Erosion, blowouts and a logjam are reshaping the Snake River landscape, making one section increasingly hazardous.
The stretch from Deadman’s Bar to Moose in Grand Teton National Park became “nearly impassable” over the weekend, according to Jim Stanford in an email to fellow river guides.
Commercial outfitters stopped floating the section Sunday, including Triangle X Ranch and Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips. Barker-Ewing has since resumed trips but with increased vigilance.
“We’re scouting the heck out of it,” said Mike Inman, a veteran Barker-Ewing scenic river guide.
Twelve to 20 spruce trees formed a partial obstruction across most of the width of the main channel near the Bar BC Ranch. The mature trees were torn from an island upstream.
"The stretch between Deadman’s and Moose is always challenging," Stanford told the News&Guide on Tuesday, "but what’s been happening over the last few weeks is extraordinary. We’re taking extra precautions. If outfitters are taking extra precautions, the general public might want to steer clear."
Stanford described the last couple of weeks on the river as "some of the most difficult I've seen since the days of The Maze," a moniker among river guides for a year when the Deadman's-to-Moose section became especially treacherous.
Grand Teton National Park officials are also recommending "only boaters with advanced skills should attempt this section of river due to swift water, multiple braided channels and numerous obstructions," according to a news release.
This stretch of the river is the most accident-prone in the park, the release states. All boaters are advised to wear, not just bring, personal flotation devices and use extreme caution when navigating the logjam and blowouts.
Trees that fall or are swept into the river can create "strainers," which allow water to pass through but catch objects like boats. Unlike the whitewater section in the Snake River Canyon, which has a single, deep channel, the braided section in the park requires boaters to navigate several shallow channels that can change rapidly.
High runoff is also causing increased erosion along the banks. As parts of the west bank collapse, the high water can flow into the nearby forest, causing a phenomenon dubbed a “blowout.” Multiple blowouts this spring are causing the river to shift east.
“This is the most change we’ve seen to the river in 20 years,” Inman said. “No one should float this stretch without a PFD on their back.”