Below average snowpack will mean no high water season for kayakers and rafters

Posted at 12:43 PM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 18:13:13-04

BANKS, Idaho — The warm weather this past week melted snow, causing river levels in Idaho to rise. On any given day you can see kayakers and rafters taking on the rivers in the Payette River system.

But at the end of March the snow water equivalent for the Payette River Basin sits at 67% of normal, the Boise River Basin is at 64% while the Salmon River basin sits at 78%.

Those numbers have dropped this past week by about 10% after that warm stretch, but it has also given paddlers a chance to get on the river earlier than normal. But the whitewater won't last this year.

The Salmon River, the river of no return, is flowing at 10,700 cubic feet per second. The average for this time of year is 7,000 cfs and the record is 18,900, which happened the year after Snowmaggedon in 2017.

But unlike 2017, this year doesn't have the snowpack to sustain ideal water levels throughout the summer. The Jarbrige River has already dropped out and the Owyhee is likely to follow soon.

The best chance for big water will be in the Clearwater Basin which currently sits at 85%.

The South Fork of the Payette gives boaters an excellent intermediate playground as flows normally hold through Labor Day. But last year the river started dropping out in August, which will likely happen again. The Main Payette is a great place for rafting and beginners to hone their skills.

Last year the Voorhees brothers told us it was the only year where the famed North Fork of the Payette didn't rise on its own until the irrigation season started and it looks like that will happen again as the water got turned on the week of the North Fork Championship, that is scheduled to start on June 16.

But kayaking is a lot like skiing and snowboarding, when the river is in boaters will be out there, and even when the water drops kayakers will still get on the water as there's a whole group that continues paddling even through the winter.

But now is the time for experienced boaters because of how cold the water is and proper gear should be worn to stay warm and stay safe.

Gear can be expensive, but there is a swap coming up on April 23 at Maravia / Cascade Raft Gear, where people can sell and buy used gear in an event put on by the Idaho Whitewater Association.