Thursday, July 6, 2017

OMG it's hot!!! My Top 10 picks for cool, refreshing paddling adventures in SW Idaho

SUP'ing below Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade (photo by Gary Ertter)
It's not everyday you can paddle underneath 212-foot Shoshone Falls!
(photo courtesy VisitIdaho) 

Hi all,

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July holiday, and you're finding ways to beat the heat! It seemed like summer was just barely coming into the picture, and then suddenly it's hitting triple digits in the Treasure Valley. 

Time to cool off!!!! With the Boise River still closed, and Quinn's Pond overwhelmed with hundreds of people who want to SUP, swim, kayak or whatever, you might be wondering about some alternative places to go for a paddling adventure. 

Join the nation's fastest-growing water sport - Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) - or grab your kayak, inflatable kayak, pack raft or canoe and head for these first-rate paddling destinations ... My list comes from my guide, Paddling the Payette - A Guide to 24 paddling trips in the Payette River Basin, and other sources ...  I have laminated Payette River maps available online for each paddling trip on my web site if you need one. They cost $2.95 each.   

My Top 10 picks: 

1. Paddle the Mid-Snake to Shoshone Falls -- The trip starts from Centennial Park in Twin Falls and goes upriver to a portage around Pillar Falls and then to Shoshone Falls. Allow 5-6 hours for the journey. Many of you went down to see Shoshone Falls flowing in all of its glory this spring. It's one of the most unique paddling trips in Idaho to paddle under the Perrine Bridge, where you might see base jumpers launching into the canyon, and paddle upstream on the Snake to a point just below Shoshone Falls. There is very little river flow and current in this reach in mid-summer, allowing you to travel upstream. See my blog post for Southern Idaho tourism for more information.  

2. Visit Thousand Springs State Park and paddle around Ritter Island - This is another sweet destination along the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway, east of Hagerman. Put your craft in below Minnie Miller Springs, paddle out to the Snake River, cruise around Ritter Island, and then cut back into the pure spring channel to do it again, clockwise. The pure spring water in Thousand Springs is gin-clear, something to behold. And it's in the mid-50s ... refreshing! See my blog post for Southern Idaho Tourism for details.

3. Main Payette River - Beehive Bend to Horseshoe Bend - This is the stretch where Cascade Raft takes their beginning kayakers to learn about river dynamics. It's mostly a flatwater run, with current, and one small rapids. Park at Beehive Bend, and shuttle a vehicle to the dirt pullout next to ID 55 on the north side of Horseshoe Bend. 5-mile trip. Be sure to wear a life jacket! 

4. Payette River - Montour section - This is a 3.5-mile flatwater water reach that is really wide and braided. You can easily do a bike shuttle for this one (leave your bike at the top of Black Canyon Reservoir, the takeout). The put-in is next to the Montour Wildlife Management Area, managed by Idaho Fish and Game. Take the highway west of Horseshoe Bend and follow signs to the Montour WMA. The put-in is next to the Payette River bridge. 

SUP'ing on Lake Cascade 
5. Middle Fork Payette River - Tie Creek section - This is a fun trip, north of Crouch. Starting from Tie Creek Campground, it's about 9 miles of floating back to Crouch (leave a shuttle rig there). The water is still running at about 500 cfs, so that's a decent flow. It will likely be too low to float in a few weeks. The float is an interesting tour of the cabins and people along the Middle Fork. Allow a couple of hours for the trip. 

6. Cascade to Cabarton on the North Fork Payette River - This is a favorite float trip for canoeists who would rather not run any significant rapids. It's table-top slow-moving flatwater with current for 9 miles. The BOR has the river roped back to only 900 cfs as of today, but I'm sure it'll go back up any day ... 1,500 to 2,000 cfs is typical for summer time flows, and Lake Cascade is plum full of water! Put in your craft next to the ID 55 bridge coming into Cascade from the south. Shuttle a vehicle to the Cabarton Bridge boat launch site. Allow several hours for that trip. The river meanders through the valley, with great views of West Mountain, open space and cattle pastures. 

7. Kelly's Whitewater Park - Kelly's is a great place for more accomplished SUP'ers and folks who want to become proficient in SUP'ing whitewater rapids and rivers. Kelly's offers whitewater SUP classes, too. If you're on a kayak, no big deal! You can float the 2 mile stretch from one end of town to the other in Cascade, or just paddle around the different rapid features and play waves at Kelly's. 

8. Upper arms of Lake Cascade - The main reservoir is huge and can get very choppy in the wind. But the upper arms of the lake are great for kayaking, canoeing and SUP'ing. You can go from Smiley Bridge down to Tamarack Falls on the North Fork arm, or paddle from Tamarack Falls over to Tamarack or Gold Fork on the upper reservoir. The Boulder Creek arm is a sweet place to go as well or start from the Donnelly beach on Dawn Drive. 

North Fork Meanders 
9. McCall to Hartsell Bridge - North Fork Payette River - This is a sweet float that hardly anyone ever does, but it is getting more popular over time. Put-in at Sheep Bridge in McCall across from the Smokejumper's Base and float down to the Hat Ranch on a slow, meandering river that's refreshingly cold and clear. It's about 8 miles total. The river winds around in the meadows south of McCall, so allow for plenty of time to do the float. Leave a vehicle at Hartsell Bridge at the takeout. 

10. North Fork Meanders - North Beach, McCall - This is a super-cool location and a favorite with McCall locals. The put-in is at North Beach, on Warren Wagon Road north of McCall. And you can go out and back in the Meanders for several miles in a beautiful forested setting. There are some resident moose, so please give them plenty of space if you see them. Rentals are available at North Beach. 

If you need to rent SUPs or kayaks, the following businesses can take care of you: 
The Idaho Whitewater Association will host "Safety Saturday" on July 15th in Banks on the Main Payette River. This is a free safety clinic where you can learn or hone your whitewater rescue skills. 

Stay cool out there Amigos!
- SS 

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