Rangers Recover Drift Boat from Snake River

July 12, 2010
Grand Teton National Park rangers recovered an aluminum Hyde drift boat from the Snake River on Sunday, July 11—a day after the boat capsized and sank. At approximately 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 10, the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call from a party who reported that their drift boat had capsized on the Snake River just below the historic Bar BC Ranch area, about three miles north of the Moose landing. Dan Mei and James Fisher of Jackson, Wyoming and their guest, Joseph Keller, were fishing while floating between Deadmans Bar and Moose when the boat was pulled by the current toward an uprooted tree midstream. The boat operator did not have enough time to correct his course before the boat got caught in the tree and began to capsize.

All three men attempted to “high side” the boat and prevent it from taking on water, but were unsuccessful. None of the three boaters was wearing a life vest at the time of accident; however, they were all able to get out of the river on the east bank, uninjured. A commercial scenic float company saw the boaters on the riverbank and picked them up. The commercial operator then shuttled them to Moose, where park rangers met the party.

The drift boat sat about seven feet under water and had shifted a few hundred yards down river from the original accident site by Sunday when park rangers began their salvage operation. Rangers anchored a pulley system to a very large fallen tree on a gravel bar and tied a rope to one side of the boat, then used a complex system of pulleys, ropes and webbing to move and flip the boat upright. Rangers used a 3 to 1 system called a “Z drag” to move the boat closer to the bank. From there, they used a come-a-long system involving webbing, cable and ropes to right the boat in shallower water. The Hyde boat remained largely intact after its salvage from the river.

This is the second major accident on the Snake River in the park this season. Rangers remind river users that the Snake is a powerful river with strong currents and cold water temperatures. Due to its tangle of channels and constantly shifting logjams and downed trees, boaters are advised to have proper equipment—as well as knowledge and experience—to accurately read the river’s current and navigate away from natural obstructions in the streambed.

Boaters are required to have certified personal flotation devices for all persons aboard the watercraft and to obtain appropriate boat permits. For those unfamiliar with the river, a pre-float consultation with rangers is strongly advised.

River users are also reminded that it is prohibited to remove or take an abandoned boat from the Snake River, or to keep any personal property items found in the river or along its banks. Such items should be immediately turned in to a park visitor center or ranger station.