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Introducing the Snake River

One of the most beautiful and pristine rivers in the U.S., Wyoming's Snake River welcomes 300,000 visitors per year. Get started with your own visit here.
Lunchcounter Snake River

The Snake River: Jackson Hole's Liquid Gold

Craving a cool-down on a hot summer's day?  Enter the Snake River, which winds beneath the shadow of the Tetons and plays host to more than 300,000 visitors a year.  Like Jackson Hole's nearly inexhaustible supply of trails, the Snake River's opportunities for acquatic play cover a broad spectrum--from "Mellow" to "High Adventure"--and bring something to the table for folks of all ability levels.

Path of the Snake River

After traveling from its headwaters in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Snake, which is designated a Wild and Scenic River by Congress, meanders southward out of Jackson Lake through the heart of Grand Teton National Park.  Many of the elk, mule deer, and bison that call the area home water on the river, and it's a daily occurrence to witness bald eagles gracefully fishing for their breakfasts from the treetops.   Just south of the park, the Snake winds through a stretch of ranch lands before funneling into the narrow Snake River Canyon.  When it reaches the Palouse hills of Washington State, the Snake joins the Columbia River as its largest tributary and flows toward the Pacific Ocean.  

Floating: The Next Level of Laid Back

Locals claim that a lazy trip down the Snake is as good as it gets in Jackson--or anywhere else for that matter.  Whether your vessel of choice is an old-school inner-tube, a wooden drift boat, or heavy-duty raft, you'll find that there's no better way to soak in the mountains' grandeur and glimpse local wildlife than a leisurely float down the river.  It takes "chilling" to a new level.

Outfitters in Jackson hole offer guide services in canoes and kayaks, as well as larger, multi-person rafts and "duckies," the kayak's inflatable twin.  For those who enjoy charting the course of their own adventures, these boats can also be rented.  Note that permits are necessary for floating within Grand Teton National Park, so it may be easiest to join a guided trip.  

Drift Boating

Jackson's rustic Western feel doesn't stop on the river.  Wooden dories, or drift boats, are a classic mode of conveyance on the Snake for fishermen and floaters alike.  Like inflatable rafts, drift boats are steered by a pair of oars, but the similarities stop there.  Because drift boats are small--generally holding no more than five passengers--they're able to navigate shallow channels and tricky eddies that larger rafts would be unable to explore.

Though modern driftboats are generally fashioned from fiberglass, local outfitter AJ DeRosa puts an artisan twist on his river adventures.  All of the drift boats that his company Jackson Hole Vintage Adventures uses are hand-made by the very guides that pilot them downriver. 

Wrangle the Snake!

The river morphs into a totally different beast when it enters the Snake River Canyon.  For eight miles, steep walls funnel the river into a torrent of whitewater dotted with Class II and III rapids. With names like Lunch Counter, Rope, and the Big Kahuna, the foamy rapids and roaring spray of the Snake River Canyon make this area a favorite spot of kayakers looking for a challenge.   

Unlike the larger sea kayaks that can be found skimming the mirrored waters of Jenny or Phelps lake, river kayaks are small, scrappier versions of their lake-faring cousins.  Whitewater kayakers wear specially designed helmets and neoprene skirts to keep water from swamping their boats.    

Because waters in the Snake River Canyon are powerful and rarely rise above sixty degrees in temperature, novice boaters should plan on hiring a guide service for the safety of their river trip.  Expert river-runners, on the other hand, can stop by one of Jackson Hole's outfitters to get the info on nearby whitewater hotspots.  Rendezvous River Sports keeps their website updated with cfs (cubic feet per second) reports on local rivers.

Stand Up Paddleboarding on the Snake River

Surf the River!

Of course, the standard line-up of kayaks, rafts, and canoes isn't the only way to navigate the waterways of Jackson Hole!  Stand-Up Paddling (or "SUPping," as it is known to enthusiasts) is a new sport taking the outdoor community by storm.  Stand-up paddleboarders can be spotted throughout the valley, whether gliding across one of Grand Teton National Park's pristine lakes or catching currents down the Snake.

