Kayakers Rescued on Snake River by Moonlight

Reduced flow of the Snake River requires longer float time
October 24, 2010
Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued two local kayakers from the Snake River during an operation that took place by moonlight on Thursday night, October 21. Jackson resident Dave Muskat and Ann Marie Letko of Moose, Wyoming, became stranded, about 7 p.m.—a half hour after sunset—on an island between two channels of the river near the historic Bar BC Ranch after Letko struck a snag, flipped her kayak and lost it to the current. Rangers located the uninjured boaters at approximately 9 p.m. and subsequently launched a raft to reach the two and ferry them safely to the western bank of the river, about three miles upstream from the Moose Landing.

Rangers initiated a search and rescue operation at 7:15 p.m. after a call for help was received by the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center. Muskat was unsure of their exact location on the river. That uncertainty—coupled with the late hour—caused rangers to use the headlights from their patrol vehicles in an effort to pinpoint the kayakers’ position on the river. In their search for the boaters, two rangers traveled by foot along the river bank south from Schwabacher’s Landing, while two other rangers hiked from Glacier View turnout on Highway 26/89/191 to reach the river and begin  searching upstream toward Schwabacher’s Landing. In addition, four rangers drove along the River Road—a gravel road on the west side of the Snake River—to determine the site of the stranded boaters. After searching for well over an hour, rangers eventually found the kayakers near the historic Bar BC Ranch and launched a raft to rescue them from the island in the stream where they were stranded. The rescue operation concluded about 9:35 p.m. after Muskat and Letko were driven by patrol vehicle from the Bar BC area to the Moose Landing.

The current flow on the Snake River between Deadman’s Bar and Moose Landing is running about 635 cubic feet per second, which means that a river trip requires a significantly longer period of time to complete than during the higher flows of summer and early fall. Boaters should make every attempt to complete their river trip before darkness falls, since natural obstacles such as snags and logjams are difficult to see after sunset— even with the diffused light of a full moon.