The Middle Fork… of the Payette?

Everybody has heard of the Payette River, and many of you are probably familiar with various sections of the Payette, but not so many people are familiar specifically with the Middle Fork of the Payette River.

To get to the Middle Fork, drive towards beautiful Garden Valley, Idaho.   You’ll see signs for the town of Crouch, home of the Dirty Shame Saloon and the parties of the North Fork Championship.   Driving through town and to the north, you’re along the lower stretches of the Middle Fork, but it’s worth finding out what lies upstream.

The Middle Fork is an often neglected fork of the river, but it is of equal quality as other stretches or sections of the Payette.  In the lower twenty miles, there is literally everything from Class I – V+.   There are flatwater sections that are great in a canoe or SUP.   There is an easy class 2/3 stretch.   Next you’ll pass “the steeps,” an impressive class 5/5+ section that has only been run by very few, very expert paddlers.

But upstream of this is an awesome stretch that I’d rate generally as class 4.   It’s worth adding a disclaimer that this run is surely Class V at higher flows.  The run is extremely vulnerable to the dangers of wood, so scouting early, often, and thoroughly is highly recommended.   Most years there are portages around strainers.   The last drop can be pretty stout and a class above, even at medium flows.

I’ve had the opportunity to spend two days on this stretch this spring and I love it.   The whitewater is very good.  The drive in is beautiful and it’s always fun to lay eyes on “the steeps.”   And the run ends with a riverside hot springs and campsite.   How can you beat that?

It’s amazing to me that more people don’t prioritize getting in to run the Middle Fork of the Payette.   Next time you’re in the Payette River area in the spring or early summer, do yourself a favor and check it out.   Don’t make the mistake of overlooking it.

Hope everybody is having a great spring.

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