Thursday, June 9, 2011

Explore the Middle Fork Payette River area for floating, hiking and camping

The Middle Fork Payette River, oil painting by Venture Coy

Trip map for Tie Creek float on the Middle Fork.

Map for One Spoon Trail #043 (click to enlarge).

Steve along the One Spoon Trail. We hiked it during deer season ... hence, the blaze orange vest.

Hi all,

The rivers are cranking with high water in most corners of Idaho, a lot of campgrounds are snowed in, and many mountain hiking destinations are covered with snow as well. But in the Middle Fork of the Payette River area, near Crouch and Garden Valley, about an hour north of Boise, you can find an easy-going paddling trip, and go hiking and camping in areas that are clear of snow. It'd be a good bet for this weekend.

Paddling the Middle Fork of the Payette River is a fun trip for those folks who are looking for a lower-key experience in canoes, inflatable kayaks or smaller rafts. It's an 8-mile reach that starts at Tie Creek Campground, about nine miles north of Crouch, and flows by a number of funky cabins on the river bank, with forested mountains in the distance. It takes about 2-3 hours to do the float. Take your time and enjoy the trip.

There are no dangerous rapids on the Tie Creek section of the Middle Fork ... but the current is swift, the river is narrow and the eddy lines are pretty strong. So be sure to dress warm and wear protective river gear, including life jackets, in case you tip over. If you know how to navigate your boat and have a good brace with your paddle, you should be fine.

"We've had a lot of people come into the store who floated that section, and nobody said they had any trouble," said Stan Colby, co-owner of Idaho River Sports. Be sure to visit IRS if you need to rent a canoe, IK or raft for the float trip.

Plant a shuttle vehicle in Crouch at the take-out before you go, or have friends pick you up. There is a detailed description and map about this day trip in my guidebook, Paddling the Payette, a guide to 24 day trips on the Payette River. See the trip map above.

A cool off-beat hike to explore very close by is the One Spoon Trail in the Boise National Forest. I discovered this trail as part of my research for the Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. I named it "One Spoon Steepness," because it's a steep climb on an open ridge cloaked with old-growth ponderosa pine trees.

It's 5.8 miles up and back, but don't let the mileage deceive you. It's a 2,600-foot vertical climb to reach the top of the ridge overlooking the Middle Fork of the Payette River, and that's the bonus of doing the hike. Great views in all directions, and a great workout in a short amount of time. I did the hike in less than three hours up and back with friend Mark Anderson. Pack a lunch for the summit.

The One Spoon Trail (#043) is about a mile north of Tie Creek Campground, on the left side of the canyon as you're traveling north. Watch for Forest Road 698L3. Go slow when you're driving on the Middle Fork Road because the turn is easy to miss.

If you've got the time, you might as well bring your camping gear and hang out in the Middle Fork area. There are numerous car-camping spots along the Middle Fork ... some are developed campgrounds with water and fire pits, etc., and some are less developed. You also could stay at a bed & breakfast or the Garden Valley Hotel. See the Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce web site for more information on lodging.

The other thing to consider when you're in Crouch is to visit the Longhorn Restaurant & Saloon. I love their burgers. The Longhorn has 16 different beers on tap. You also could play a round of scenic golf at the Terrace Lakes Resort, or eat dinner at Terrace Lakes. The food is good and prices are reasonable. Other activities in the area include numerous hot springs, both primitive and developed.

Have fun!
- SS

Steve shares his weekly outdoor tips with Ken and Tim on 94.9 FM The River each Friday morning at approximately 7:10 a.m. If you miss the program, you can hear the segments on River Detailed descriptions and color maps of Steve's hikes, bike rides and paddling trips are available for 99 cents each at, plus the full ebooks and hard-copy guidebooks.