Grand Teton National Park is one of the most diverse of all the National Parks and one of the prettiest. With rivers, lakes, glaciers, campsites and hiking trails all nestled beneath the tall peaks of the Tetons, it truly has something for everyone. I came here to explore this park in a handcrafted wooden boat – specifically, a Pacific Northwest boat called a McKenzie-style drift boat. While this boat performs best in fast moving water, the first water in the park I rowed was the scenic but “still” water of one of my favorite lakes – Jenny Lake, in the heart of the park.
Jenny Lake is a beautiful, high glacial lake classified as “pristine,” meaning it has not been impacted by air or water pollution of any kind. When I put the oars in the cold clear water for the first time I could clearly see the bottom of the lake several feet below the blade.
I rowed the inside perimeter of the lake and the only people I saw all day were a pair of kayakers paddling silently through the windy waves and a few hikers on the 7 mile trail that circles the lake. At the far north end a little waterfall spreads out like a wedding veil as the water tumbles over and around tiny rocks and big boulders.
This is where little String Lake, which sits just above Jenny, becomes a short river as it feeds into the larger and more well-known lake at the very feet of the Teton spires.
It was late afternoon when I pulled the boat out and headed for my canvas camp on the banks of the Snake River just outside the Grand Teton National Park.
I fixed a river dinner of pork tenderloin and potatoes and fed a few river friends as we rehearsed my plans for a solo run of the Snake River the next day.
After dinner the clouds rolled in, along with the rain, so I brought my Therm-a-Rest cot and bedroll inside the canvas tent for shelter.
Of all the rivers in the Pacific Northwest, the Snake has the well-deserved reputation as being one of the most treacherous. Its headwaters are just “next door” in Yellowstone Park and for the first fifty miles of its thousand-mile journey to the Pacific, it flows through Grand Teton National Park. It was called the “Mad River” by the European explorers who followed Lewis & Clark and the river wreaked havoc with their overland expedition.
My plan was to run a stretch of the Snake that Ansel Adams made famous in a 1942 black and white picture that showed the raw beauty of the river and the Tetons, and became perhaps one of his best known works. While there are no dramatic rapids in the 6 mile stretch from Deadman’s Bar to the take-out at Moose Landing, it requires “advanced” whitewater skills according to the Park Rangers because “it is a complex stretch of river with unpredictable braids, strong currents, shifting channels, numerous logjams, powerful eddies, and dangerous snags.” I was cautious and careful and well-prepared.
Rounding the first bend in the river I surprised a small herd of antelope who were not at all concerned about me or my wooden boat. A little farther down I pulled the boat to shore to take a picture of the boat with the Teton Range as the background. As I reached down to tie up the boat to a tree stump I found a very fresh Morel Mushroom.
The more I looked the more I found and soon I had a hatful of mushrooms for the evening meal… a perfect complement to fresh trout if I could catch one on the fly.
As I pulled my boat out of the river my thoughts quickly turned to fly fishing for trout in Yellowstone Park – which I had planned for the next day.
The stretch of the Snake River from Deadman’s to Moose was one of the prettiest I have ever run and I am already planning a return trip….. now, off to camp and on to Yellowstone.