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My butt was dragging like an anchor as I paddled like mad along the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park

Living the Wild Life

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Photos: Bill Schiess |

The roar of the water coming through the Jackson Lake Dam added to the excitement of a planned float on the Snake River as my wife and I joined two other couples. The six of us wanted to enjoy the beauty for a day at the foot of Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park. Four of us floated in 2-man rubber rafts (maximum weight of 300 pounds) with two others in a kayak for the two and a half hour float from the dam to Pacific Creek takeout.

Not only was the view of the Tetons, Mount Moran, Signal Mountain and the rest of the Teton Range peaks breathtaking, but we were entertained by a pair of bald eagles teaching their two juveniles how to fish and navigate along the tree-lined river. Ospreys, families of common mergansers, cedar waxwings and warblers also entertained us with their calls and singing.

The float started with a gentle roughness in the shallow boulder-littered river as we tried to stay in the middle, away from the fishermen on the shore. They were catching “trout, but I don’t know what kind of trout.” Soon we were in the island section of the float where I, the only inexperienced floater, was cautioned which channel to float into to avoid log jams and other dangers.

After the islands, we entered into the Oxbow area where the river widened and deepened, slowing us down to a crawl. I glanced over to one of my compatriot floaters who appeared not only relaxed, but also asleep. So I leaned back and lo-and-behold, a little water snuck in.

“Am I running a little low?” I asked the couple in the kayak as they paddled past.

“You are a little low, but it is probably caused by the cold water. You will be ok.”

I recalled reading the sign at the put-in place: “These waters are dangerous……. Know your floatation device and your abilities before attempting to float these waters.”

I had broken all of the cautions, as I had not floated in a river for over 50 years and I had no abilities to deal with the two-man raft that was only big enough for about a fourth of me.

It did not take very long after the conversation that I realized that there was a leak somewhere in the boat and I needed to go faster than the water was moving me. I got in the middle of the river and paddled like mad, but realized that my butt was dragging like an anchor, and with the raft soon folding around my body, making me look like a mustard sandwich, I headed for shore.

The kayak couple followed me to the shore, giggling a little and calling me “Captain Mustard,” helped me out, tied the rubber rag behind them for the last half a mile. I felt relief as I hiked down a well beaten path featuring elk and bison tracks until I found two sets of fresh bear tracks that covered all others. Making a lot of noise, including singing, I made it safely to the Pacific Creek ramp.

Before making any float trips to Grand Teton National Park, one should go to their website on floating in the park. They do not allow tubes or float tubes on any of the rivers in the park. They also charge a yearly fee of $12 per flotation device used, and each time you float, the device must be inspected for invasive species.

The experience was one to be remembered. The scenic beauty of the area is unmatched, the show put on by the birds were outstanding and the company was great.

Will I do it again? I might, but not too soon. I enjoy water in a nice big boat or on top of a thick cover of ice and there are fish to catch and rocks to be found. Follow the advice from the park website and the experienced people with you.