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Every year, the graduate students from the University of Idaho’s biology department embarks on a float trip on the Snake River. It’s an annual tradion that carrys on well before my time. Actually, I’m not sure when the tradition began. In 2010, the float trip was held shortly after I arrived in Idaho. By that time, the daytime temperatures had cooled and I was not feeling up to floating in the river. In retrospect, I wish I had gone my first year. I made up for it by going last year. Actually, we held two trips last year, but I was only able to go on one of them. It was a blast, but Erin was working and couldn’t come.
So this year, we set out to continue the tradition of floating 6-10 miles down the Snake River on a hot and gorgous day. We put in about a mile downstream of the confluence with the Grand Rhonde and floated for 7.7 miles, taking out at Bufalo Eddy. We had never started this high up, but decided to do so because Bufalo Eddy creates a challenge when floating in tubes. Essentially, a small rapid propels you around a turn on river right and shoots you into an eddy on river left which is nearly impossible to get out of. Last year, we got stuck in the eddy for about an hour, each time thinking we were in the current only to be routed back toward shore and up river. We finally had someone on a jetski tow us out so we could finish the float.
So to avoid that fiasco again, we decided to just end at the eddy where there is also a nice beach and a parking area. The advantage of starting farther upstream is that we got to ride Captain Lewis Rapids. When I saw these waves from the road, I was quite excited that we’d get to float through some “major” rapids for tubing. When it came time to hit the rapid, we actually missed the big waves, and it’s probably a good thing. From the water’s surface, they looked to be 3-4 feet from crest to trough and could have easily caused some problems since we weren’t wearing PFDs. The rest of the ride was pretty smooth. Any rapids downstream of Capitan Lewis were ripples barely big enough to splash us on the tubes.
The float trip is a great bonding experience. We sit there, tied together as a great floatilla, hanging out and drinking beer. Erin came along and actually had a good time. I’m kind of hoping that we do another one before the season ends, but with the semester starting up in two weeks, I don’t think it will actually happen. Still, one can dream.
So until next year, I’d say we had a pretty successful float trip.