4000 cfs, the whitewater rapids are Class III and are not recommended for canoes. Below 4,000 cfs, only canoeists with advanced whitewater skills should attempt this section.
Southgate Launch to Flag Ranch: 3
Flagg Ranch to Lizard Creek Campground: 10
Jackson Lake Dam to Cattleman's Bridge: 2
Cattleman's Bridge to Pacific Creek: 3
Pacific Creek to Deadman's Bar: 10.5
Deadman's Bar to Moose Landing: 10
Moose to Wilson: 12
- Do not approach or disturb large animals, such as bears, moose, and bison.
- Several bald eagles nest near the main channel. To protect this threatened species, nest areas are closed to river bank use.
- Osprey and great blue heron nest near the Snake River. Do not stop near nests as these birds are also susceptible to disturbance while nesting.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication