Rule No. 1 when you're launching your craft into the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park: Know what you're up against. Rule No. 2: If you're not up to the challenge, take a hike. A trio of Utahns failed to follow those rules and wound up relying on park rangers to save them. Their rental canoe, however, has yet to be recovered.
Despite the fact that only one of the three -- a 5-year-old -- was wearing a life jacket, all three fortunately came away with their health intact.
According to park officials, the three set off down the Snake on Tuesday afternoon but managed only about 1 mile downstream before they rolled their canoe below the historic Bar BC Ranch. While 23-year-old Will Shafer, of Ogden, Utah, and a 16-year-old unidentified relative also had life jackets, they weren't wearing them and the current quickly swept them out of reach.
Mr. Shafer was, however, able to hold onto the canoe as it floated downstream.
"He was diverted into a debris-choked side channel where the canoe became pinned against a logjam," reports the park. "This channel lies river left of the main current and is not navigable. The teenager and young boy were swept downstream until, with some difficulty, they were eventually able to grab hold of an exposed tree root and pull themselves out of the river and onto the bank. The two parties lost sight of one another and were unsure about each other’s welfare for several minutes.
"A float guide with Triangle X Dude Ranch came upon the stranded canoeists and called the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 3:10 p.m. to report the situation. The river guide then proceeded to help the three boaters until a park ranger could arrive by raft to rescue them from their separate locations along the riverbank," the park release added. "The ranger then floated all three canoeists to the Moose Landing where other family members were waiting; the rescued party reached the boat landing at 3:35 p.m."
Rangers gave credit to the Triangle X Ranch river guide for his help in the rescue operation, and for his help in directing rescue personnel to the exact location of the stranded boaters. Commercial river
guides are often the first responders to river accidents because they consistently float the Snake River; their initial response can be a critical part of a successful river rescue, as was the case in this particular incident.
Rangers remind boaters that life preservers can save lives, and it’s prudent to wear a life jacket whenever floating the Snake River because of its swift current and cold water temperature. According to park regulations, children under 13 years of age are required to be wearing a life jacket whenever a vessel is in motion, and any boat operating on park waters is required to have life jackets for each person on board.
Rangers were unable to dislodge and recover the rental canoe. Additional attempts will be made once the seasonal river flow recedes.