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Grand Teton National Park – Floating The Oxbow

national pardon
by huitze

Article by Perry Frandsen

One of the great national treasures of the western United States is the majestic Rocky Mountain retreat known as Grand Teton National Park. Few other parks compare with its rare beauty and awesome wildlife. This is truly a priceless wilderness!


Midway through the park on the Grand Teton mountain range is a massive, towering igneous fault known as Mount Moran. At the base of this 12,605 foot monster is an afternoon activity known simply as “The Oxbow,” a docile raft float of world-class proportion. This short family regatta winds through a horseshoe bend (oxbow) eastward from the headwaters of the Snake River beginning at the earthen dam retaining the waters of Jackson Lake.


One can rent a small (or large) river raft from one of the many outfitters in the town of Jackson and transport it either by trailer or on the top of your car if it is a small raft. A “Day Use” permit must be purchased at Park Headquarters at Moose for the stretch of river you will be floating. You will not need a guide on this section of the river but it is very important to have a map of the park to identify your disembarking point near the confluence of Pacific Creek at the Moran Junction. If you miss this point, you may float into one of the more dangerous sections of the upper Snake requiring more advanced river skills.

This float is for families with small children, seniors just wanting to take-in the mountain grandeur (without getting wet) and landscape photographers. The reflection of the Tetons off the glassy river makes for some pretty spectacular mirror photos!


You begin your float at the base of Jackson Lake Dam from a shallow, sandy raft ramp. No need to get wet if you place your center of gravity aft in the raft and shove-off briskly into the gentle current. The flow at this point is as wild as it’s going to get.

The amazing thing about this entire section of the Snake is the clarity of the water! One can see to the bottom of the river at any point and sometimes to depths of over 10 feet! The surface of the water is like glass and the scenery is simply breathtaking. Native fish are abundant in this part and can be seen in the water along the entire route. Canada Geese, Sand Cranes, Ravens, Teal, Mallard and a variety of birds of prey stock this section of the river. Osprey and Bald Eagles frequently swoop down to pluck unsuspecting trout from the crystal clear water. That makes for excellent photo ops and great squeals from the kids!

Remember to bear left (pardon the pun) to float out of the main channel into the oxbow or you may miss the prettiest part of the float. You will be carried by the slow current through the bend in the river and returned to the main channel after completing the loop.

Float tubes, canoes, kayaks and most non-motorized floating devices are suitable for this section of the river and add to the quiet of the surrounding forest.


The wildlife in this area is thick! Moose, elk, deer, antelope and an occasional bear can be seen from your floating raft. If you just sit still and imagine yourself in “America’s Serengheti” you will begin to know what Lewis and Clark must have felt as they explored the untouched wilderness of the Yellowstone. Some consider this experience once-in-a-lifetime!

About the Author

For a great place to lodge and eat just east of The Oxbow, stay at the historic Hatchet Resort in Moran. You will not be disappointed and the friendly staff will help you with rafting, fishing and all other park activities. Go to http://hatchetresort.com for photos.

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