This section of the North Fork of the Payette is the 16 miles above Banks and is considered big-water Class V. The entire run is parallel to Highway 55. It is usually refered to in three segments: the Top 5, Middle 5, and Lower 5. The Lower 5 is the most frequently paddled. The Lower 5 rapids are more straightforward than those upstream and the run makes a great afterwork Class-V fix or those looking for a warmup to the upper stretches. From top to bottom the river drops 1700 feet.Classic AW Journal article on the North Fork, circa 1991.
Parts of the Bottom 5 were first paddled in 1975.
The distances in the rapid summary are approximations. If you have more detailed info, leave it in the comments section or please email the regional streamkeeper.
The standard put-in for the top of the run is Highway 55 mile 94.6.
Jacob's Ladder can be viewed from the pullout at Highway 55 mile 86.4.
The put-in for the Lower Five is the pullout at Highway 55 mile 83.8.
The take-out in Banks is at Highway 55 mile 78.8 on river right.
Visible from Highway 55 mile 93.5.
Visible from Highway 55 mile 93.0.
Visible from Highway 55 mile 92.0.
Visible from pullouts along Highway 55 between Big Eddy Campground (mile 89.9) and mile 90.4.
Access at the bottom of S-Turn Rapid located at Highway 55 mile 89.9. This is a good place to camp for running laps on S-Turn Rapid.
Foot Bridge Access at Highway 55 mile 89.2 and a put-in for the Middle Five.
The signature rapid on the North Fork Payette at the site of the North Fork Championship. The rapid is visible from the pullout at Highway 55 mile 86.4.
With 18 holes and more, the Golf Course begins just downstream of Jacob's Ladder and across from Swinging Bridge Campground at Highway 55 mile 86.3.
This is the access below Jacob's Ladder and the Golf Course that allows you to paddle the Lower 7 that adds Screaming Left and Jaws to the Lower 5. The access is from the large pull-out at Highway 55 mile 85.3.
Where the river takes a hard bend to the left away from the road at Highway 55 mile 85.0.
The sequence of rapids that make up Jaws is difficult to scout and not right along the road but near Highway 55 mile 84.5.
Hounds Tooth begins with a couple of big holes and then a move around the tooth followed by a long run out of fun and continuous class IV+ whitewater. This is also the put-in and start of the run known as the Lower Five. The access to this rapid and the Lower Five put-in is at Highway 55 mile 83.8.
After passing under Highway 55 the river bends to the left and enters Otters run which is a series of waves and holes. The preferred line is generally down the left side. You can take-out above or below this rapid. At Highway 55 mile 81.8 an access on river right above the rapid is also used as a dispersed camping site. At Highway 55 mile 81.1 near the railroad bridge you can drive down to an access below the rapid.
Juicer has some big waves and holes and is generally run down the right but beware of the hole at the top right. The rapid is visible from Highway 55 mile 80.6.
The last big rapid with some big holes and waves followed by class IV runout that continues down to the bridge in Banks. The preferred line is generally down the right. The rapid is visible from Highway 55 mile 80.6.
At normal summer flows, I feel Juicer is not a IV+, but rather a reasonable V. It is harder an more dangerous than Crunch--as stated by the last commenter, many people underestimate Juicer. I've seen paddlers pin, swim, and or get hurt in Juicer, in various orders. Don't let the rating here fool you if you're a first timer on the NF. If you want to rate Juicer IV+ go for it, but call Disneyland, S-turn, Crunch and others the same.
If you're a first timer up top, be careful. It's a definite step up from the bottom.
Otherwise the NF is pretty much the best action within a thousand miles Mid-July through the end of August. Come from far away and enjoy, but use a good spray skirt and don't flip over.
It looks like the USGS has dropped the NF Payette at Cascade gauge. Idaho Power provides current data. Here's the link.
A little Lower 5 info. New
Date: Aug 21 2003, 19:04 GMT
The Lower 5 is running 1500 right now. This is actually, a pretty good introductory level.....a little high perhaps if you're more comfortable dealing with rocks than push. Nonetheless, not bad and it'll give you a good feel for "The NF".
"IV+ or V"?
That depends with whom you talk to. Most of the locals I know who paddle it regularly say 4+ (and I'm talking about the current level of 1500). On the other hand, it seems most out of area boaters, or the uninitiated, more often than not refer to it as class 5. Regardless of what class people call it, you have to remember that the NF is a fairly unique river with a different feel. It is not pool drop and the eddies for the most part are along the banks, not in the center. Also, the recovery pools are more or less non-existent below the named rapids and the water deflecting off the sharp blasted rocks on both banks create sort of a chaotic feel. In other words, the waves don't roll but are rather erratic giving you the feeling of getting slapped from all directions. The river is also choke full of holes. Most will just splash you.... if you hit them straight on. Others will gladly play with you if you're not on the stick.
The beauty of the NF is that it's all roadside and you can easliy get out any time you're not comfy. Generally, newer paddlers working up the ladder do what is referred to as "The Warm-up", a ~2 mile piece between the first drop (Houndstooth) & the top of Otters. It is a fun run in itself and comparitively speaking, easy.
CFS wise, obviously not but it does have a bit of big water feel to it.
"Runable next weekend"?
Yes. And the NF typically runs until the first part of Oct though it will be running a tad low then.....approx 800-900.
Yes. There is a pin rock in Juicer roughly 115 yards from the top near the right bank. There is a funky V shaped hole sorta thing about 10 yards above that tends to kick people into the rock. It is not obvious from bank scouting how this feature will kick you and unless you know where to look for the rock, it isn't real obvious either. I believe 1300 to 1500 is probably the worst level for it too. So, if you don't go with some one that knows the run, I'd suggest staying away from the right which also happens to be the most obvious line. Actually, the right was always the standard line but I believe the rock either shifted or the shorter boats that are now being used up there are more susceptible to being pushed that way. Prior to around 96, I hadn't heard of anyone pinning there. Anyhow, take that rock seriously. It has pinned multiple paddlers 4 of which I have witnessed. There is an undercut finger of sorts which happens to fit perfectly in the kayakers lap preventing escape.
Which weekend were you thinking? I doubt I'll leave the house this coming weekend but likely next weekend. If you'd be interested, I'd be more than happy to paddle with you on the Staircase run and if I thought you were up for the Lower 5, take you down that (hope that doesn't offend...I just don't know your level of paddling:-)).
great river for snorkeling!!!
\ Low: 700 - 1100 Optimal: 1100 - 1900 High: 1900 - 2800 Local experts run it much higher. Doug Ammons, Greg Moore and Tony Brennan did it once around 7000 cfs.
Was run at over 8,000 cfs in Spring of 2010. Safety Note Above 2,800 cfs the water is typically much colder, rapids longer, and eddies are smaller.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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Big Eddy Campground
Lower 5 put-in
Troy below Otter's Run - Payette
Little head in Chaos
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