Alpine Canyon on the Snake River is one of the classic whitewater runs in the West and the most popular of the runs on the Snake River. No matter what the flows are, you can always find something to enjoy on this run which features some great playboating. In the spring high flows (10,000-12,000 cfs) 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 this Wild and Scenic River. See individual rapid descriptions below.
American Whitewater was part of a coalition of groups supporting the designation of the Snake River as a Wild and Scenic River which was signed into law in 2009 (Public Law 111-11). This action proteced 412.2 miles of the Snake River and the major tributaries that make up the Snake Headwaters. The majority of the river miles, including Alpine Canyon are managed by Bridger-Teton National Forest, with the rest administered by the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Forest works to protect and enhance the values that led to the inclusion of this section of the Snake River as Wild and Scenic including scenery, recreation, ecology and wildlife, fish, and geology.
Keeping aquatic invasive species (AIS) out of the Snake River is a big concern. Clean, drain, and dry all boating gear (including fishing boots and watercraft that are exempt from needing a sticker) 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):
With changing rooms, pit toilets, and recycling for aluminum, plastic, and glass, this is the primary put-in for Alpine Canyon. Do not expect cell phone service in this canyon.
The first substantial play on the run, with a diagonal wave running left to right, and another surf spot on the left. At 6000-7000 cfs eddy service is available 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. A parking area and staircase down to the river provide access at this point.
This rapid significantly changed following the 2011 landslide. At higher flows look for a glassy surf wave at the top of this rapid. You can catch a fun eddy on the left.
The rangers at the putin often have a sign posted 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 12,000 cfs, this is the worst hole on the river (class V), and care MUST be taken to stay river right, where you have 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, it is 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 put in 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 you have plenty of room on the left (more challenging) and right. Like most of this run, it is 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 is available below 6000 cfs. Swimmers can usually make the huge eddy on river left; 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. Flows of 9000-13,000 cfs are optimal levels for surfing Lunch Counter, but 6500 cfs is still a good surfing level. A center wave is available at medium flows. The riverside right rocks are one of the best places to hang out and watch the fun. A nice trail down from the parking area provides access to the rocks and offers a great vantage point for spectactors; 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, followed by lots of pourovers and rocks to play around (with a number of shallow ledges), and 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, a wide ledge hole is surprisingly trashy. If you drop in 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 (6000-7000 cfs). Eddy service is available 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, a nicely-built trail runs from downstream side of the take-out ramp up to the parking area.
Plan guiding Wild and Scenic river management by Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Above 12,000 cfs the river moves up to class IV particularly Lunch Counter; and 3 Oar Deal becomes a dangerous class V hole, avoidable on the right. The river has been run up to 38,000.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Kayak Launch Area at West Table
Ranger Station at West Table
Sheep Gulch take-out ramp
Snake River Fund Collection
Electric Pump at West Table
Hand Carry Launch Area at West Table
Launch Area at West Table
Commercial Boat Launch Ramp at West Table
Staging Area for Commercial Trips at West Table
Ramp at West Table
AED Station at West Table
West Table Hand Carry Boat Launch Area
This boat is too big
The wetter the better
Sheep Gulch Boat Ramp
West Table Boat Ramp
Alpine Canyon, Entering Kahuna
Get me some
The Messy wave below
Where's his paddle?
Bob Z Spinnin'
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American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Cody, Wyoming - This August 19 & 20 the Wild West Paddle Club is hosting the 2017 Wild West River Fest in Cody, Wyoming. In celebration of the beautiful Shoshone River, the Fest has events for everyone - Slalom Race, Class II Sprint, Shoshone Canyon Boater Cross, and many other fun activities for the whole family! Weekend festivities are free to the public, with the exception of race registration fees for competitors. You can find a full schedule here and all competitors need to register online in advance.
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