We spoke with KC Bess—operations manager and river guide for Mad River Boat Trips—about what to expect on your trip and why you want to get splashed.
On the Snake River
"It's a great river for your first trip," says KC. The relatively high volume of water and the lack of rocks mean that the runs are straightforward—and exciting. Tall, clean waves are common, and the rapids are "kind of like riding a roller coaster while getting buckets of water dumped on you."
On braving whitewater rapids
If passengers are a bit apprehensive about the rapids, KC suggests sitting near the guide at the back of the raft, where the ride is a bit more gentle. Once people are comfortable, he usually encourages them to move up a bit — where they can enjoy the thrill of hitting the waves. "Sit up front. Go all the way and have fun with your first time," he says. "It's worth it."
Every trip is different, but KC always likes getting out onto the water, experiencing how intricately connected the natural world is. "It's fascinating how it all works together," he says. He keeps an eye out for ospreys, eagerly explaining how the birds are the perfect hunters: hovering above the river, plunging five feet beneath the water, and then emerging with a fish dangling between their talons.
On bringing the whole family
Most of the whitewater trips are suitable for children as young as 6, and KC loves when parents bring kids along. Younger passengers tend to relish the adventure almost more than the adults; but, more importantly, KC sees whitewater runs as an immersive way to introduce children to the natural world. "Kids don't get that kind of experience very often," he says.
For five decades, the professional guides of Sands Whitewater & Scenic River Trips have been navigating every turn, rapid, and rock of the Snake River, always with their full attention on the safety, comfort, and enjoyment of their customers. Along the winding waterway, they guide groups during curated trips that range from three-hour jaunts suited for everyone ages 6 and older to overnight adventures rafting down the river, sleeping in teepees, and howling at the moon. More scenic floats take a slower pace down the river, exposing Teton views and glimpses of local wildlife.
Throngs of excited runners crouch along the starting line, all dressed in pristine white T-shirts. As the Color in Motion 5K begins, the sea of bodies sets off along the course, where handfuls of purple-, blue-, and yellow-colored powder start flying in from the sidelines. The safe concoction of cornstarch and dye sprinkles onto faces, shirts, shorts, and skin, dressing runners in a technicolor haze. Teams or individuals make their way through the 5K course, and finish the race wearing a pallet of washable and biodegradable paint. Each race partners and benefits local charities, with racers running individually, in teams, or sponsored by their favorite Crayola color.