What time is best for a scenic float? Just ask the wildlife.
A scenic float down the Snake River during the summer in Jackson Hole offers stunning beauty regardless of when you make the trip. But for wildlife watchers, there’s a few tricks to make sure you maximize your haul of charismatic critters. In general, rafters increase their chances of seeing the region’s stunning wildlife at dawn and dusk. Rafting companies like Barker-Ewing whitewater suggest their early morning trips for the best chance of success, especially for birds.
An 8:30 a.m. float from Snake River Ranch to Wilson is almost sure to include sightings of raptors such as bald eagles and osprey, and waterfowl such as Barrows goldeneyes and mallards. Be on the lookout for larger species such as trumpeter swans, Canada geese and American white pelicans too. Mammals also prefer the twilight hours, and the Snake River plays host to scores of moose and elk. Time it just right, and you might even catch these animals wading or swimming across the river as they move about their habitats. Foxes, beavers, otters and muskrats are also common. Even grizzly bears and wolves make an appearance by the riverside on occasion. In the northernmost reaches of Grand Teton National Park, rafters might even catch a herd of bison grazing near the water.
Time of year is also a factor. Many species migrate in the spring and fall, and its easier to spot these animals as they’re moving from their winter range to their summer range or vice versa. Entire herds of elk and deer may stage along the banks before a river crossing to greener pastures during the shoulder seasons. And, where these ungulates go, predators are sure to follow.
Still, even at the height of summer under the mid-afternoon sun, a spectacular wildlife spotting on a Snake River scenic float trip is practically a forgone conclusion. The Snake River corridor—the river and the riparian lands around it—offer some of the best habitat in a region known for its top-notch wildlife. Bring your binoculars and waterproof camera and prepare for some serious bragging rights.
While the deep powder and steep terrain of our local ski resorts offer some best winter recreation in the nation, for many it’s the dog days of summer that truly make us smile. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is truly one the nation’s premier summer vacation hot spots. Here you’ll find a plethora of activities for any age or interest wrapped up in one of the world’s most beautiful locales.
Below we’ve listed the top 5 reasons to visit Jackson Hole this summer.
1) The Parks—Of course, Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks offer unlimited adventures for those who treasure the outdoors. Each park features its own brand of stunning scenery, educational opportunities and recreation activities. It would take two lifetimes to experience it all.
2) The Wildlife—Hand-in-hand with the parks is Greater Yellowstone’s spectacular wildlife. The region is one of the last in the 48 states where you can still see all the animals that lived here when the first Europeans arrived. From predators such as wolves and grizzly bears to ungulates such as bison and elk, it’s one of the best reasons to make the trip to Jackson Hole.
3) Whitewater Rafting—Our favorite activity in Jackson Hole, of course! The Snake River Canyon offers world class whitewater rafting experiences. Experience features such as Three-oar- deal, Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter for a family friendly thrill. Book a trip with Barker-Ewing Whitewater for the best river trip Jackson has to offer.
4) Fly Fishing—The Snake River and its tributaries offer some of the best fly fishing in the nation. Cast your line for the prized Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat Trout, a local favorite. Whether wade fishing or floating in a drift boat, Jackson Hole’s flying fishing experience is second to none. Check out our combination rafting and fly fishing trip for the best of both worlds!
5) The Tetons—Whether you’re built for multi-day backpacking trips or a leisurely 2 mile hike, the magnificent Teton Range is reason enough for a visit to Jackson Hole. Try a boat ride out to Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, or explore the wilderness from Teton Canyon on the west slope of the Tetons in Alta.
Hang with the locals during Jackson Hole’s summer community events!
We at Barker-Ewing Whitewater have had the great pleasure to live and work in Jackson Hole for more than 53 years. Why so long? Of course, the draw of living in one of the wildest, most spectacular places on Earth brought us here, but it’s the people that convinced us to stay.
The many great people who call Jackson Hole home have cultivated a strong sense of community—a collective personality that shines through in our local events. Below is just a slice of the many excellent cultural events our community has to offer this summer season.
1) Fourth of July Parade—Come celebrate your freedom at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, Howdy Pardners Ambassador Club Fourth of July Parade. The events start at 7:00 a.m. with a Pancake Breakfast on Town Square. Then, parade floats and other entries line up at the Teton County Fairground for the parade start. The day finishes at 6:00 p.m. with a performance of patriotic songs sponsored by the Grand Teton Music Festival.
2) Teton County Fair—July 22-31, join us for the Teton County Fair, located at the Teton County Fairgrounds in Jackson. In addition to lots of great rides, rodeos, fried dough and cotton candy, fair-goers can expect to see Teton County’s finest livestock, fiddle playing and the always cutthroat and always hilarious diaper derby.
3) Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival—The Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival is a series of 50 events during the first half of September designed to celebrate Jackson Hole’s world renown art scene. The high point of the 11-day event is inevitably the Palates & Palettes Gallery Walk, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 11. Dozens of galleries open their doors to ply the public with wine and food and show off work from some of the west’s finest artists.
