Danger on the Snake River


Let the Holy Spirit guard; Let his whisper govern choice. He will lead us safely home If we listen to his voice (Hymns, 1985, no. 143.)

Every June my parents go rafting on the Snake River near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In 1991 my dad let me float the river for the first time. I had waited a long time to be able to go. I felt very excited as I dressed, first in my swimsuit, then in my wet suit. I put on my life jacket and climbed into the raft with my mom and dad, and the other adults with us.

The river was muddy and running very high due to a heavy spring snow melt. The color of the water was like hot chocolate. I rode in the very front of the raft with my feet tucked under the thwart (rower’s seat), and held tightly to the front rope. I laughed and screamed as we rode through the rapids. The water was very cold, so I ducked my head as the big waves crashed over me. To keep the boat straight, the adults paddled through the rapids. During the calm parts, we would talk and laugh.

My dad thought that we had already passed a dangerous rapid called Three Ordeal. He doesn’t like going through it because it’s a hydraulic wave, which means that it’s like a big washing machine with one strong wave. He says that it’s like riding over a spillway, then getting caught on the powerful wave at the bottom.

The adults were talking during a calm stretch in the river, and the raft was floating kind of sideways. My dad looked up and realized that we were heading right for Three Ordeal. He had just enough time to get the boat straight. The grownups started paddling as hard as they could to pick up enough speed to pull us over the wave.

I ducked my head as we hit the first big wave, and when I looked up, I saw Uncle Jerry being thrown from the raft. Clinging to the rope, I looked around. The raft was empty except for me! The force of the wave had knocked all the adults into the churning river. I learned later that the force of the collision folded the raft in half, with the back almost touching the front.

While the adults were being swept downriver, the wave trapped the raft and me in the middle of the river. The raft twisted and turned and rocked up and down like a teeter-totter. I was very scared, but I clung to the rope, keeping my feet wedged under the thwart. I looked for my mom and dad—where were they? Should I jump into the river with everyone else? What should I do?

Then I felt something in the middle of my heart tell me, “Stay in the raft.” Suddenly I felt calm instead of panicky. I felt I was being helped and protected. I believe it was the Holy Ghost. I obeyed the prompting and stayed in the raft. Soon it broke free of the roaring wave and started floating down the river. Oh, what a feeling to be safe and protected by the Holy Ghost!

Once I didn’t have waves crashing around me, I saw my aunt and uncle on the bank. Again I wondered if I should jump in the river and swim to the shore. Again I had a strong feeling to stay in the raft. I kept still, and the raft floated to the bank by itself. I grabbed some branches and held on to them until a friend came and tied the raft to a bush.

I learned many things from that experience. I learned that as soon as the adults reached shore, they prayed that Heavenly Father would protect me. Twice I had felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Twice I obeyed the promptings and was kept safe from the dangers of the river. I learned that maybe the raft didn’t float to the bank by itself after all. I learned that Heavenly Father can accomplish things when people can’t. He can accomplish all things.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Brad Teare