Hazards to watch out for on rivers in Idaho

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jul 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-15 15:11:44-04

BOISE — This summer has already proven deadly on Idaho's most popular rivers for recreating, with deaths reported on the Boise, Payette and Snake Rivers.

One recent drowning on the Payette River system involved a 27-year-old man who died after his raft went through Big Falls on the South Fork of the Payette Canyon section.

"The population in Boise is going up, kayaking popularity is getting bigger, and I think people underestimate the river," said Kyle Little of Idaho River Sports.

Every river in Idaho has hazards; some are more dangerous than others, but all should be taken seriously.

The biggest hazard on the South Fork Canyon section is Big Falls, a class VI rapid that is a mandatory portage--meaning paddlers should get out of their boat and walk around the rapid.

The falls are really dangerous because they have ledge holes where the water flows over the edge then recirculates back up stream, causing a hydraulic that will flip boats or hold boats and people in place if they end up in the water.

That kind of hazard isn't just on big whitewater stretches; low head dams create the same hydraulic effect and there is one in Ann Morrison Park downstream of the takeout where people float the Boise River.

The most dangerous hazards on the Boise River and its different forks are strainers. Floaters want to avoid this type of hazard at all costs and they include logs and branches that can snag floaters.

This type of hazard is really dangerous because the water will continue to push through the strainer, but often times a person will get stuck and then they will have to try and fight the current, which continues to push as a person tries to break free.

It's also important to have proper safety gear that includes a life jacket, helmet and good footwear that can be bought or rented at Idaho River Sports, but that doesn't guarantee a safe trip down the river. And that's why the best bet, especially on the Payette River system, is to go with a professional guide.

"They understand the river. They know safety and how to perform a rescue," said Little. "So it is important for people in the community to research the river and understand the hazards and the dangers involved."