4) Old Bill’s Fun Run—This fundraiser sponsored by the Jackson Hole Community Foundation has raised $121 million for charity over the 19 years of its existence. Come see Jackson’s wide array of worthwhile non-profits specializing in everything from wildlife preservation to feeding the hungry to educating children about science. Athletes young and old can choose to participate in the run itself, which starts on Town Square and follows the Elk Refuge Road for some spectacular views.
One of our favorite parts of early summer in Jackson Hole is the abundance of wildflowers. Wildflower lovers who venture just a few miles into the Teton Range can expect rich rewards: fields of yellow, white, blue and red flowers draping the backcountry. The Northern Rockies boast plenty of beautiful and iconic wildflowers, everything from arrowleaf balsamroot to Indian paintbrush to fireweed. Head out on a hike in the late spring or summer, and just about any trail you choose in Jackson Hole is choked with color.
Below, we’ve picked a few of our favorite wildflower hikes. While these trails aren’t considered technically difficult, they do wander through wild, high elevation bear habitat. Knowledge of the outdoors and proper equipment are essential. Hikers should strongly consider carrying bear spray.
1) Ski Lake Trail—The Ski Lake Trail starts halfway up Teton Pass at the Phillips Pass Trail and climbs through forests and open meadows 3 miles to Ski Lake. The views are as spectacular as the wildflowers. People sometimes swim in the lake, but early in the year, the water temperature hovers just above freezing.
2) Alaska Basin Trail—For wildflower lovers willing make the drive, the Alaska Basin Trail is a must see. The trailhead starts at the end of Teton Canyon, which is accessed from the Idaho side of Teton Pass. From there, the Alaska Basin trail wanders along the bottom of the drainage through the Jedediah Smith Wilderness. After 2.7 miles, hikers can continue forward or opt to climb the Devil’s Stairs to a bench just above the valley.
3) Old Pass Road—Old Pass Road is a pathway that runs from the Trail Creek Trailhead at the bottom of Teton Pass to the parking lot at the top of the pass. The pathway is paved, but still fairly steep and hikers should keep an eye out for cyclists entering from any number of mountain bike trails in the vicinity. A lake halfway up the path provides a good spot for lunch. The area also includes unpaved trails that are off limits to cyclists such as the History Trail.
One final note: Our friends at Hole Hiking Experience offer great options for those people who prefer a guided tour.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming is located right in the middle of one of the wildest places in the lower 48-states. Nearly every animal that existed here when European settlers first explored the west still lives here today.
What’s amazing about these animals is that they manage to thrive in a high elevation habitat with heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures.
Number 4: Pikas—These members of the rabbit family hide out in high elevation rock fields. Not only are pikas some of the cutest creatures you’ll find in the Teton Range, they’re also some of the best at enduring cold temperatures. What pikas don’t like is heat. Sustained temperatures higher than 80 degrees can be deadly.
Number 3: Pronghorn—Clocking in at speeds of more than 55 miles per hour, these turbo-charged ungulates evolved to outrun a now-extinct North American cheetah. Each year the Grand Teton National Park pronghorn herd migrates roughly 100 miles to Sublette County and back over the rugged Gros Ventre Mountains. Recently, federal and state agencies joined forces to protect the Path of the Pronghorn from manmade disturbances that hinder that migration, such as housing developments and fences.
Number 2: Teton Range Bighorn Sheep—Scientists are constantly astounded that this isolated bighorn sheep herd continues to survive on the high elevation peaks of the Teton Range. In winter, they hang out on wind-scoured slopes and eat whatever they can find. Several agencies have set aside important winter range for the sheep to protect them for disturbance by backcountry travelers.
Number 1: Wolverines—These ultra-tough members of the weasel family have been known to kill bears and chew through logs. They can travel hundreds of miles in a single push and generally favor climbing straight over whatever mountains happen to block their path. Researchers say only few wolverines live in the Teton Range, where they give birth to their young in high elevation snow dens.
Jackson Hole plays host to some of the most spectacular wildlife in the lower 48 states, but nature offers no guarantees. Some of the most iconic species in the region are notoriously shy. Below, we highlight a few top secret wildlife watching tips and hot spots (including our favorite, the Snake River!) to help increase your odds of victory in the Serengeti of North America.
Tips for Jackson Hole Wildlife Watching:
1) Don’t approach the animals—Wild animals are just that: wild. Don’t be the visitor who is involved in an unfortunate incident with a bear or bison while trying to take a photo. The National Park Service recommends maintaining a distance of at least 100 yards from predators and 25 yards from everything else.
2) Dawn and dusk are best—Many of Jackson Hole’s charismatic species are most active in the early morning and early evening. For wildlife photographers, that means the perfect photo in the magic hour. For drivers, that means increased risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Slow down and pay attention!
3) Spring and fall are best—Time your visits to coincide with local wildlife migrations for a better chance of viewing elk, bison, pronghorn and many other species.
What: Bald eagles, waterfowl, moose, elk, river otters, etc.
