Payette, N. Fork - 4. Cabarton Bridge to Smiths Ferry

Payette, N. Fork, Idaho, US


4. Cabarton Bridge to Smiths Ferry (The Cabarton Run)

Usual Difficulty II-III (for normal flows)
Length 9.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 20 fpm

Howard's Plunge

Howard's Plunge
Photo of Joel McCune by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/30/16 @ 1540 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Payette; North Fork at Cascade (virtual)
virtual-6519 700 - 3000 cfs II-III 01h07m ~ 225 cfs (too low)
No. Payette At Cascade
dream-150 700 - 3000 cfs II-III 13h35m 200 cfs (too low)

River Description

This run is a great day-trip that starts at the Cabarton Bridge and ends at Smith Ferry. During summer weekends when flows are optimal, the put-in is a hive of activity and things can get a bit chaotic as most groups try to launch from mid morning to noon. This is a great family-friendly trip with some fun whitewater and great places to stop for lunch. Several local outfitters run this stretch commercially.

The runs starts off as an easy float. Early in the trip the river narrows and flows through a fun rapid, Trestle Rapids, that starts off as class II and builds to class III as you pass under the railroad trestle.

Once you reach the bottom of Trestle Rapids, you will be in another calm stretch for a couple miles and the beaches along this section make popular lunch stops. The action begins to build again as you come to Wet Spot. The next three miles feature some great whitewater as the gradient increases.

As you pass under the Rainbow Bridge, you are in the final stretch with the fun flume ride down Francois and the finale at Howard's Plunge, a great class III+ drop that is a real thrill and ends in a calm recovery pool that extends for over a mile.

This run is a top of the reservoir release that starts late summer as the south fork flows drop off. The water is warm, and on a hot summer day the flat water float after Howard's Plunge is a great place to jump out of the boat and float alongside the boats.


The put-in is at the Cabarton Bridge just downstream of Cascade Reservoir (8 miles south of the town of Cascade). At Highway 55 mile 106.9 turn west on Cabarton Road and follow it 1.7 miles to the bridge. The access is on the downstream river left side of the bridge and parking is limited so groups generally try to get most of their vehicles down at the take-out. A ramp for launching rafts is available but it can get congested on weekends with trailers backing into the launch area and outfitter buses unloading their guests. Be prepared to move efficiently when you arrive (this is definitely not the place to rig your boat on the ramp or sit there fine tuning adjustments on your oar locks). If you have a raft get it down the ramp and tied off out of the way and if you are kayaking don't leave your boats scattered across the unloading zone. Move your rig out of the way as soon as you can. The site has a $5 launch fee.

The takeout is behind the Cougar Mountain Lodge at Smith's Ferry. At Highway 55 mile 97.4 turn east on Smiths Ferry Drive and head 0.1 mile to the field on the downstream river right side of the bridge where ample parking is available for a $5 fee.
Boise & Payette River Basin Teacups

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-06-28 22:06:03


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-21.7Randy's RockII+Photo
-19.8Howard's PlungeIII+Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Trestle (Class III, Mile -26.0)

Running the lower half of Trestle

Running the lower half of Trestle
Photo of Michelle Lynn by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/30/16 @ 1540 cfs

The first and longest rapid on the run.

Wetspot (Class III, Mile -22.7)


Photo of Mike Sklavos by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/30/16 @ 1540 cfs

Randy's Rock (Class II+, Mile -21.7)

Randy's Rock

Randy's Rock
Photo of Mike Sklavos by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/30/16 @ 1540 cfs

99 (Class II+, Mile -20.8)


Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/30/16 @ 1540 cfs

Francois (Class III, Mile -20.2)

Kayaking Francois

Kayaking Francois
Photo of Jon McAnulty by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/30/16 @ 1540 cfs

Howard's Plunge (Class III+, Mile -19.8)

Howard's Plunge

Howard's Plunge
Photo of Heather McAnulty by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/30/16 @ 1540 cfs

The big drop and the finale to the run. You can scout the drop before the run at Highway 55 mile 98.4.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 25 2012 (2339 days ago)
x (1)
Great river for the whitewater intermediate. Action gets more progressive near the end of the run.
Run is mostly has pool drop rapids with Trestle Rapid being the exception. The last 3 rapids are a
hoot!! The run ends into a small lake. Water is generally warmer than most and exceptionally warm
in late summer because the river is fed from top waters from the dam at Cascade.You have to poop in
a container so you dont ruin camp sites.And not get stuck in the room of doom after howards plunge.
Other comments: at least a 1-2 long flat stretch in the middle of the run. Very scenic run. A lot
of bald eagles abound.

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