Three Dead in Grand Teton Rafting Accident
The Snake River flowing through Grand Teton National Park is one of the most gorgeous river corridors in the country, if not the world.
As it flows out of Jackson Lake Dam it immediately begins to oxbow, bending right and left as it meanders southward. Float this river and you'll spot eagles, osprey, river otters, pelicans, swans and possibly moose, all the while having the jagged backdrop of the Tetons over your shoulder.
For the first 13 or so miles below the dam the Snake is pretty calm, a soothing stream that slowly carries you on its back. But below Deadman's Bar, river mile 41, things get real dicey, real quick, as the river channel narrows and all that water really begins to roll.
River-running companies long have taken paying customers down both stretches of river, offering a scenic run on the upper stretch and more of a white-water run on the stretch below Deadman's Bar.
Today a raft group run by the Grand Teton Lodge Company ran into tragedy, as a raft flipped, dumping passengers into the river. Three failed to make it out alive.
The accident happened just before 11 a.m. about one-half mile south of the old Bar BC dude ranch. Park officials say while some passengers were quickly picked up by other rafts, two were given CPR and advanced life support both at the scene and en route to a hospital but could not be revived. A third passenger was submerged in a log jam and was unresponsive when found.
According to park officials, today's fatalities doubled the number recorded during the past 56 years. Of the three previous fatalities, two involved boating accidents, and one occurred when a fisherman slipped into the river just below Jackson Lake Dam.
Rangers are still investigating today's accident and have not determined a cause. I can tell you, though, that the river along this section can be extremely swift and it's always cold.
It's also very braided as a variety of channels cut around islands and through log jams. Pick the wrong channel and you run into a deadend, one that can be extremely dangerous if the river is running fast and tries to push your raft, kayak or canoe beneath a log jam.