When: Spring, Summer, Fall
Description: Take a float trip with Barker-Ewing Whitewater and let your guide show you the dozens of species that call the Snake River corridor home.
Where: Miller Butte, Elk Refuge Road, the National Elk Refuge
What: Bighorn Sheep
Description: The National Elk Refuge abounds with wildlife viewing opportunities, but one of the most rewarding involves a trip out on Elk Refuge Road to watch bighorn sheep on Miller Butte.
What: Bison, elk, everything
When: Spring for baby bison
Description: This iconic loop in the east part of Grand Teton National Park is known for lots of wildlife. In the spring watch for baby bison. They’re the bright orange/red bundles of cute at the center of the herd.
Paddling is hungry work. One of the best parts about a rafting trip with Barker-Ewing Whitewater is the appetite you build up after a day on the river. Luckily, you’re visiting Jackson Hole, a town known far and wide for its fantastic food. Jackson features numerous dining options, from buffalo steaks to pizza to Thai. Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorite restaurants in Jackson Hole for apres-paddling food and fun, as well as our favorite grocery stores and markets. If you still can’t decide, ask our guides and staff for their favorite place to eat!
Blue Collar Restaurant Group: Operates six restaurants in the Jackson area: Merry Piglets (Mexican), Sidewinders (sports bar, restaurant), Noodle Kitchen (Asian), Artisan Pizza Italian Kitchen (Italian), Liberty Burger (Burgers), and Bubba’s (barbecue). You can’t go wrong with any of them!
Creekside Market: A combination liquor and convenience store known by locals for its great deli sandwiches—across from the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.
Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Company: Aims to sustain the ranching traditions of the Great American West by selling premium buffalo and elk meat—located near Smith’s grocery store, south of Jackson.
Jackson Whole Grocer: A locally owned upscale grocery store featuring fresh, natural and organic foods, high quality baked goods and an expansive beer, wine, and liquor selection—located on South Hwy. 89.
Pizzeria Caldera: Serving thin-crust, Napolitana-style pizza hot from a stone-hearth oven—located in downtown Jackson.
Silver Dollar Bar and Grill: Located in the historic Wort Hotel and serving high quality food and drink to locals and visitors alike for decades.
Snake River Brewing: Award winning beer and delicious food at the brewery in downtown Jackson—a local favorite.
Thai Me Up: Authentic and delicious Thai food and an award winning micro brewery—located in downtown Jackson.
E.leaven: A bread-obsessed restaurant and catering company featuring made-from-scratch comfort cuisine—located in downtown Jackson.
While the craggy, high elevation peaks in the Teton Range are known for their excellent mountaineering, there are plenty of easy to moderate hikes that don’t require ice axes, carabiners and crampons.
Still, many Jackson Hole activities involve venturing out into the wilderness. Wildlife encounters and sudden weather changes can happen anywhere, anytime, and it never hurts to be prepared. Below, we list a few items that you should strongly consider throwing into your backpack for your Jackson Hole day hike.
Warm/appropriate clothing—Even in summer, a sudden snow storm is not unheard of in the Jackson Hole weather repertoire. When you’re out hiking, be sure to bring extra layers such as a waterproof shell and a warm hat. Good, sturdy running or hiking shoes are a must on the region’s rugged trails. Pants are generally a good idea, especially when your route may lead you off the beaten path.
Cell phone (fully charged)—Unplugging from technology is great, until you need to call for help. Carry a fully charged cell phone in a waterproof bag, just in case you or someone you see on the trail finds serious trouble. Turn your phone off to preserve the battery. Just remember, local search and rescue teams may charge you for the cost of your rescue, especially if you don’t really need rescuing.
Headlamp—Even the best intentioned, best prepared hikers sometimes get caught on the trail after dark. A headlamp with fresh batteries makes finding your way to the trailhead, or surviving a night out in the woods, much easier and safer.
Sunscreen—Jackson Hole’s high elevation means there’s less atmosphere to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Carry a travel-size container of sunscreen and apply it several times throughout the day.
Water—Grand Teton National Park is famous among microbiologists for the discovery of a nasty diarrhea-causing bacteria found in its lakes and creeks. People venturing into the backcountry should always carry plenty of water, and should consider carrying water-purification tablets in case they run out.
Food—Bonking in the middle of a hike can make that last three miles to the trailhead seem more like 30 miles. Each member of your group should carry enough food for the trip, and an extra nutrition bar or two just in case.
Bear Spray—Both grizzly and black bears live in the wild places around Jackson Hole, and bear encounters can happen anytime, anywhere. Researchers say bear pepper spray is much more effective than bullets at stopping a bear attack. It also works on moose, bison and just about any other kind of mammal you can think of. Plus, bear spray is non-lethal, so you’re protecting yourself and Jackson Hole’s wildlife. Warning: Bear spray is nasty stuff. Don’t leave it in a hot car and read the directions carefully.
Other gear—pocket knife, emergency whistle, matches/lighter (check fire restrictions/prevent forest fires), first aid kit, sunglasses, bug spray.