JACKSON, Wyo. — Brynn Powell, 2020’s Dave Hansen’s High Water HeyDay winner, is using her new raft to encourage other women to find independence and confidence on the river.

Like many people in Jackson, Powell moved here 15 years ago to ski and work seasonal jobs. She dabbled in backpacking, biking and climbing, and occasionally she spent time on the river floating flat sections of the Snake River on a paddleboard or an inflatable Duckie.

“Being on the river wasn’t very accessible before because I never had the gear,” Powell said. “My boyfriend and I wanted to spend more time on the water, so we each submitted a guess to the contest.” As an accountant, Powell’s boyfriend, Neil Grimaldi, got really technical, made spreadsheets, and researched past years’ numbers to figure out a good guess for the high-water mark.

A few months later, they got a call from Bud at Dave Hansen Whitewater saying they had won a 14-foot NRS Star Outlaw 140 Self-Bailing Raft. They borrowed some gear, gathered some friends and took it down Hoback Canyon for their first run.

“It was a little scary but exciting,” Powell said. She spent the next two years enjoying this area on the water, both for seeing new places and seeing the same places in a new way. “Mostly we did mellow trips, but [I thought] now I’m a boat owner and not a passenger or a daytripper with someone else for an afternoon. I need to have more skills under my belt and be more aware of what I’m doing out here.”

In June, she took a swiftwater rescue course, which happened to be a women’s-specific program. Facilitated by the Snake River Fund, which provided a scholarship for Powell, and Black Fox Rescue Institute, the River Rescue Certification covered topics like general safety and preparedness concepts, swimming in moving water, reading water, identifying strainers and practicing with throw bags. Participants also learned about rope and anchor systems, creating a mechanical advantage, and pulling boats out of the water.

Linsey Nunes instructed the two-day course, and she will return for a second women’s-specific rescue course in July. Powell recommends that other women who are interested in spending more time on the water should take a course like she did, find one of the many river organizations in Jackson, and connect with women in the community through social media.

“I’m really impressed with the number of young women here who are getting more into boating and want to be more independent and confident on the water,” Powell said. “They’re ready to be more of an asset on the river and less of a liability. The course was a good way to connect with other women of similar skill level and had the same motive for being there. Winning the boat made it all possible.”

Bud Chatham of Dave Hansen Whitewater said of the contest, “We love doing this contest for locals and the community excitement for it. It is really really cool when someone like Brynn wins the raft. Hearing about all the trips she is doing and her growth as a boater is pretty inspiring.”

As the Snake River high water seasons comes to a close, stay tuned for the 2022 High Water HeyDay winner announcement in the coming days!

Julie Ellison is a writer and photographer based in Victor, Idaho. She seeks out stories that reflect the unique social issues of this region and elevate the fascinating individuals who live here. Her favorite things are coffee, reading, climbing, bikes, and dogs.