Snake, Wyoming, US
|Usual Difficulty||III (varies with level)|
|SNAKE RIVER AB RESERVOIR NR ALPINE WY|
|usgs-13022500||1800 - 20000 cfs||III||00h43m||2180 cfs (running)|
Alpine Canyon on the Snake River is one of the classic whitewater runs in the West. No matter what the flows are there is always something to enjoy on this run which features some great playboating. In the spring high flows can produce class IV rapids and some epic bigwater features. Through the summer the river provides consistent class III whitewater that is enjoyed by thousands of visitors who take part in commercial raft trips on the river.
Nowadays (2013), aquatic invasive species are a big concern. Clean all boating gear (and fishing
boots, and watercraft that are exempt from needing a sticker) that were used in other drainages,
before putting in on the Snake. An annual sticker should be purchased for hardshell kayaks, rafts
and inflatables over 10 feet long.
These are available at the market in Alpine. More info is here (2016 links):
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||West Table putin||N/A|
|2.7||Three Oar Deal||V|
|4.8||Blind Canyon rapid||II+|
|5.0||new Kahuna putin trail (2013)||N/A|
|7.3||last surf wave||N/A|
With changing rooms, pit toilets, and recycling for aluminum, plastic, and glass, this is the primary putin for Alpine Canyon. Do not expect cell phone service in this canyon.
The first substantial play on the run, with a diagonalling wave running left to right, and some other surf on the left. At 6-7K there is eddy service on the left.
A nice little wave on the left at medium flows; with eddy service.
The May 2011 landslide below Taco hole raised the river level, so that Taco is no more. There is still a parking area and a staircase down to the river at this point.
This rapid was changed greatly by the 2011 landslide. At higher flows look for a glassy surf wave at the top of this rapid. There is also a fun eddy to catch on the left.
The rangers at the putin often have a sign up warning of many raft flips at Haircut Rock. The river makes a sharp right turn at this rock, and rafters need to make the move right. Kayakers might enjoy catching the swirly left eddy next to the rock.
This is a famous eddy line for squirt boaters seeking downtime. Kayakers will enjoy the peelout. Large eddies on both sides allow for regrouping after the first major rapids of the run, even for large groups.
This hole does not exist most of the summer; its just a rock sticking out of the water, with a ledge coming in from river left. But in the spring when the water is high; above 12000 cfs, this is the worst hole on the river (class V), and care MUST be taken to stay river right, where there is loads of room to avoid the hole.
Crack open a beverage of your choice, and jump off the raft or have a water fight, as you float this section of scenic flats. See if you can spot the USGS gauge that records the water level for this section. If you don't mind hiking down the hill, its possible to put in in this area; but the new Kahuna trail is probably a better option.
This rapid will wake you up after the flatwater section- time to get ready for the big rapids up ahead!
Large eddies are available on the left after this rapid, if you want to regroup and take a break before Kahuna.
In the spring of 2013, a new trail was put in that lets kayakers putin right above Kahuna! Park at the same Kahuna/Lunch Counter parking area, and look for the new trail just upstream of the old trail.
The biggest hit on the Snake :-). Rafts love to square up and hit this one, and see if everyone stays in the boat. Duckies are almost guaranteed to flip if they hit this directly, but there is plenty of room on the left (more challenging) and right. Like most of this run, its a relatively safe swim too. If kayakers paddle really hard, they may catch the glassy wave that is right before the big hit wave. Better surfing below 6000cfs. There is a huge eddy on river left that swimmers can usually make it in to; you can also hike laps from the left eddy.
The biggest waves on the river at higher flows, and the site of the famous glassy wave that surfers love. A local suggested 9-13K as optimal levels for surfing Lunch Counter. 6500 is still a good surfing level, and there is a center wave at medium flows. The riverside right rocks are one of the best places to hang out and watch the fun. There is a nice trail down from the parking area; bring a picnic and your camera.
This curler wave is at the start of the next rapid; if you paddle hard you may catch it center and drift left.
Along with Lunch Counter and Kahuna, this is one of the biggest rapids on the river. Hang on for the ride!
This rapid is known for strong swirlies right behind it (paddle hard!), and the air bubbles that the rapid entrains deep into the river, which shimmer upwards after the rapid. Do a roll, or jump in the river here, and listen...
A scramble up to a cliff jump on river left can break up the next section of flatwater, if you are ambitious. At most summer flows, a throw rope is helpful to get jumpers back in to the bank.
The last major rapid before Sheep Gulch starts with some small but nice surf waves, then there are lots of pourovers and rocks to play around (with a number of shallow ledges), with a big wave train out the bottom. The left line, left of the large rocks at the start is generally cleaner for rafts. A huge river left eddy at the bottom allows for another run down the large wave train at the bottom.
Below Cottonwood on the right, there is a wide ledge hole that is surprisingly trashy. If you drop in here looking for a surf, you might get a windowshading :-). A secondary wave behind it is more surfable, and can also be sticky at medium flows (6-7K). Eddy service on the right.
The last surf wave, with eddy service on river right.
With another great run in your memory banks, its time to negotiate the takeout ramp. You can put your recyclables in the handy container on the downstream side. If you need to walk up to get your vehicle, there is a nicely built trail running from the downstream side of the takeout ramp up to the parking.
Protection for Snake River Headwaters Proposed
May 9, 2007