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Rafting trip on the Snake River (Tetons/Jackson Hole)

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Back from a wonderful trip to the Grand Teton National Park area, I wanted to share something of our rafting experience on the Snake River.

We booked with Barker-Ewing, and took the combination float/whitewater raft trip. It was great.

Arrival at the Barker-Ewing store just outside of Jackson is early (6:45 a.m.) After signing in, you go with the large group on the bus to the place where the rafts put in. You can leave your bag with changes of clothes, wallet, etc., on the company's bus; the driver is said to remain with the bus while the rafts are in the water.

Our group of 8 had a raft with guide to ourselves; other groups combined to fill larger rafts. The first 8-mile stretch is called the "float" portion, but it differed from the boring, very slow drifting float I remember taking years ago with a different company -- rafters did not paddle on that float. On this one rafters DO paddle -- everyone paddles on the 8-person rafts and on the larger rafts some sit inside and don't paddle, some sit outside paddling. This portion contains class I "rapids" and even those who feel timid get the feel of rafting and have fun. Those who want to jump in the water get the opportunity to do so (fun to see the shocked expressions as they hit the cold water) (also fun to see the guides hauling in the swimmers over the side of the raft). You can take a camera on this portion.

Halfway through the morning the rafts go to the side and everyone gets out and walks up a hill to have breakfast prepared by the raft guides and cooks at tables under the trees. Breakfast is welcome -- scrambled eggs, sausages, freshly-made pancakes, oj, "cowboy coffee", hot chocolate. Port-a-potties in the woods if needed. Then back to the rafts to head a short distance to the opposite bank, to meet back up with the bus and change clothes for the whitewater portion. At this point those too young or timid can opt out of the rafting and ride the bus. Those opting to continue the raft trip have the opportunity to change into "splash gear" provided gratis by the company -- windbreaker-type jacket and pants. They recommend rafters wear fleece or other "wicking" fabric for shirts and shorts, not cotton.

The whitewater portion was great fun for our group, which ranged in age from 9 to 52. Rapids were class II and III.

You do get wet, and the water is cold at first but you get very used to it. There is a possibility that the raft could flip but it apparently does not happen often. (Although -- caveat -- while in the GTNP I read the local paper and noticed an article about an ongoing lawsuit (from 2006) in which three people had died after their raft flipped during the float portion).

There are photographers on the bank by the last class III rapid, and you can stop by their stores in Jackson to buy copies of the photos they took.

Everyone on our raft, including the first-time rafters, had a blast and all agreed it was a highlight of the trip.

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