Buffalo Fork River

The Buffalo Fork drains the high plateau country of the southern end of the Absaroka Range within the Teton Wilderness. This high country provides enough lingering snowmelt to allow boating late into the summer. The Buffalo Fork, including both the North and South Forks, offers some of the best and most accessible wilderness packrafting in Jackson Hole and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

On July 21, 2012 Andy Tyson and I completed a hike-float-hike-float that included sections of both the North and South Forks. Starting in Turpin Meadows we walked 5 miles along the North Fork Trail to Soda Fork Meadows. From the confluence with the Soda Fork we paddled 5 rocky yet worthy miles to the confluence with the South Fork. After deflating our packrafts we hiked 3.5 miles to the bottom of the Class 5 gorge below Lower Pendergraft Meadows. We opted to portage several Class 5 drops. The lower gorge of the North Fork provided several miles of fun technical Class 4 whitewater. After returning to the confluence we enjoyed a splashy 5 miles (Class 3) back to the Turpin Meadows Trailhead. The gauge for the Buffalo Fork River reported just over 500cfs.

The Buffalo Fork River is a significant tributary of the Snake River Headwaters. In 2009, with the passage of the Craig Thomas Snake Headwaters Legacy Act, the Buffalo Fork River’s outstanding remarkable values were forever honored and protected by being congressionally designated a Wild and Scenic River.

Steep enough for a helmet.

I had one on. Though the first three times I ran the Buffalo Fork was before I used a helmet when packrafting.

Andy forgot his. Thought about lending him mine so he would set a good Youtube example. But thought better of it.

Just ran the NF from the Soda Fork to Turpin. North fork was at 580 CFS. Perfect level for this run. North Fork below the meadow was easy continuous read and run class 3- and below the confluence it was easy class 2 except for two seemingly brand new rapids. A fresh landslide has deposited some boulders in the canyon and has choked the river into two solid class 4 rapids. First one is the biggest and is pretty sketchy. Sharp rocks and several BIG holes you must go through. This one is not portagable, and scouting from river left is possible but not easy. Second one is around the next bend and is a huge wave train that could be portaged but is really fun. I wasn’t expecting to find any class 4 on this run. I recommend a helmet… I cannot find these rapids on the most recent imagery on google earth.

FYI We also ran the Yellowstone (3100 CFS) from Woodard to Hawks Rest and Thorofare (3000 CFS) from Open Creek down. Would’ve been better with a bit more water but is doable at these flows. We could have floated the upper meadow on the NF Buffalo but decided to walk it after looking at it from above. Incredible trip…

Be safe!