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Idaho: The Payette

 • LOCATIONS: Main Payette-Banks (2,790 ft) to Beehive Bend (2,700 ft)-7 miles; North Fork-Smiths Ferry (4,490 ft) to Banks (2,790)-16 miles; Cabarton Run-Cabarton Bridge (4,700 ft) to Smiths Ferry (4,510)-9 miles; South Fork-Deer Creek Turnout (2,950 ft) to Banks (2,790 ft) - 5 miles
 • SEASON: April-September
 • RAPIDS: Class III-VI (Depending on the stretch)
 • LENGTH OF TYPICAL TRIP: full and half day
 • USER FEE: $5 Parking Fee

The Payette River system is a deeply colorful drainage, full of lore and legends. It's not just the incredible rivers that make this area special but also the characters that the epic whitewater has nurtured.

Whitewater expedition legends like Rob Lesser, Gerry Moffatt and Charlie Munsey have all cut their teeth on the difficult rapids of the North Fork. River running pioneer Walt Blackadar passed away on the deep canyon stretch of the South Fork.

Just on the other side of the hill from the North Fork, heading towards Lowman, is the South Fork of the Payette. This is one of those gems that will always find a spot in a whitewater aficionados heart. Both the Staircase and Canyon sections are great for kayaking and the Canyon has some of the most consistent surf in the area. After the Deadwood River adds its flow, the river begins to drop about 40 feet per mile with continuous, steep rapids. This Canyon stretch is punctuated at its deepest point by a 40-foot waterfall. Most river runners portage around this spectacular sight then continue on through a narrow gorge filled with natural hot springs.

The North Fork of the Payette is considered one of the finest advanced kayak runs in the world, featuring 20 named class IV-V rapids in 16 miles. Irrigation flows keep warm water flowing on this stretch into the middle of the summer. Better to run this section with someone who has been on the river before. It is important to remember that most of the deaths on this river happen to people who aren't local, and underestimate the river's power. Highway 55 runs the length of this stretch, from below Smiths Ferry to Banks.

Contact the Boise National Forest,1750 Front St., Boise, ID, 83702, 208-364-4100 for more information.

Information Provided by: State of Idaho

Written by: Joseph Carberry

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