Jackson Hole Whitewater Rafting on the Snake River
Big Kahuna, Lunch Counter, Cottonwood-OH MY!
A summer trip exploring the Tetons is not complete without cooling off with a Jackson Hole whitewater rafting adventure. Be prepared to get soaked and have adrenaline pumping through your body, because whitewater rafting the canyon stretch of the Snake River is a wild ride.
Book a trip in advance because slots can fill up in the busy weeks of summer. I chose to ride the rapids roller coaster this afternoon with Sands Wild Water. After you sign a safety waiver and put all your non-waterproof items away, jump in the bus and enjoy the 30-minute ride along the Snake River whitewater, jamming to classic oldies which makes you and the others sing out loud! Arriving at the destination, you will meet your guide who will soon fit you with a life vest, paddle, and a balanced spot on the raft.
Depending on your goals on the trip, the raft offers many different seating options. If you would like to be a workhorse and get the first gulps of water in your face, seat your self in the front for the unobstructed view of the rapids to come. If you are looking for less work and possibly less water sit farther back along the sides. Their are two different sizes of rafts to choose from when you do reserve a spot, 8-man and 14-man. The 8-man will be a lighter and more adventuresome experience; however the 14-man is just as fun and also has the middle seat option, for all non-rowers of the group. Also, if you are looking to stay more dry than others, Sands does offer a waterproof jacket you can wear, which is nice if the weather is chilly.
As you push off into the cold river water, your guide will be informing you about how to raft together, safety issues, and how to have some fun! The first few miles of the river are pretty easy going, with a few small rapids to get some practice on. Take this time to look around at the beautiful scenery, maybe catching some glimpses of Osprey’s flying around or a fly-fisherman catching a Snake River Trout. Depending on the speed of the water and the levels, your guide will most likely let any willing rafters jump in the water for a soak. Some people take full of advantage of every minute in the water; however, most are content in the raft trying to stay dry before the real rapids come around the corner.
Your guide will soon let you know that Big Kahuna is up next and begin to set up the raft for the dead center of the giant rapid, which at times during the summer can turn into a Class IV rapid. You can see rafts in front of you as they hit the rapid, almost disappear, and then pop out covered in a sheet of water full of screaming people. As your heart is pounding, your raft hits the rapid, and soon you are engulfed with the madness of trying to paddle as you are getting knocked every which way. Don’t forget to smile because your picture is being taken, which you can pick up later in town and laugh at how soaked you were.
The next rapid you hit is Lunch Counter, which also varies in size with the flow of the river. You might be able to catch some surfers carving the natural round-the-clock wave at this rapid. Take a little time to relax before you hit the next sequence of rapids- Rope, Champagne and Cottonwood. Champagne is my favorite because after you go over the rapid, you hear a light bubbly noise and soon see millions of bubbles that are rising from an 80-ft underground sheet.
Before you know it, your trip is over and you find yourself jamming to more classic oldies, but this time in wet clothes!