Planning Your Whitewater Rafting or Scenic Tour in the Jackson Hole Area
If you are looking for the ultimate adventure in the Jackson Hole/Teton National Park area, consider either a Snake River whitewater rafting trip or a Snake River scenic float trip. Both trips take about 3-4 hours each and will provide memories to last a lifetime! The Jackson whitewater adventure features the Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter rapids that will get you wet and refreshed during the hot summer. The scenic float trips will give you an awesome view of the Tetons and the abundant wildlife along the river. Here is some information to consider when planning your trip!
Where will you meet for your river rafting tour?
The tour company will give you a time to meet at their office. Most are located in downtown Jackson. Other tour offices may be located in other areas north of the tour location. Usually you meet about ½ an hour before the tour group leaves to head down to the Snake River. At the office you will sign in and wait until all members in your group arrive. A shuttle or bus will take you down to the river. It usually takes about 45 minutes to get to the place where the rafting trip starts.
Where is the Snake River?
The Snake River originates in Wyoming just inside Yellowstone on the Two Ocean Plateau. The whitewater river rafting tours on the Snake River usually start 20 miles south of Jackson. The Snake River scenic tours start north of Jackson. Your tour company will take you by bus to the different locations based on the type of trip you choose.
What types of river rafting tours are available on the Snake River?
Most river running outfitters have a variety to offer. You could choose a mild scenic tour on a large raft. This type of tour allows you to slowly go down the Snake river and enjoy the sights and sounds of the terrain and of the abundant wildlife around the river. Most likely you won’t get wet on this option, unless you choose to jump out and swim.
You can also choose a whitewater tour. These allow you to ride the rapids, enjoy a rougher ride, and you will get wet! There are large rafts that hold a large group of people and smaller rafts that hold just eight people and the guide.
What should I wear?
For a whitewater rafting trip, plan to get wet. A swimsuit or quick drying shorts and a t-shirt work well. Fabrics that dry fast (fleece, wool and polyprplylene), and are lightweight are very good fabrics to wear so that you don’t get cold. Cotton shirts and jeans are not recommended because they are too heavy and take too long to dry.
You will be walking a short distance after you get off the raft so don’t wear flip flops. Sneakers that can get wet or teva-like sandals with strong sturdy bottoms are probably best. You may be able to rent wet suits and neoprene booties from your tour company.
Should I take a camera?
Probably not on a whitewater trip, but if you do decide to take a camera make sure it is waterproof and will float if dropped in the water. Feel free to take a camera and some binoculars with you on a scenic float trip. Check with your tour company if you have questions.
For whitewater trips, there are photographers that contract with outfitters who will take photos from a certain spot on the shore. You can decide whether to buy them or not after you see them at the tour company after your trip.
Do I have to wear a life jacket?
Absolutely. The tour companies will supply a class V life jacket. You will sign a release form before getting on the raft. You will also get a safety tutorial before starting the run. This tutorial usually will take about 15 minutes. It includes an introduction to your guide or guides, and instructions on paddling and what to do in case you fall out of the raft. White water river guides are wilderness experts with a great deal of training including how to run the river safely plus safety first aid and CPR training. Make sure you follow their instructions closely.
Can I bring my kids?
Yes. Minimum age on whitewater trips is usually 6 years old. Some guides can take kids as young as 4 years old depending on the time of year and the water level on the Snake River. Since you know your own children, you must make the judgment over whether this activity is right for them or not.
Will I get wet?
You will get wet on a whitewater rafting trip. How wet you get will depend on where you are sitting in the raft and how high the rapids are the day of your adventure.
On a Snake River scenic rafting tour, you will probably not get wet unless you want to!
How long will it take?
Both Jackson whitewater trips and scenic float trips take about 3-4 hours each. Some scenic trips can be longer and may include a lunch. Check with your tour company on your specific scenic float trip.
How wild and crazy are the Rapids?
All rivers are rated on a class scale to help you determine the size and technicality of the whitewater. River classifications are graded on a scale of I to VI. Class I is flat water. Class V is the most difficult. Class VI is not run-able.
The 8 mile stretch where most whitewater tours take place on the Snake River are class II-III rapids during normal water flows. During the springtime runoff (typically the first couple weeks in June), there could be waves that can get up to a class IV level. When the Snake River gets up to these higher levels, the minimum age limit for whitewater rafting may change. If you are planning a trip for the first couple weeks of June and you are whitewater rafting with kids, make sure you check to ensure the age limit has not been raised by the Jackson tour company.
What are the Covid-19 restrictions?
With the Covid-19 outbreak affecting all of our lives, you should find out what the coronavirus policies are for the Jackson area and what your guide is doing to keep you safe during this pandemic.
And finally, the most important advice to follow is to go with the flow, have fun and build rip roaring memories!