For the uninitiated, stand-up paddling set-up consists of standing aboard an extra-wide, extra-long surfboard outfitted with an over-sized fin for stability as well as using a canoe-style paddle that can range from four to seven feet.  The SUPping motion is much easier than it seems, and with a little bit of instruction, newcomers will be scooting across the water in no time.  Equipment, lessons, and guide services are available from numerous local outfitters.  

Fly Fishing in Jackson Hole

Fishing

Tell fishermen the world over that you've been to Jackson Hole and a jealous grin will cross their faces.  With access to countless holes, streams, and the famous Snake River, of course, Jackson Hole is a classic anglers paradise.  

The fine-spotted cutthroat trout is the Snake River's claim to fishing fame.  The "cutty," as it's known, is unique for a variety of reasons, though two stick out in the minds of fishermen: it is unique to the Snake River watershed and is particularly receptive to the carefully tied flies that fly fishermen use to cast.  

Though locals are reluctant to share the details of their favorite fishing hole, guide services and public access points abound for the out-of-town angler. Catch-and-release fishing is permitted year-round on the Snake River, and each season brings unique challenges and rewards for the dedicated sportsman.  

Whether you're fishing from a chartered drift boat, high-stepping through creeks in your waders, or just catching rays and casting lines from the bank, good times are guaranteed, but the fish are not!  You'll need to obtain a fishing license before undertaking any fishing on your own.  

Related Article: Fly Fishing Jackson Hole: Everything You Need to Know

Old-Fashioned Refreshment

With world-class opportunities for kayaking, rafting, stand-up paddling, and fishing, there are already plenty of reasons that the Snake River stands out as one of America's richest natural playgrounds.  When you add the Tetons' epic skyline, rays of Western sunlight, and the presence of some of the country's most spectacular wildlife, the recipes for adventure are limitless-and refreshing!

Sate your water cravings: overview here and a primer on Grand Teton National Park ideas here.

Jackson Hole Rafting Companies

307-733-1800|Map||
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. In business for more than 50 years, Barker-Ewing provides excellent wild...

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Whitewater Rafting Snake River
307-733-1000|Map||
The coolest thing you'll do all summer! Providing 54 years of lifetime memories, we are Jackson Hole's original rafting company. Our river adventures include wet and wild whitewater trips, beautiful scenic floats with homemade lunch at our riverside picnic, ...

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Black Dog Raft Co
307-699-4110|Map||
Black Dog Raft Company is Jackson Hole's premier rafting company for unforgettable scenic floats down the Snake River. With several trips to choose from, simply sit back, relax, look for wildlife and enjoy the view. Leave the paddling to us.

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307-733-6203|Map||
Mad River Boat Trips offers daily whitewater trips on three types of rafts. You can even join us for dinner on the river when you select our famous Riverside Steak or Trout Cookout trip.

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National Park Scenic Float Trips
307-733-5500|Map||
The natural beauty seen while on one of our float trips lets Grand Teton National Park visitors discover the magic of the Snake River from a ver unique perspective. Get off the beaten path and discover the Snake River corridor, which is a lifeline to many of...

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Rendezvous River Sports Kayak
307-733-2471|Map||
Located in the town of Jackson, Rendezvous River Sports has the best selection of paddling equipment in the West. Our service-oriented staff specializes in providing you with precisely what you need for your paddling adventures.

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Sands Whitewater Rafting Snake River
307-733-4410|Map||
Half-day whitewater float trip led by Sands Whitewater’s professional guides, these trips are like nature’s roller coaster, but with much better scenery and zero motion sickness. Set against the backdrop of the lush Snake River Canyon, each one of our 8-mile...

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Grand Teton Lodge Co. Scenic Rafting
800-628-9988|Map||
Experience a unique view of the Tetons and wildlife from aboard an inflatable river raft. A Wild & Scenic Rafting Trip on the Snake River affords the opportunity to learn about the area where you are likely to spy bald eagles and a host of other wildlife.

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