The Payette River
If there is a better river for all-around family fun, we don't know where it is. The popular Payette offers every kind of experience from placid Class I and II water to thundering Class V+ -- all within a short distance from Boise, Idaho.
Some have compared the Payette and its tributaries to the public school system: the Main Payette provides a basic education in whitewater technique; the Cabarton stretch of the North Fork is high school material; sections of the South Fork will earn you a college degree in whitewater; and if you can master the daunting Class V+ waters of the North Fork below Smith's Ferry, you've got yourself a phd in whitewater rafting!
On a hot summer day, the nine mile stretch of the Main Payette beginning at Banks will be filled with dozens of rafters and kayakers, eager to challenge the Class III rapids of Mike's Hole, Mixmaster, and AMF.
For intermediate boaters, the Payette's best whitewater lies in the South Fork Canyon; there you will find several Class IV rapids, including a mandatory portage around the 40 foot Class VI Big Falls. You will also enjoy a wilderness experience (at least for a few miles) complete with hot springs!
Further downstream, near the South Fork's confluence with the Main Payette, boaters can challenge themselves on Staircase Rapid, a long Class III-IV rapid, which has taught many boaters the value of staying in their rafts.
On the North Fork of the Payette lies the popular Cabarton run, another nine mile trip, which features a real sense of solitude, as well as several Class III-IV rapids near the end of the run.
And for the daring experts among us, the North Fork below Smith's Ferry provides 16 miles of non-stop, technical Class V rapids. This stretch wasn't kayaked until the 1970's and was first rafted in the late 1980's. With a gradient of 105 feet per mile, that is certainly understandable!
No permits are required on any part of the Payette River.