NewsIdaho Backroads


Recent rainstorms provide a unique fall opportunity for kayakers

Posted at 3:01 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 17:01:40-04

BANKS, Idaho — The recent rain storms brought record-high flows to several Idaho rivers and streams, the precipitation was much needed following a summer of exceptional drought, but the moisture received was just a drop in the bucket and winter will still determine what the water levels will be like for next year.

But that doesn't mean people didn't take advantage of the surprise spikes and several kayakers including our own Steve Dent saw it as an opportunity they couldn't pass up.

"Yeah, it’s a great little present Mother Nature gave us this fall," said Kyle a local paddler and doctor.

So a 50-degree day with rain in the forecast didn't stop paddlers from gearing up for a run on the South Fork of the Payette which had its normal base flow around 600 cubic feet per second last week, but early this week the river reached as high around 1,500.

"I paddled last Friday and the water was clear as a bell, today it is chocolate milk and it is beautiful," said Dave Sivertsen who was in a pack raft and safely navigated through Staircase Rapid. "That was cool my heart was pounding."

Dave in his pack raft

To stay warm kayakers have access to several different pieces of gear including pogies that act like gloves to keep the hands warm while still allowing kayakers to grip the paddle, like other outdoor sports layering is key, but the piece of gear that has changed the game is the drysuit.

"A dry suit in today’s world is pretty clutch," said Kyle.

Kyle capsized his pack raft in Slalom Rapid he stayed warm because of the drysuit as the rest of us worked to get him and his equipment safely to shore.

"You always go for the person first, he was good floated through the rapid had his drysuit and was warm," said Kyle. "We got his boat, the paddle is always the hardest thing to find so when I saw the paddle I chucked it over, yeah this all went pretty well."

This scenario also showcases why kayakers travel in packs and it's not a very good idea to be by yourself on the river.

Drysuits are expensive pieces of equipment costing around $1,000, I have a dry top that works well but those don't offer my lower extremities any protection so it's important for me to stay in my boat so you won't find me paddling rivers that are really challenging in cold weather.

So this will likely be my last time paddling this year, but the trio I went with says they will continue to paddle throughout the winter.