BANKS, Idaho — The Payette River provides a rafting paradise right in our own backyard as people can choose their own level of adventure on several different runs by multiple different raft companies.
Banks, Idaho is the center of the whitewater community in this area of Idaho and Cascade Raft and Kayak, Bear Valley River Company, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited and Payette River Company will all take people down the river, I have never heard any bad things about any of these companies.
"I mean the Payette is so unique in that it has the variety of everything," said Kenneth Long of Cascade. "The class III on the Cabarton and the Main Payette are great for first timers, great for families and great for groups that want to come out to enjoy the river, but don’t want too intense of whitewater."
People can book a half day on the Main and a full day on the Cabarton, but the raft companies will also take people down the South Fork of the Payette River on class IV whitewater on the Staircase section and the Canyon stretch that features a portage around Big Falls.
"So you get a little bit of hiking in, a little bit of swimming, a little bit of rafting and you can do some cliff jumping," said Sarah Crow of Bear Valley. "It is definitely a lot of fun getting up on the class IV, it's a big difference from the Main and Cabarton it is definitely a step up and it is a total blast."
Guides prepare all spring to take people down the river by running the river over and over so they know every rapid at every water level.
But that is just the start of their training as guides are required to be swift water rescue certified, Bear Valley had the Nampa Fire Department show up with dummies so they could perform first aid training and they practice techniques like flipping rafts, throwing ropes and other scenarios.
"We just spend the last week training getting all of our seasoned guides back in shape and kicking the newbies butt and getting them into gear," said Crow. "To be a guide you do have to have your swift water rescue in order to get your license so we offer that for those that need to renew or need to get theirs."
The safest way to enjoy the river is by going with a professional guide especially right now as the river is high running swift and cold, only experienced river runners should be out on the water right now.
But thanks to all the rain and snow this spring raft guides know they will have a long summer of taking people down the river.
"We have six to eight people per raft so you can connect very closely with the people in your raft," said Long. "It’s a nice way to get a whole group out have an activity cool off take some time swimming enjoy some of those rapids and when you get done hang out on the deck have a beer and enjoy watching the river float by."
It's a perfect activity for a wedding party, family reunions and birthday parties as rafting gets friends and families out on the water working together in a team environment.