In the summer of 2001, I was learning to roll a kayak on the Snake River while the Green Knoll Fire raged south of Wilson. A friend and I were at the Wilson Bridge, where gravel excavation had created a new eddy.
As he sat in a chair on the bank reading a book and I paddled around the eddy, helicopters buzzed overhead ferrying buckets of water from the river to fight the fire. The air was thick with smoke, and ash was landing on the water.
It was like a scene out of Apocalypse Now. We laughed at the words of Robert Duvall: “If I say it’s safe to surf this beach, it’s safe to surf this beach!”
Over the next few summers, the “Wilson Beach,” as it became known, grew into one of the most popular recreation spots in Teton County. By 2005, the site reached its zenith as Redneck Riviera, with pickup trucks backed to the water’s edge for tailgating and a group of Georgia girls floating on an air mattress.
Alas, high water eventually filled in the swimming hole, and the river shifted eastward. The Georgia girls moved away. A community treasure was lost.
Now there’s an opportunity to bring back the beach, better than ever, as Teton County is considering a public park at the site.