A scenic float trip along "ten of the most beautiful river miles in the world" is the perfect way to experience Grand Teton National Park. Only a few private companies have permits to take passengers down this scenic stretch of the Snake River, and we tagged along with Reed Finlay, a veteran river guide at Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips to learn more and snap some photos. During the summer season, this is a trip that we would wholeheartedly recommend to every visitor!
Frequently Asked Questions
- Will I get wet? You will stay dry during your scenic float. The water moves lazily and most outfitters equip their boats with splash guards. Bring a camera to catch dramatic snapshots of wildlife, as well as the varying views of the Teton skyline. Binoculars can also come in handy for identifying high-flying birds and far off critters.
- Duration: If you decide to float within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park, your trip will generally last around two to two and a half hours and cover a ten mile stretch of river. As the summer progresses, the water-levels drop and slow the trip down a tad, which is all the better for enjoying the scenery! In general, allocate 4 hours for a float in order to avoid missing other activities.
- Activity Level: No need to worry about over-exerting yourself during a scenic float. Unlike a white-water trip, passengers need not paddle. The guide acts as rudder and oarsman the entire time.
- Ages: Children 4 and up are permitted on scenic float trips, though you can check with your outfitter to be sure.
- Trip Size: No more than 10-12 people per boat.
- Where do I meet my guide? You will meet up with your group inside Grand Teton National Park, and will be given instructions.
- What should I wear? You aren't likely to get wet, but it's still a good idea to dress in layers and to bring water and extra sunscreen.
- When can I go? Depending on river levels, the season usually begins in mid-May and extends into autumn. If you're visiting town before or after the height of summer, get in touch with your outfitter and see when they are running trips.
- Reservations are required!
- Can I do it myself? Yes, if you are an experienced boater. Download the Grand Teton Park service hand out and several local companies rent canoes and rafts. Try Rendezvous River Sports and Leisure Sports.
What a River Trip is Like
Taking a scenic float trip in Grand Teton National Park allows you to experience the park from a "boat's eye view," seeing views, wilderness, and wildlife that you wouldn't be able to access on foot or by car. Spot bird species like bald eagles and sandhill cranes at close range as they fish at the riverbank. If you're lucky, you'll see a moose wading through the water, or perhaps elk, deer, coyote, or even a bear!
The scenic float is also a photographer's dream, as the full Teton range is presented from many different viewpoints, some of which you've probably seen before in iconic photographs by the likes of Ansel Adams. This stretch of the Snake River is surrounded by cottonwood trees, lodgepole pine, willow bushes, and other native species of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
A scenic float is also a great opportunity to learn about park history and ecology. Your guide will regale you with tales of dramatic wildlife sightings, answer your questions, and also point out things of interest, such as historic (and long-abandoned) ranching buildings that are visible from the river.
Our tip? Make this one of your first trips in the park, and reap the knowledge you acquire for the rest of your stay in the valley.
One of the Best Outfitters Around!
Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips Grand Teton National Park floats with Barker-Ewing, “Ten of the most beautiful miles of river in the world,” and that’s why we run our float trips only inside Grand Teton National Park. For more than 50 years, Barker-Ewing has provided scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities that are unique to this portion of the Snake River, now recognized by special designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Come join us on an experience that will be a highlight of your visit to Jackson Hole!
307-733-1800 | 945 W Broadway, Jackson
During Our Trip
Our guide, Reed Finlay, has been guiding this stretch of the Snake River for 20 summers. He was able to point out all kinds of things, including the different kinds of metamorphic rock making up the Tetons, scenic vistas such as the famous Oxbow Bend formation, a redtail hawk perched on a pine branch above, and the strata along the riverbank--the soil here tells a story about the ecology of the area.
Piloting the boat with assured expertise, Reed was also able to take us into channels of the river that only experts can attempt. He says he "likes to preserve the wilderness experience," keeping his boat on its own journey. "The main channel is like a highway, and we're taking a side road." Throughout, it seemed like we had the whole park to ourselves as we glided down the smooth, shallow river in the sunshine. We didn't even see another boat! This is definitely a more contemplative experience than parking in some of Grand Teton's busier trailhead and visitor center parking lots.
We shared out boat with a multi-generational family from North Carolina who explained that a scenic float is a must-do for them every time they visit the area. Reed pointed out other things, like the way the river's braid changes every year, and how visitors can only really grasp that from being on the river itself. "This is what makes wilderness wilderness," he says, but with the benefit that this experience is accessible from right within the park.
The biggest takeaway for the dozens of folks he guides ever summer is "an understanding of wild lands" in a way that they've never experienced them before. We couldn't agree more.