The Payette River is just an hour's drive from Boise, but it still manages to leave civilization far behind. Visitors float a clean mountain river with forested banks and hawks or osprey flying overhead, and different groups enjoy different stretches of the river.
The BLM manages six sections of the Payette River: Banks Access, Beehive Bend, Chief Parrish, Confluence, Deer Creek and the South Fork.
The Main Payette is the proving grounds for any and every water craft known. The put-in at Banks, ideally situated at the confluence of the North and South forks of the Payette, is the hub of river running in the area. Many river runners can be seen organizing each weekend of the summer (Eastern boaters will feel at home!) This Class III stretch is ideal for novices and intermediates. The road runs along the run for easy bail-outs. The drops are generally easy to negotiate, straightforward and the surfing can be excellent. Mike's Hole, about 4 miles down, has gobbled up its share of neophyte guppies. AMP is near the take-out and provides an excellent finale. The beaches and generally warm water make this run a boater's holiday. Commercial outfitters are available.
The South Fork of the Payette is an advanced whitewater run for one, two, or three days of excitement, featuring a run through a canyon with a portage at Big Falls. Three-day trips start high in Idaho's Sawtooth mountains, above Lowman. After the Deadwood River adds its flow, the river begins to drop about 40 feet per mile with continuous steep rapids. This Canyon stretch is punctuated at its deepest point by a 40-foot waterfall. River runners portage around this spectacular sight then continue on through a narrow gorge filled with natural hot springs. The lower part includes the memorable Staircase rapid.