NewsIdaho Back Roads


Memorial Day weekend kicks off rafting season on the Payette River system

Posted at 12:54 PM, May 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-30 20:26:26-04

BANKS, Idaho — Idaho is known as the whitewater state and less than an hour away from the Treasure Valley people can find adventure on the water.

The Payette River system delivers world-class rafting and it gives adventurers and families the choice of several different runs.

The Main Payette features class II and III rapids and so does the full-day Cabarton stretch, both of those can be enjoyed by children.

For those looking for a run with more adrenaline, the South Fork of the Payette River delivers with two class IV runs.

"We have a little bit of everything, we have class II or III whitewater best for families best for relaxing and having a fun splashy time on the river," said Kenneth Long of Cascade Raft and Kayak. "We also have our class IV stretch which is a lot more intense, it’s a lot more exciting."

Guides at Cascade Raft and Kayak prepare for summer well before the season starts, because safety has to be a priority on the river.

“All of the guides go through river rescue training, they do tons of laps on the stretch that they will run so that they know it really well," said Long. "Our class IV guides have a minimum experience of five years."

Bear Valley River Company also offers the same runs, we weren't able to chat with their owner or their senior guides because they were busy cutting out a tree to make the South Fork of the Payette Canyon section safer.

We have caught up with Bear Valley for their swift water training a couple of years ago as they also prepare for rafting season, going with a commercial guide provides people with the safest way to enjoy the river.

Since 2014 there have been 24 deaths on Idaho Rivers according to American Whitewater, but only one of those happened on a commercial trip and it didn't happen on the Payette River system.

Bear Valley also wants the public to know all their guides have been vaccinated and Cascade Raft and Kayak looks forward to loosening up the COVID-19 restrictions they had in place a year ago.

"We have found a lot of backlogged enthusiasm for rafting," said Long. "Our phone is ringing, people are ready to get outside and enjoy Idaho summer."

Both raft companies will supply the gear to keep people safe and warm, they also have photographers that can capture that special family memory.

Other raft companies in the area include the Payette River Company, which is based out of Lowman and specializes in the canyon section of the South Fork.

Idaho Whitewater Unlimited is located in Garden Valley, they feature the four main runs plus a mellower section called Swirley Canyon.