Difficulty II+(III)
Length 6 Miles
Flow Range 1200 - 15000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 3300 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 06/06/2019 4:56 pm

River Description

This is a great warm-up run to prepare for the Payette's 'Upper Main'. There are several class II sections, nice eddy-lines to practice on, and one class III 'Climax' to finish up the run. About 1.5 miles from the put-in you can pull over for tasty root-beer floats at Cooper's, a fun stop if you are not in a hurry. Look for the sign on river left. You will find lots of nice little sandy beaches to stretch your legs as well. You can pull out at Parnell Beach if you want to miss the Class III. The Climax Wave has become more popular as a 'park-n-play' in recent years.

WHEN TO RUN: The Lower Main is runnable most of the year. Be warned that this becomes a larger volume river in the spring (June/July) and can reach 15,000cfs. But most of the summer it starts at about 7,000cfs and works it's way down to about 2,000cfs by September. October flows dip to around 800 - 1200. The river is still runnable at this level, but it IS low and a very different river.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Boise take state hwy 55 north about 25 miles to the Beehive Bend river access area (Highway 55 mile 71.5). This is a fee parking area - $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. Restrooms and changing rooms available.

SHUTTLE: Leave a shuttle in the large parking area just after crossing the bridge north of Horseshoe Bend (Highway 55 mile 66.2), or about 1 mile further on at Parnell Beach (Highway 55 mile 67.2) if pulling out before the class III section. If you want to 'park-n- play' at the Climax Wave there is parking after you pull through a break in the guard-rail 0.6 miles past the bridge north of Horseshoe Bend at Highway 55 mile 66.6) between the jetboat ramp and Parnell beach. No facilities available at Parnell, Climax pullout or Jet Boat Ramp.

THE FLOAT: The float begins with a short deep section great for practicing rolls then shallows up for an easy class II riffle section. The river is wider here than the Upper Main. A short distance later the float passes Cooper's and then Cascade Raft and Kayak. Another small class II section follows and then the river splits around a large island. Best to go on the left side. As you meet up with the right channel at the end of the island, the current from the right channel is much swifter than that from the left channel, so watch the seam. From here you float under the Gardina bridge.
- The next feature is locally known as Toilet Bowl. This feature has two strong eddies on both sides of the main current. This is a great place to practice eddy turns and ferrying back and forth from one side to the other.
- Next is a narrow section called S-Turn (II) ( MAP) that has a wave-train along the left side.
- A short distance later is Parnell Beach (Diving Board). There is a large rock which serves as a diving platform. This is the last place to pull out if you want to miss the only class III on this section. There is no fee for parking at Parnell at this time.
- Next you will enter a fun section some call No Name (II) ( MAP), and then flatten out in preparation for the class III drop, Climax ( MAP). You will know Climax is just around the corner when you see the river gauge equipment on river left. The river begins to shallow up on the left, but a rocky shelf on river right pushes water to the left and sets up a large and long wave-train. The first two waves can be great for surfing. If you donÂt want to crash the wave-train, the run is river center.
- A short distance later is the boat ramp and pull-out for this section. One word of caution: Jetboats can be present in the area, so keep alert, especially on summer weekends and high water.

OPTIONAL PUT-IN/TAKE-OUTS: A great option for the put-in is to run up the road about 2 miles above Behive Bend to a short dirt loop that over looks AMF. A small trail runs down to the river from the south side of the loop. This is a fun put in since you can catch the large wave-train at the end of AMF. Optional take-outs are Toilet Bowl or Parnell Beach (Diving Board).

-The Payette South Fork (Canyon, Swirly Canyon and Staircase runs)
-Payette North Fork (Cabarton's class III and Smiths Ferry-Banks class V sections),
-Payette Middle Fork runs - Here and Here.
-Payette Upper Main.
-Also the Gutter for 'park-n-play'.

Rapid Descriptions

Cascade Raft and Kayak

Class - N/A Mile - -64.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Private access point at Cascade Raft and Kayak

Toilet Bowl

Class - II Mile - -62.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Some good eddies for working on turns and ferries and an alternate access poin.


Class - II Mile - -62

The river pushes from right to left setting up a nice little wavetrain.

Parnell Beach

Class - N/A Mile - -61.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

On river left look for a tall rock (popular jump-off rock for swimmers) shortly after S-Turn. This is a great takeout if you want to miss Climax.

No Name

Class - II Mile - -61.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

This is a fun class II! Nothing tricky, just enjoy some fun waves and eddy lines to play on that some refer to as Double Suck Eddy.


Class - III Mile - -60.6

The river again pushes from right to left setting up a very long wave train at normal flows. The first two waves can be large and flip new kayakers. However, they can make great play holes. The run here is typically center to left-center. River right runs over a shallower section of rock and while it may be easier, it can be more risky in the event of a flip. See photo.


Gage Descriptions

Low: 800 - 2,000 cfs
Med: 2,000 - 4,000 cfs
High: 4,000 cfs and up

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  
2019-07-04 n/a Fatality One Boat Trip 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.

Gary Wilson


Thomas O'Keefe


Todd Hoffman


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193945 07/20/06 Gary Wilson n/a
1206463 05/23/16 Thomas O'Keefe abstract added
1212742 06/06/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1209924 06/22/18 Thomas O'Keefe road mileage added
1206458 05/22/16 Thomas O'Keefe rapids mapped
1199668 03/20/11 Todd Hoffman Corrected section name.