Saturday, September 29, 2018

Floating the Snake River in a Super Small Raft

It was almost time for Jen and Eric to leave but there was still one thing left. I had asked them if they and Matt wanted to float the Snake River. When they all said yes, I booked us on a guided small boat whitewater trip. The water level had dropped but the temperature of the water was quite a bit cooler then when Val and I floated the Snake last year.
The other change was that we had floated the in a larger raft, but for this float I booked the super small raft. There would be seven of us in a twelve-foot raft and I remember the ten-foot wave at the Big Kahuna Rapids.
All of us arrived early at the Mad River Rafting Company. I had rented neoprene booties and the three kids, I know they are all mature adults, wisely opted to rent neoprene wet suits. I had three layers of polyester clothing and my full Gore-Tex rain suit, so I felt that I would stay dry enough to stay warm
Loading onto the Mad River bus, we rode twenty miles to West Table Boat Ramp. There we met our guide and after donning another waterproof outer shell we put on our whitewater life vests. A quick trip to the restroom and we climbed into super small raft!
The guide asked if the two strongest people would take the front positions and Eric and Casey took them. Matt had floated the Snake once before and on that trip the raft had flipped with all of them ending up in the river. Jenny and Clint were next with Matt and I taking the last two seats. Our guide, Corry, showed us how to lock our feet into position and instructed us on how to remain in the raft.
He also told us how to safely float downstream if we were thrown overboard, we were to keep looking downstream and to keep our feet raised so we would not catch on a snag and be pulled under.
Finally, he told us how to pull someone out of the water using the strap on the back of the life jacket.
Pushing off we practiced rowing as a team and I immediately noticed that the rowing was quite a bit more strenuous than when I floated last year in the larger raft. As the guide only had a single long paddle, which he used as a rudder, our safe travel through each rapid would really depend on our paddling, and of course the expert rudder work of Corry.
The first rapids approached and heading into we all got splashed with cold water. The sun was out and we all quickly warmed back up. More small rapids and more splashes and I found out that my layers were working, I was staying warm!
We rounded a bend and looked up to see our professional photographer, Renita taking shots from the highway pull off. Waving and smiling it was obvious we were all having fun. More rapids followed and then a long stretch of still water. Corry asked us if we wanted to swim but no one took him up on his offer.
We passed a family group of fresh water otters and they paused in their play to watch us as we floated by. A little further a bald eagle sat perched on a tree and an osprey also perched on another. They were probably waiting for us to leave so they could resume their fishing.
The stretch of quiet water ended, and we approached a larger set of rapids. I didn’t remember the name, but it was a larger trough and we blasted through the wave, everyone getting wet. I was still warm, but my bottom half was soaked. The sun had disappeared behind some clouds and it was colder.
After several more rapids we approached the largest challenge of the day, The Big Kahuna. Rowing hard we plunged into the ten-foot hole and completely disappeared before smashing through the giant wave crest.
The next wave was smaller and continuing to paddle we reached quieter water.
A few feet downstream we entered the last challenge, a wave called the lunch counter. Due to the low water level it was only one large wave.
Earlier in the year, with much more water, the Lunch Counter was a series of seven big waves!
The last rapids was called the Champagne Rapids due to all the bubbles that formed as the water plunged into a deep hole. There were so many bubbles formed that a Mackenzie fishing boat, with an expert guide had lost its buoyancy and sunk. The guide and his client had to swim to shore and the boat had not yet been recovered. Our guide aimed the raft at the sunken boat and we passed over it. It was weird when my oar hit the sunken craft with a loud thunk!

There were several smaller rapids and we easily negotiated them before reaching the take-out point. Renita was waiting and snapped our pictures after the successful float. Jen, Eric, and Matt were all cold, despite the wetsuits and while I was drenched, my layers had kept me warm.
We rode back on the bus and changed into dry clothes. Renita had brought towels for us, besides being an ace photographer, she was also an ace mother hen!

It was a great ending to a great week. It had been a fun week of hiking, bears, moose, and sightseeing! After hugs and kisses we said our goodbyes, returning to our summer base camp at Star Valley RV Resort. The following week was composed of doctor visits, three, in Idaho Falls and then to Salt Lake City. Passing with flying colors we are now hurriedly packing up as its time to head south. Clear skies, and safe travels

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