A grand day for a paddle: Snake River with the Tetons looming in the background
Q: My fiancé and I are going to Grand Teton National Park for our honeymoon. I remembered reading an article in Outside that said the best way to see the park and its wildlife was a canoe trip down the Snake River along the base of the Teton Range. I was wondering if you could provide some information on outfitters, trip lengths, water levels, and conditions for the summer. Also, are there any single-day, Class-I or -II floats in Yellowstone or the surrounding areas you would recommend for scenery or wildlife?
Steve Yearick, Huntsville, Alabama
A: Outfitters aren't allowed to guide trips inside Teton, but if you're comfortable in a canoe, you can paddle there on your own. The calm stretch just below the dam is probably what you're after. Here osprey, eagles, moose, and elk fill the wetlands. It's only two hours from put-in to take-out, but this piece of the Snake moves slowly enough that you can easily pull your craft ashore to hike or fish and turn a short ride into a full-day tour. More experienced paddlers might stay on the water to tackle the Class II section that runs to Deadman's Bar. It's more of challenge, but not so much as to keep you from ogling at the snowcapped mountains and wildlife.
If you've got your own canoe, be sure to sticker it with a $5 park permit. Pre-stickered rentals are available from Snake River Kayak & Canoe (www.snakeriverkayak.com; 800-529-2501). They can also help you with route planning and up-to-date flow rate info, or take you on guided trips outside the park, where the river runs for a good 30 miles before hitting big rapids. The float trip of choice on the Snake is a remote, four-hour stretch between Teton and Yellowstone (rivers inside Yellowstone are off-limits to paddlers).
You might also consider giving up the canoe for a day and taking a sea kayak out on Yellowstone Lake instead. Paddling atop underwater geysers as otters splash in your wake is as off-the-beaten-path a Yellowstone experience as anyone could hope to find. While the summer masses are crowded around Old Faithful, you'll be floating away in honeymoon bliss.