You may not think of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as the perfect locale for surfing, but the ridable waves churned up by the Snake River’s Lunch Counter Rapids just outside of town have been an open secret among surfers for years. The waves are produced when snowmelt and release activities from the Jackson Lake Dam cause water levels to rise and the river to flow 8,000 to 12,000 cubic feet per second.
During most years, the Lunch Counter wave is active for two to six weeks, usually from late May until June. But the wave is inconsistent, sometimes lying dormant for days at a time. This year, however, the folks in Jackson Hole have been experiencing a rare event, with the river producing consistently ridable waves for 40-plus days, and at the time of this writing, the waves are still pumping.
Before you make your trip out to Wyoming for this wave, remember that the dangers of river surfing must be taken seriously. River surfing requires a different skill-set than ocean surfing, and if you mistime your entry into the river, you can get swept downstream. If you fall off your board, you must know how to navigate the river without crashing into rocks, and how to make your way to a nearby eddy—because any river play without a life jacket is scary river play.
Despite the river’s dangers, hundreds of people have successfully surfed this wave over the decades, and below is a look at how surfers are enjoying this year’s extraordinary wave.