Difficulty II-III
Length 8 Miles
Gauge Payette; South Fork below Deadwood Confluence
Flow Range 330 - 6000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 23 minutes ago 1379 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/10/2020 7:32 pm

River Description

This is a beautiful section of the South Fork Payette in a scenic gorge that usually has less traffic than the "Main". The section is named for its strong eddies and wave dynamics but the whitewater is no more than class II-III.

This section can be run during most of the spring/summer/fall. Levels can be on the high side during spring run-off (May/June) and lower as September drags on. After the Deadwood shuts off (in 2015 it was August 31), flows can be in the 345 range, which results in some scrapey sections, but the run still has some fun rapids, and very clear water.

About a mile below the Danskin put-in the river makes a sharp right-hand turn into the canyon. Great class II and III whitewater in a scenic gorge continues for about two miles.

As you exit the canyon the remains of the Grimes Dam provides a nice play wave known as UPW (Ultimate Play Wave). The rapid has changed over time and is not as epic as it once was.

After 5.6 miles, the whitewater tapers off and you will reach Hot Springs which serves as an alternate take-out or a put-in if you are looking for a good SUP run. A Forest Service Campground is also located here. It's another 2.5 miles down to the Alder Creek Road. You can also continue on down through the next 4 miles of the Garden Valley, a good flatwater run.

Logistics: From Boise drive north on State Highway 55 about 32 miles to Banks and then turn right up the Banks-Lowman Road (Highway 17) which heads upstream along the South Fork Payette. This road parallels the river along the right bank but out of site from the river and serves as the shuttle route. 

The take-out is at Highway 17 mile 11.7 (just west of the airstrip) where the Alder Creek Road heads 0.2 south from the highway to the Alder Creek Bridge across the river. The access is the downstream river left side of the bridge.

An intermediate access point is available at Hot Springs at Highway 17 mile 13.9. You can take-out here and everyone can enjoy a nice soak while shuttle drivers get the cars from the put-in. It's a hike up the hill from the river which works better for kayaks than rafts.

Grimes Dam site is not an access but it is a historical site at the pull out at Highway 17 mile 17.1. This old hydropower dam failed in 1943 and there is an interpretive site along the highway.

The put-in is at Danskin Station at Highway 17 mile 19.5. Access is available through a steep set of stairs down to the river and a raft slide. The parking area is a feet site at $3.00/day or $20.00 season pass for the Payette system. Season passes can be purchased at the USDA Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management Interagency Visitor Center in Boise, Boise National Forest District Offices (Emmett, Lowman, and Garden Valley), Alpenglow Sports (Bogus Basin Rd.), Ponderosa Sports (between Horseshoe Bend and Gardina), Banks Cafe and Store; Garden Valley Store, Boise Army Navy Store, Cascade Outfitters, Cascade Raft Company (about 1.5 miles south of Beehive Bend), Idaho River Sports, and REI. Day passes can be purchased at the river access sites.

Rapid Descriptions

Swirly Canyon

Class - III Mile - -90.6

Where the river takes a hard bend to the right and then back left, Swirly Canyon begins. This tight gorge is about half a mile in length. This section has lots of boils and strong eddy lines that can easily flip those without a strong brace.

UPW (Ultimate Play Wave)

Class - N/A Mile - -89.9

The UPW forms at certain flows at the Grimes Pass Dam site.

Hot Spring

Class - N/A Mile - -86.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The hot spring comes up quick and is easily missed. You can stop for a quick soak. Kayakers can use this as a take-out but it would be a long haul up the trail for rafts.


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7 years ago

Ran Swirly's 4/27/13 and there was a sign on the put in ramp warning of a tree across the river. There was indeed a tree fully across the river in one of the narrowest sections of the Canyon but it was mostly submerged at 800cfs from the gauge at the SF Payette/Deadwood confluence. It looks challenging to cut out as its submerged but we were able to eddy out above it and float our 14' oar rig though no problem so there may be no need to cut it out either...

Gage Descriptions

Low: 600-1500 cfs

Med: 1500-3000 cfs

High: >3000 cfs

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2012-06-17 n/a Fatality Cold Water Read More



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Idaho Proposes Registration Fee for Non-Motorized Boats

John Gangemi

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Idaho is proposing a $13 registration fee for non-motorized boats greater than 7 feet in length. Under this registration fee proposal all kayaks and rafts on Idaho waters would be required to have a registration sticker fixed to the bow of each boat greater than 7 feet in length. Stickers would not be transferable between boats. Out of state boaters would be required to comply as well.

article main photo

Can You Taste Victory?

American Whitewater

FERC revokes Preliminary Permit for
hydropower project on Boundary Creek in
Northern Idaho.

Bill Hunt


Gary Wilson


Thomas O'Keefe


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1212740 06/06/19 Bill Hunt updated image position
1213414 07/27/19 Bill Hunt updated image position
1193910 07/15/06 Gary Wilson n/a
1209972 07/03/18 Bill Hunt minor edit
1207763 06/22/17 Bill Hunt Mentioned there is a bad log in this run currently.
1205635 12/15/15 Thomas O'Keefe
1205633 12/15/15 Thomas O'Keefe photos added, copy edits
1198092 08/23/10 Matt Muir added ranges
1205255 09/02/15 Bill Hunt
1215518 07/10/20 Bill Hunt updated image position
1215519 07/10/20 Thomas O'Keefe updated description
1215520 07/10/20 Thomas O'Keefe updated description
1215521 07/10/20 Thomas O'Keefe updated description