Watercraft
5:46 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Commission restricts motorized use of the Snake River

Snake River Float Trip
Credit EJS, Prior to 1970 / National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center, Archives Center

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission voted Monday to impose limits on what types of motorized craft can be used on Teton County’s Snake River, and when.

Sections of the river passing through Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest were already closed to motorized use, but the section passing by Jackson was not. The new rules limit access to that part of the river. The Game and Fish commissioners voted to ban all personal watercrafts, like jet skis. Boaters with engines of 115 horsepower or less will still be able to use the river, but only between Labor Day and March 31.

Rebecca Reimers is the executive director of the Snake River Fund. She says while the regulations are a compromise, they’re a pretty good one -- especially since they’ll keep motorboats off the river during peak season.

“There are safety issues that are very real," Reimers says. "There are many, many people that float the river, in all kinds of crafts, from dories to inner tubes, and we just don’t feel like it’s safe to have motorboats up to 115 horsepower on those same sections of river as the hundreds of floaters that use the river in the peak season, in the summer.”

Trevor Stevenson of the Jackson Conservation Alliance adds that floating is a big part of Jackson's tourism economy. He says motorboats have a huge impact on that, and benefit relatively few people. “In practice, there’s a huge amount of non-motorized use and there’s virtually no motorized use,” Stevenson says. Game and Fish recorded just a half a dozen motorized launches in the last year compared to an estimated 30,000 non-motorized launches. If the governor signs off, the new regulations will go into effect at the beginning of 2014.