How to Float the Teton River
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If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in Idaho's Teton Valley, consider yourself lucky. This quiet, picturesque valley is relatively unknown compared to its super-famous sister, Jackson, Wyoming. On the western side of the Tetons, you’ll find many of the same activities at lower prices with far fewer crowds. One favorite local activity is floating the Teton River.
The Teton River runs south to north through the valley, starting near the town of Victor. Compared to its nearby cousin, the Snake River in Wyoming, this stretch of the Teton River is a slow, placid body of water that is ideal for floating, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), and kayaking.
The river is largely shallow, particularly in late summer, but has some deeper holes and cut banks. Powered by snowpack, the water is frigid in the early season (May/June) and cold throughout summer. While the water can be refreshing on a hot day, it can quickly contribute to hypothermia if you fall in. As a result, wearing a life jacket is of extra importance. Fortunately, loaner life jackets are available at many of the recreational access points on the river. It’s free and easy to borrow a life jacket and then hang it up when you leave the river.
Where to Access the Teton River
There are six major recreational water access points along the Teton River. Parking at the access points is free until 2024, when a nominal parking fee will be charged.
Fox Creek Fish and Game Access (no boat ramp)
- Head west from Highway 33 towards the mountains on 5500 South. The road dead ends at the river access.
- Float time to South Bates Bridge is about 1 hour, depending on whether you are paddling or not.
South Bates Bridge
- Head west from Highway 33 on 750 South towards the mountains. The river access is right over the bridge across the river.
- Float time to Bates Bridge is about 1 hour, depending on how hard you paddle.
- Head west from Highway 33 on Bates Road from the main intersection in Driggs. The parking lot is on the right side of the road just before the river.
- Float time to Rainer/Big Eddy is anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
Rainey/Big Eddy Fish and Game Access and Public Camping
- Located at 1851 N 5250 W Estate, Driggs, ID
- Float time to Cache Bridge is about 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
- Head west from Highway 33 on 4000 North/Packsaddle Road towards the mountains. The boat ramp will be on the left-hand side of the road after the river.
- Float time to Harrops Bridge is about 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
Harrops Bridge/Hwy 33
- Located off Highway 33 heading towards Rexburg. The boat ramp is on the right side of the road.
- Exit river here.
Float times from one access point to another can vary widely. Depending on the speed of the water each day, those paddling continuously will likely reach the next access point at or under the low end of the referenced paddle time. Those who are floating and do not plan to paddle tend towards the higher end of the range.
Staying Safe on the River
There are a few key precautions to take when floating the Teton River:
- Always wear a life jacket. Weather conditions change quickly, and falling into the cold water can make it difficult to swim. Life jackets are available to borrow for free at access points, but arrive early if you plan to use a loaner.
- Be on the lookout for wildlife. Moose love to hang out in the river on hot days, but they can be dangerous. Make sure to give them a wide berth when passing and be especially cautious around mamas and babies.
- Avoid parking on side of road. Try to park in the parking lots when possible. Not only is parking roadside dangerous, it also destroys the natural environment on the private lands surrounding the river.
- Wear plenty of sunscreen. The Teton Valley is around 6200 feet of elevation, which means the sun is very strong. Apply sunscreen early and often.
- Stay hydrated. If you choose to drink alcohol on the river, make sure you alternate with water or another non-alcoholic beverage. The air in the valley is dry and dehydrates you quickly.
River Access Restrictions
Teton County recently passed an ordnance designed to protect the river from overuse. The following restrictions apply:
- Groups sizes for private users are capped at 15 persons. Larger parties must break into smaller groups of 15 or less and launch 15 minutes apart, or acquire a special use permit through the county.
- Littering is not allowed, including human and animal waste. Pack out everything.
- Dogs must be confined to watercraft or on a leash.
- Parking fees will be required beginning in 2024.
Where to Rent Paddleboards, Kayaks & Floats
Don’t have your own paddleboard or kayak? No problem – there are plenty of local vendors in Driggs, Idaho who are happy to help.
What to Wear on the River
The sun is very strong in the valley, so opt for gear with built-in sun protection. My top picks for a day on the Teton River include:
- KÜHL Engineered Hoody (for men and women) offers UPF 25+ sun protection over most of your upper body
- KÜHL Freeflex Short (for men and women) offers UPF 50+ sun protection, quick-drying fabrics, and great stretch
- A hat like the KÜHL Ridge Trucker or Sun Blade with UPF 50
- Eye protection
- Flip flops or water shoes for getting in and out of the river
Summer is short in the Teton Valley, so get out there and enjoy it while you can! Please keep the river clean and beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
Danielle Cemprola is a freelance writer, marathoner x 52 and world traveler. Danielle and her husband, AJ, love to hike, travel, and eat their way across the planet. She's a self-described carry-on enthusiast who loves challenging herself to pack for any trip, no matter the length or destination, in a carry-on bag. When Danielle's not flying the friendly skies, you're likely to find her working at her day job as an environmental scientist - hey, someone needs to pay for all those plane tickets!