The 4 Best Sections of The Snake River Wyoming

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After a snowy winter out west, many of you are probably starting to think about pulling your whitewater gear out of the garage in preparation for what is setting up to be a great season for whitewater rafting. While you’re cleaning boats and planning float trips this summer, make sure the Snake River in Wyoming is on your shortlist.

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Rafting the Snake River in Wyoming

After a snowy winter out west, many of you are probably starting to think about pulling your whitewater gear out of the garage in preparation for what is setting up to be a great season for whitewater rafting. While you’re cleaning boats and planning float trips this summer, make sure the Snake River in Wyoming is on your shortlist.

Why Float the Snake River?

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The Snake River is the largest tributary of the Columbia River, and there are excellent opportunities for boating along most of its course. The river begins in Wyoming, winding through Jackson Hole and the western part of the state’s southern boundary before heading into Idaho, Oregon, and finally joining with the Columbia River in Washington. Along its course, beautiful scenery, wildlife, and rapids rival those in the Grand Canyon or on the Rogue.

While this river has great sections from its source to its mouth, some of the best (and unpermitted) stretches can be found in Wyoming between Jackson Lake Dam and the Palisades Reservoir. Whether you’re kayaking, floating in private rafts, or looking to spend the day rafting with an outfitter, read on for the best sections of the Snake River.

The Four Best Sections of the Snake River in Wyoming

  1. Wilson Bridge to South Park Bridge

floating on the snake river, canyon

This scenic float on the Snake just outside of Jackson Hole has great fishing, easy access, and dramatic canyon walls.

If you aren’t fishing and are just interested in one of the most scenic float trips on the Snake, this is a great section of the river to take a SUP or inflatable kayak down. There isn’t much whitewater, but make sure you stay aware and keep safety in mind while fishing or paddling.

  1. The South Fork

snake river canyon, landscape

Ok, so this isn’t technically in Wyoming, but the South Fork is a Jackson Hole local favorite and has some of the best camping on the Snake River.

The fishing is world-class on this scenic float, and wildlife is abundant, with moose, elk, and even bald eagles making their homes on the banks. On a quiet morning, you might be too busy checking out the scenery to catch any fish!

Safety is the most important thing to be aware of in this section. While this is not a whitewater trip, the current is strong, and the river is braided, with some channels leading to dead ends or dangerous strainers. Keep your head on a swivel, and when in doubt, scout.

  1. Jackson Lake Dam to Moose (Grand Teton National Park)

grand tetons in the fall

This section of the Snake River is the scenic route to travel through Grand Teton National Park. The fishing, like most of the Snake river canyon, is outstanding, and the Snake River is clear blue here while it winds through some of the most spectacular scenery in the park.

Because of its location within the park, boaters have to pay the park entry fee and obtain a permit to float in this section. It is well worth it, though, and any trip through this section is bound to be memorable.

  1. Alpine Canyon (West Table to Sheep Gulch)

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This is the famous whitewater trip on the Snake River near Jackson. This is the place to be if you are after an adventure or just a way to cool down on a hot summer’s day.

To access this section, head to the West Table boat ramp. Ensure you’re practicing good boat ramp etiquette, saving the lanes for vehicles with trailers, and not spending too much time on the west table boat ramp since this section is one of the most popular whitewater trips in the west.

While it can get crowded mid-summer, there’s a reason so many people load up their boats to visit this section just south of Hoback Junction: it offers amazing whitewater rafting in an incredibly scenic canyon.

Major Rapids

Haircut Rock

At high water levels, this can be the highest consequence rapid in the whitewater section of the canyon. The river bends sharply to the right, and the current pulls you towards a nasty overhanging rock that can easily cause problems for unaware boaters. Start far right and be ready to pull hard on the oars away from the wall.

Big Kahuna

This is by far the biggest rapid at low water. Two big holes at the start can be fun to hit if you’re rafting or kayaking, but will usually flip inflatable kayaks. Photographers usually set up on the left bank to capture the carnage, and checking for your pictures online after your run is one of the coolest things to do after a successful float.

Keep your boat straight and punch through the holes if you want a splashy ride, but there is a sneak route on the river right. The runout is fairly clean, but make sure you’re on your game if you have any swimmers, since the recovery pool between Kahuna and Lunch Counter is short.

Lunch Counter

Lunch Counter has huge standing waves at high flows that can flip a boat of any size if you aren’t prepared. If you’re a confident class III-IV boater, tee up to this one and enjoy the ride.

If you want, you can eddy out on the river right after the wavetrain and watch other boaters run through Kahuna and Lunch Counter. There is even a nice cliff jump into the river, although be careful since the flows can be deceptively strong. You can also hike down to the river from the south park bridge across the road here if you want to enjoy the action from the shore.

Champagne Falls

Named for the air bubbles that float up to the surface at the end of this rapid, Champagne Falls is fairly straightforward, but there is some weird hydraulics to watch.


This is the last of the rapids before the takeout, and your trip ends. There are multiple lines to choose from at low water, all with fun pour-overs and waves. Look for the sheep gulch boat ramp on the river right shortly after.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

bull elk next to Snake river, canyon

When planning a whitewater rafting trip to the Snake River, make sure to take time to visit nearby Jackson Hole, the closest major town to these sections. Whether you need to rent gear, figure out a shuttle, or just want a hot meal and a break from camping, Jackson Hole is a great town to do it in. Jackson’s location allows easy access to Bridger Teton National Forest, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, and Granite Hot Springs if you want something besides whitewater rafting.

Whether you’re heading to enjoy a national park and looking for a river adventure or to hit some whitewater after striking out on permits this year, make sure the Snake River is on your list!

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