Alpine Canyon, Snake River2021-01-31T14:27:34-08:00

Alpine Canyon, Snake River

The Snake River is the largest tributary to the Columbia Rivers, which is the largest by-volume river that empties into the Pacific Ocean. On its way though Alpine, Wyoming, it constricts into the beautiful Alpine Canyon full of Class III action. This short stretch is runnable at most flows, loaded with surf waves and jump rocks – you really can make this trip as dry or wet as you want. Be mindful that this river is subject to extremely high Spring runoff, with flows sometimes exceeding 30,000 CFS. When the flows are high, this river gets a little more kick to it. While a bit close to the highway, the scenery and wildlife in this stretch are tough to beat. Definitely a must if you are in the Teton area.

About this guide

This guide outlines the Alpine Canyon run from West Table to Sheep Gulch. This is considered the day stretch for Jackson Hole and is a popular tourist trip during the busy summer months.

River Info

The Snake river is one of the West’s biggest rivers and it is the engine for much of the agriculture in Idaho. It’s long too, coming in at just over 1,000 miles as it winds its way through Idaho, picking up the Salmon and then finally hitting the confluence with the Columbia. This particular section is up high, hundreds of miles before the famous Hells Canyon, but even here it can be big volume.

Safety

When the flows are up, this section features enormous holes and waves. Pay attention and make sure you go with someone that has recent Alpine Canyon experience.

Permits

For groups less than 15 people a non-commercial permit is not required. For groups of 15 and larger, a free, non-commercial use permit is required. Plan ahead, because according to the USFS “….A 2 week advance permit application is required starting in 2021 to ensure receipt of a permit due to busy summer seasons and heavy use on the river.” There are no exceptions to this rule. More information can be found here.

The Alpine Canyon of the Snake River can be run from ~2,000 – 18,000 CFS, with flows above 12,000 CFS considered high water. At higher flows, the hydraulic features in this river become very large. Sometimes USGS flow images break. If this happens, here is the direct link.

Flow forecasting can be found here.

Snake River Flow
Gage data provided by USGS

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Alpine Canyon River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment. Go with someone with recent Alpine Canyon experience.

Class II Rapid

Class II rapid or river feature.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Point of Interest

These include eddys and streams.

Fun Zone

Well known surf waves and swim areas.

Campgrounds

Nearby camping areas.

Alpine Canyon – Class II, III & IV

This guide outlines the main waypoints for the Alpine Canyon stretch of the Snake River, from West Table to Sheep Gulch.

Length

West Table Put-In to Sheep Gulch Take-Out is 7.89 miles.

Difficulty

Moderate to Advanced.

Feet per Mile

West Table Put-In to Sheep Gulch Take-Out is 18 FPM

Shuttle Time

West Table Put-In to Sheep Gulch Take-Out is 25 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 0 – West Table Put In: River Right. Put In on river right at West Table for the most action in this section. This is the most popular put in for the section. If this ramp is crowded and you do not have a trailer, go up the road a short ways to East Table Put In where you’ll likely find it far less busy.

Mile 0.75 – Station Creek Campground: River Right. This campground offers two group campsites that can accomodate up to 40 people each, which makes it a good jumping off point if you’re planning a large group trip.

Mile 0.75 – Station Creek: Class II. Read-and-run rapid.

Mile 1.58 – Taco Access Point: River Right. On River Right, there is a large turn-out from which you can look downstream to the Taco Hole. This is also a Put-In

Mile 1.73 – Taco Hole Surf Wave: This surf wave has been washed out from a slide 🙁

Mile 1.9 – Double Draw: Class III. River bends to the left, fun waves on both right and left of this read-and-run rapid.

Mile 2.38 – Haircut: Class III. The Snake River sharply bends right, with the current pushing hard towards an undercut rock that you can just fit under at the right flows. Stay right to avoid the Haircut.

Mile 2.98 – Three Oar Deal: Class II. Usually a straightforward rapid, at high water, this Three Oar Deal forms one of the scariest holes on the river (some rate it Class V at these flows)

Mile 3.59 – Gauging Straits: River Right. Keep your eyes peeled for the river gauge station on river right. This is where the river steepens a bit, and there are some fun rapids to follow.

Mile 5.05 – Blind Canyon: Class II. Read-and-run rapid, just above Big Kahuna.

Mile 5.39 – Big Kahuna: Class III. Stay right for dry line, on the left side is the Big Kahuna wave, which goes at most flows.

Mile 5.39 – Kahuna Put In: River Right. Another Put-in on river right. This Put-In drops you straight into the most exciting part of this section, just below Big Kahuna

Mile 5.55 – Lunch Counter: Class III. Lunch Counter has a fun wave/hole at the top left, can be avoided by going right. Fun wave train down the middle of this rapid.

Mile 5.92 – Ropes Rapid: Class III. Long rapid with a beautiful cliff on river left. Wave at the top left of this rapid.

Mile 5.99 – Red Creek: River Right. Red Creek enters on river right. There is an excellent and challenging hike up this creek.

Mile 6.63 – Little Cottonwood Group Camp: River Right. This is a single group campsite that can accommodate up to 40 people.

Mile 6.75 – Champagne: Class III. Big rock island in the middle of the channel with a nasty strainer on the left. Easily avoid this feature by going left.

Mile 7.19 – Cottonwood Rapid: Class III. The river widens out, shallows and makes a gradual bend to the right. More waves on river right.

Mile 7.35 – Cottonwood Creek: River Right. Cottonwood Creek spills into the river here on river right.

Mile 7.61 – Last Chance Surf Wave: Final surf wave before takeout.

Mile 7.81 – Sheep Gulch Take Out: River Right. Take-out on river right. This is your final access point before Palisades Reservoir. Can be congested in the summer months.

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