The Snake River Headwaters are a mecca for Wyoming water activities. Famous for its pristine waters and unique geology, the river’s banks and surrounding wilderness also attracts a great many wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers for the abundance of rare animals that call it’s shores home. For example, some approximately 700 pairs of raptors makes nest in each spring along the miles of river canyon. Aside from the raptors, other species include the Northern Harrier, Golden Eagle, American kestrel, Owls, Prairie Falcons not to mention many of our four legged friends as well. Despite the incredible abundance of natural beauty surrounding the Snake River Headwaters, the preservation of it’s beauty was not always secure. That is until grass roots efforts combined with the legislative efforts of the late Senator from Wyoming Craig Thomas pushed the government to act. While it did not happen during his lifetime, Senator Thomas’ vision was realized with the designation of the Snake River Headwaters as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 2009. President Obama made this possible when he signed an Omnibus Public Lands Act which included the Snake River Legacy Act of which Thomas was the author.
Here is a video discussing the designation that included the Snake River Headwaters and 387 additional miles of the Snake River:
The newly designated protected river begins at its source in Yellowstone National Park and flows thru Grand Teton National Park, Alpine Canyon, Bridger-Teton National Forest ending approximately 31 miles away at the Palisades Reservoir. The designated, protected area also includes major tributaries; Buffalo Fork, Gros Ventre, Hoback, and Greys River, along with a number of smaller tributaries which make up this unique watershed.
While the area surrounding the Snake River Headwaters is well known for the abundance of outdoor activities what is not well known is the area was also once the home of the Nez Perce and Shoshone Tribes. Oral history has it that the name of the river comes from an encounter of a white explorer with the local tribes. While asking a local tribe member what they called the river, they used sign language by moving hands in swimming motion which was interpreted as snake, hence came the name of the river. Whether this is accurate or not is anyone’s guess.
Well over 100,000 visitors come to run the rapids of the Snake River and its tributaries which include some of the nation’s most outstanding whitewater resources. However, as a result of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers designation some portions of the river are now off limits to paddlers. These areas include the portions of the river which run thru Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Despite these restrictions the area still offers many outstanding opportunities to tackle this sometimes challenging river. If you are traveling to the area you can visit sites like http://www.gtlc.com/headwaters/activities/raft-trip.aspx for more information on booking rafting trips. Keep in mind water levels will dictate the availability of whitewater excursions.
If you aren’t the adventurous type, don’t worry. The area surrounding the Snake River Headwaters provides many an opportunity for more serene pursuits. Fishing on the river is world class and as previously mentioned the abundance and variety of wildlife is unmatched. So whether you are looking for some pulse pounding whitewater running or a peaceful hike in the wilderness the Snake River Headwaters will fit the bill.
If you want to find out more about the Snake or any of the other National Wild and Scenic Rivers, click HERE to visit the governments website.