South Fork of the Payette River - White Water Paddling

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The South Fork of the Payette River is a fast 5-mile stretch of the Payette which offers a perfect run for either a quick after work session or a long day of thrilling whitewater adventure, with options to extend above or below the put in.

Written by

Teresa Bruffey


5.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

33.9 miles


4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

2 hours

2 hours - 1/2 day



June - September

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




Originating in the Sawtooth and Salmon River Mountains, the water of the South Fork of the Payette travels 163 miles to the head of the river. A Class III-IV river, the South Fork is most often a single-day run, or for the motivated and skilled, an after-work run. Notable rapids include Staircase, Slalom and Bronco Billy, and this stretch offers few sections of flat water making it a lively, adrenaline rush. 

What Makes It Great

From the Deer Creek put in, this 5-mile stretch of fairly straightforward water includes fun wave trains, some waves to surf, the long and technical Staircase rapid, and even a tall rock/small cliff in a flat water section perfect for climbing and jumping off of into the deep swimming hole during the hottest summer days. 
The canyon itself is beautiful with some wide-open meadows (with beautiful homes that have envious backyards right up to the river), tall granite cliffs and high rolling ridges. The South Fork parallels the Banks-Lowman Road, and it's not uncommon to have spectators watching from the pullouts along the highway. While being so close to the road is a bit of a bummer in terms of scenery, it does provide incredibly easy access to the river. 

Who is Going to Love It

Like most of Idaho’s whitewater, you need to have some skills and experience before running this stretch. Either go with a commercial group or experienced friends if you’re still learning. 
You can add another 6 miles of Class I – II by putting in at Alder Creek, or make a long and thrilling day of it by starting at Deadwood Campground for the 30-mile Canyon Run. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The take out is at Banks, where the South Fork meets the Main Fork at the wide beach just past the confluence, or extend your run down the Class III Main to the takeout at Beehive. 

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South Fork of the Payette River

44.092691, -116.03561

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