BOISE, Idaho — The water levels have dropped on Idaho rivers as we look forward to fall and winter, but local kayakers and rafters achieved some impressive milestones throughout the summer this year.
Every June the best kayakers in the world come to our backyard for the North Fork Championship, but this year the fastest blades in the water was Idaho's own Hayden Voorhees.
The Voorhees family took over running this extreme kayaking event and Hayden earned the crown of the king of the North Fork dethroning Dane Jackson who had won the previous two races.
"It’s the first time either of us have won this event," said Hayden who was referring to his brother Alec who has competed in all ten North Fork races. "This has been our goal since we started kayaking, since this event started we wanted to win this championship and I finally did it."
We also got to witness a hard charging paddle raft team made up of Treasure Valley firefighters, rafts aren't commonly seen on the North Fork of the Payette River, but this crew finished off a complete descent when they styled Nutcracker in August, it took them four years to complete this project.
"Man, I’m proud of these guys they are like brothers to me," said John Metz, the guide who has more than 30 years of experience on our local rivers. "They paddled their butts off and we were able to get through, it’s something that I’ll never forget.”
Accomplishments on the river are not just for the elite, we joined Team River Runner who makes it their mission to get veterans out on the water.
We joined this non-profit for a trip down the Main Payette and the Cabarton stretch and that's where we saw Steven, an Army veteran paralyzed from the waist down, Steven navigated Howard's Plunge to finish off his first descent of the Cabarton.
It didn't look like Idaho would have a high water season, but April snow and rain in May and June changed the outlook, on Memorial Day Weekend we made it to the wild and scenic Lochsa River for an annual festival.
But this year the water was so high that weekend that rafters had a difficult time navigating Lochsa Falls, it dished out a lot of carnage but some rafters were able to make it through and that usually came with a reaction of surprise.
For me personally, I had a goal of making it down Big Falls on the South Fork of the Payette Canyon stretch, this is a violent rapid with four distinct drops that we all portage during the summer without a thought of running it, only professional kayakers tackle Big Falls during the summer.
But in September, when the water levels drop it becomes less dangerous and lines start to emerge, it's still a solid class five and I had to be roped out of the rapid three years ago when swam between the third and fourth drop.
I tried again a week ago and ended up flipping in the same spot, this time I was able to roll up and finish the rapid in my boat, then I returned on Tuesday and finally after years of preparation was able to run a clean line through the falls.
The rivers provided this year, but the river can also take and there were several deaths on Idaho rivers, it's important to stay within your skill level, practice proper safety techniques and wear a life jacket, like most years a majority of deaths happened to people not wearing a life jacket.