Kayaking on Jenny Lake


Kayak Jenny Lake

Seven trees stand green and tall atop a burnt, but not barren hillside.  How did they survive the fires that engulfed the northwestern shore of Jenny Lake? How could I have gone eight years recreating all over Jackson Hole without once kayaking in the early morning placid waters of the Lake?  Those were my thoughts as my wife and I glided along the shoreline.

We arrived at the boat dock about 9:00 AM on September 3rd.  It was the last day of the season. The Jenny Lake Boating concession was closing a month early because of unusually low water levels. According to an attendant this was due to heavy early season snow run-off caused by high temperatures followed by a dry summer. 

My wife and I are no strangers to kayaking. We have glided through frigid ocean teeming with life in Alaska, protected water off the San Juan Islands, placid boat channels in Vancouver and a misty lake in Connecticut. We may not have refined our two person kayak technique, but we have learned the fine art of arguing about who is paddling harder, who is paddling better, and who wants to paddle at all.

With full knowledge of our propensity to debate the fine arts of boating, we prepared to venture onto a body of water in a narrow plastic shell that magnifies any momentary lapses of balance. The attendant provided us with a free dry bag for our electronics and there was ample room for our backpacks.  He helped us into the kayak, and after a few short words of advice, pushed us into the narrow cove where the boat dock was located.

We decided to follow the eastern shoreline as we made our way around the lake. We spied numerous private beaches that beckoned us as we slid past. A mild current pulled the kayak towards the middle of the lake as we struggled to synchronize our strokes  To our left were broad views of several majestic Teton Mountains, the Cathedral Group to the South (Teewinot, Owen and Grand Teton) and the St. John Group to the north (Symmetry Spine, Rock of Ages and others). However, we were on a mission. We knew that somewhere far ahead a narrow rocky stream emanating from String Lake emptied into Jenny Lake. We wanted to see it. 

So we paddled on.

Stream Emptying into Jenny Lake

After what seemed a few minutes, but probably was an hour or more, we arrived at the confluence of a diminished but still rushing stream, emptying into the body of the lake. Nearby were two fishermen in a power boat cursing the fish, both native cutthroat and invasive lake trout, that avoided their misguided casts.  We lingered for a bit, but then continued onwards, drawn by a hillside along the first western arm of the lake littered with standing dead trees and groundcover laden with green and orange swatches of color. 

We were mesmerized by the contoured layers before us. First the clear lake waters that reflected images of the towering mountains.  Then a hillside rose starkly from the lake shore, replete with two birds of prey snuggling on a whitened dead tree branch and a bald eagle gliding through the still air. Higher yet were the few pine trees that survived a long ago conflagration. Adjusting our gaze further upwards, the grey stony mountains loomed, framed by clear blue skies.

We would have liked to remain suspended in time within the ecosystem, but our schedule and growling stomachs did not permit it. 

Inspiration Point from a Kayak

We paddled further, taking care to avoid the minimal congestion around the western boat dock, but in close proximity to the rocky face of Inspiration Point, a frequent destination for first time visitors.

At the southwestern end of the lake were more beaches and another cove we did not enter. Next time we pledged that we would bring food and beach our kayak for a private meal and perhaps a hike.  Rather than continuing along the shore, we decided to head back by cutting through the middle of the lake.  Our aching arms took us through wakes churned by passenger boats that traversed the waters between the two docks. It was then we learned why it is best to kayak early in the day. The wind started to pick up, almost imperceptibly, but with noticeable effect on the lake surface. Placid serenity gave way to ripples and then minor waves. It did not create a problem but it portended a future that confirmed why it is best to boat in the morning.

Two and a half hours after we started, we finished our journey. The trip was over, but my future connection with the waters of Jenny Lake has begun.

Speak Your Mind