Floating down a river is one of the most honest ways to get to know a place. Be it through thrilling whitewater rapids or slow, mellow currents, rivers have a way of putting everything in perspective. Scenic tours offer up-close and personal encounters with wildlife and scenery and force the participant to go only as fast as the river will take them. Whitewater trips offer all that plus the adrenaline rush of big, fast rapids. Whatever your style, here are some of the best rafting trips in the state.
Snake River Canyon
Just outside Jackson, the Snake River flows through a narrow canyon and picks up its pace. Here, rafters will float through class II and III rapids over eight miles of river. Depending on the time of year, the most exciting rapid is either the Big Kahuna or Lunch Counter. At its biggest, Kahuna is a six-foot wall of water. Lunch Counter is perhaps less daunting, but not less huge when the water is right. The wave train is popular among river surfers, whitewater kayakers, and rafters alike.
Wind River Canyon
At high water levels, rapids in the Wind River Canyon can reach Class V. But the right river guide can navigate them all. Just outside Thermopolis, the 12-mile stretch of river is fast and steep, but also offers some world-class scenery. The Canyon passes through the Wind River Indian Reservation, so the only way through is with a Native guide. Luckily, Wind River Canyon Whitewater & Flyfishing is a Native-owned outfitter and offers some of the best guides in the state.
Just outside Yellowstone National Park, the Shoshone River offers some of the best chances for wildlife viewing in the state. A day trip through the Red Rock Canyon is equal parts scenic and exciting. Rapids don’t get bigger than Class III, making it a great option for families. With centuries of history compounded in the canyon’s red rocks, floaters will get a hands-on history, too.
Scenic Float Trips
Grand Teton National Park on the Snake River
There are several stretches of the Snake River that run through Grand Teton National Park. Each offers breathtaking views of the Tetons and ample wildlife viewing opportunities. Count how many eagles you see in a day, and keep an eye out for playful river otters, beavers, and some of the area’s famous big mammals like moose and bison.
Tip: While water through these stretches of river moves slowly, the channels can also get braided and dangerous. Going with a guide is the safest way through. Plus, their knowledge of the area is sure to impress.
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge on the Green River
Along Wyoming’s Green River, the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge offers wildlife viewing opportunities galore. From waterfowl to river otters to moose, the refuge is a literal haven for some of Wyoming’s most beloved animals. The stretch is slow and safe, and is a favorite among local anglers.
Just downstream of the Wind River Canyon, the river calms and changes its name. Though it’s the same water, the Big Horn Basin marks the beginning of the Bighorn River. Here, paddlers will find a much quieter river than the Wind River that raced through the canyon. It’s a popular destination for anglers looking for rainbow and brown trout.