Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Places to Paddle: Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Where: Wyoming. 25 miles north of the town of Jackson, WY and 12 miles south of Yellowstone National Park.

Where to launch: Many places on the lake are accessible. We launched at Colter Bay.
Contact Info: 307-543-2811. Colter Bay Visitor Center - 307-739-3594
Note: Purchase a boat permit at Bridge Bay. Price is $10.00 a week for each non-motorized craft. This permit is good for Yellowstone also (You’ll need an additional sticker (free) when you check in at the marinas on Yellowstone Lake.) Life jackets are required for all ages and all watercraft including windsurfers. Check with the Parks service for the most recent regulations.

On the west side of Jackson Lake the Grand Teton’s Mt. Moran juts straight out of the water and up 12,700 ft. The roughly 3 miles wide and 16 miles long expanse of water is garnished with small islands and many inlets teaming with wildlife. A mixed forest of pine and a few aspen with shrubs of willow and other plants edge the shoreline. The water is cold, clear and ranges from shallow shorelines to over 450 ft. deep. We saw bald eagles, many waterfowl and a family of otters. We paddled out of Colter Bay, though any of the marinas offer a great place to start. We like to paddle in mid-morning when the lake is glassy. We paddle towards the direction the wind will most likely originate from and adjust our course as needed. If the wind does pick up we surf the wind-chop back.

The weather can change very quickly. The glassy surface of a still morning can become whipped to white caps within 8 to 10 minutes. (This happened to us.) The wind-chop became swells within 30 minutes. High clouds on a sunny day can turn into a sudden mountain storm, complete with lightning and thunder. Jackson Lake supplies water for Idaho farm irrigation, so the water levels can vary year to year and within the season. Check with the marina staff for the weather report and current water levels.

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