Whitewater Action on Payette River system

Full panoply of raft and kayak opportunities near Boise



BANKS, Idaho — Go Left Rapids was foaming like a giant Alka-Seltzer as Daniel Hihath lined up his raft for the whitewater run on a hot July day.

What better way to escape the summer heat than to blast through refreshing, bubbling rapids on the Main Payette River?

Hoots and screams echoed off the river as the first wave engulfed the raft.

Go Left always gets the adrenaline going, but in a good way. It’s the third set of rapids on the Main Payette run after Whitewater 101 and Whitewater 102, and the one a lot of paddlers scout from a pullout on Idaho 55 on the way to the launch site at Banks.

Whitewater boaters, like Hihath and his passengers, know they are lucky to have a river playground like the Payette River system right in their backyard.

Within an hour or slightly more from Idaho’s Treasure Valley, they float several options that offer whitewater — from world-famous, Class V rapids to splash-and-giggle floats.

“It’s a nice ride. It’s not too crazy,” Whitney Shepard of Boise said about the Main Payette.

She was on Hihath’s raft.

“You can enjoy yourself and still get back to town after a day run,” she said.

Sections of the Payette River are getting down to summertime flows and are pretty inviting for casual rafting and kayaking.

The South Fork of the Payette offers more challenging rapids, but ones a competent river runner can handle. Novices can find Payette River outfitters online for a guided trip.

Leave the stretch of North Fork of the Payette River between Banks and Smiths Ferry to the experts, but average paddlers will enjoy the Class III “Cabarton” section farther upstream.

July and August are prime times to be on the river. The flows are reasonable, and the water temperature refreshingly cool on a hot day.