21/05/2024

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Grand Teton And The Snake River Canyon Landslide – Affect On Whitewater Rafting

Grand Teton And The Snake River Canyon Landslide – Affect On Whitewater Rafting

Located about 32 miles due south of the Grand Teton is a major highway in the Snake River Canyon. Highway 89/26 links Alpine, WY with the Hoback Junction in a 23 mile rising serpentine stretch of newly improved highway. Recently, as of mid-May 2011, a 100 yard wide landslide blocked the highway; completely sealing off access up or down the canyon. Please note that this landslide does not isolate the Town of Jackson or Grand Teton National Park in any way.

TEMPORARY ROAD CLOSURE

Due to the moving nature of the landslide, it will be difficult to remove the debris from the road for several weeks. The Snake River Canyon is closed to through-traffic until contractors can remove the landslide and haul the rock, mud and trees to Alpine and the Hoback Junction. This may be one of the biggest landslides in recent canyon history and is due to record-breaking snow and rainfall in the most recent winter.

HOW IT AFFECTS WHITEWATER RAFTING

This apparent dilemma will put the Snake River Canyon whitewater rafting in jeopardy for the next several weeks mostly due to access. The landslide extends from the near top of the steep mountain into the Snake River. Although the river is not blocked and no natural dam has been created, outfitters in the shadows of the Grand Teton in Jackson will not have direct access through the canyon for launching and recovery of whitewater rafts and guests.

THE SCENIC SOLUTION

There is a solution to this problem however. Although this solution will cost travelers and visitors from the south an additional 55 miles of scenic driving, not all is lost.

One of the most scenic highways adjacent to the Grand Teton extends from the Town of Jackson over Teton Pass and into Idaho on the west side of the Teton Mountain Range. Highway 22 rises to an altitude of 8,429 feet above sea level to an unobstructed overlook of Grand Teton National Park and the greater Jackson area. This is the bypass to the Snake River Canyon landslide and offers views looking down on the valley rather than up at the mountains as in the Snake River Canyon. The grades are steep but the view is breathtaking. The extra travel time is well worth it!

If you are ascending Teton Pass from the Jackson side you will be able to see the National Elk Refuge, the Town of Wilson, Jackson Hole, the Snake River, Blacktail Butte, Sleeping Indian and most of Grand Teton National Park. Descending Teton Pass westbound, you will be treated with views of eastern Idaho and pristine mountain scenery. This route extends through Victor, Idaho and then through Swan Valley on highway 31. At the junction in Swan Valley, don’t forget to pick up some square ice cream at the only gas station on the junction corner.

From this point you will parallel the Snake River as it exits Palisades Reservoir. After passing the dam, you will have a view of the reservoir to the south and the effluent of Snake River Canyon. This is below the slide. The water entering the reservoir will remain muddy for several weeks until the slide stops moving.

Making the best of a landslide disaster may be better than having immediate access to the Snake River. Most visitors to the Tetons never see the beauty of the Tetons overlooking the valley below.

Whitewater in the 2011 season may be better than at any time in recent history due to the high runoff and snow pack of Yellowstone and Snake River tributaries. Rafters will not want to miss this season! The extra hour around the slide is a bonus for big water like this!

After all, you don’t go on vacation just to rush from point A to point B. Half the fun of vacation is getting there!