Spring snowmelt is rapidly pouring into local rivers around Jackson Hole, priming them for whitewater season. Whatever your river objective, you'll find it here, from a lazy day family float to some hard-charging whitewater action to a fun trip with water-loving friends.
And don't be deterred if you're unfamiliar with the local waterways: Numerous local guides and outfitters can safely take the reins, offering expertise, insight, and pro tips along the way. While planning your trip, be sure to check the river report before heading out. In the meantime, here are five spring paddling adventures in Jackson Hole to check out while the rivers are raging.
Best For a Day on the River With Buddies
For an unforgettable day on the water, the Snake River is the spot. If you're just getting into paddling, it's advisable to gather your group and sign up for a trip with one of the numerous guide services that offers scenic floats in the area. If you have more intermediate and advanced paddlers in the bunch, check out the stretch of the Snake River from Deadman's Bar to Dornan's. It's not a route for the inexperienced, with a number of obstacles, from downed trees to underwater hazards.
Whatever option you go for, keep an eye out for animals along the route (when you're not focused on the task at hand, that is), as this is prime wildlife country.
Best For Getting After It
Ready to up the adventure ante and make some memories you'll love to relive for years? Snake River Canyon is the place to get your fill of Class III (and sometimes Class IV) whitewater action. One popular route is to put in 21 miles south of town at the West Table Boat Ramp, and then take out at Sheep Gulch Boat Ramp. The eight-mile stretch in between includes a number of popular features and rapids, including a standing wave called Lunchcounter (which some have surfed for over an hour), Taco Hole, and Big Kahuna.
Local knowledge is important to safely navigate this river, especially since some of the obstacles grow larger with increased flow; mid-June generally offers the highest water. Consider joining up with one of the many guiding companies that offer trips along this route.
Best For Mellow Family Time
On a lazy weekend afternoon, round up family or friends and hit Flat Creek. Grab an inner tube (often available inexpensively at Big O Tires in the K-Mart Plaza) and put in behind Dairy Queen on North Cache to float through the town of Jackson.
While this is often a fairly mellow route, keep a sharp eye out, as the creek features a few short drops and may have downed trees and other obstacles. Bring paddles and water shoes just in case, since sometimes the creek can run low, especially later in the season. Since this route cuts right through town, you can use the START Bus Town Shuttle as your shuttle—no need for two cars. Simply park at Smith's, take the bus across town, and then float back to your car: a formula for a perfectly relaxed spring or summer day if we've ever heard one.
Best for Mastering Your Roll
If kayaking really floats your boat, you'll need to master the art of the roll, a vital skill instrumental to safely enjoying the sport that just happens to look pretty darn cool, too. It's a great goal to go after as summer approaches; get started at Rendezvous River Sports, which offers "Intro to Rolling" lessons at their deck pool in private and group courses (kids classes are also offered). Classes delve into a variety of different rolling techniques for all sorts of different situations. To hone your new skills, head over for open pool time to practice without formal instruction.
Best For Learning How to Kayak Surf
After you master your roll and can execute it skillfully in the water (and you can confidently kayak in Class III whitewater), think about taking a freestyle lesson or clinic to learn how to play in holes and waves. The artful, playful craft of freestyle kayaking is taught by an instructor who goes over essential skills and covers tricks including cartwheels, loops, squirts, spins, and more—all of which can make hitting the river in the spring and summer even more enjoyable.