Payette, S. Fork, Idaho, US
2 - Deadwood River to Danskin Station (The Canyon)
||III-IV (for normal flows)
Entering the Canyon
Entering the CanyonPhoto by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/28/14 @ 2160 cfs
The canyon section of the South Fork Payette is an Idaho classic. It is a beautiful III-IV run,
in a deep remote canyon. Best of all is its long season and clean, clear water.
The standard put-in for this run is the Deadwood River Access. If you put in here it allows for a
couple miles of warm up with good class II and a couple of class III rapids that are easy read
The real action begins soon enough as you enter S Turn, a big class IV read and run with lots of
waves and a few holes to avoid.
Next up is Big Falls a class V to VI drop which is a portage for most. It has been run a few
times, a couple times inadvertently, but at spring flows some enormous holes form in the bottom
half of this intimidating drop. The rapid comes up quick and is marked by a couple of warning
signs (the first on river right and then a second marking the start of the portage on river
left). The lead in class II is not hard but be sure to make the eddy on river left just before
the river drops off the edge into the abyss of Big Falls. Anyone who has the skills for this run
should not have a problem making the move, but it can be a little intimidating as the
consequences of missing the eddy would be severe.
The portage trail on river left is well worn and although it is not an easy portage for rafts,
some people do it. A little scrambling on the rocks at the bottom takes you to a nice seal launch
into the pool at the base of the falls. On a sunny day this is a nice spot to break for lunch and
take it all in; the whole scene is pretty cool.
Once you are in the pool below Big Falls you are in the most scenic section of the inner gorge.
Shortly after the exit rapid from this pool you will find yourself at the horizon line
for Blackadar. This is a great rapid that you run left of center down a nice tongue, but be
prepared for a couple of big hits at the bottom.
More fun whitewater continues as the gorge walls slows descend and the highway comes into view on
the right. Lone Pine is the next significant drop, recognized by the lone pine on a rock on river
right and the retaining wall along the highway. Take this one down the right through a fun wave
Little Falls is the next major rapid. Never go down the center at Little Falls. Either take the
far right line or nail the nice boof on far river left which is a fun line at medium flows. One
landmark that tells you Little Falls is coming is the steel netting to catch rockfall along the
road, which has shiny big washers that can be seen from the river. Check it out on the drive
Surprise is the final big drop which is a fun wave train that ends in a big hole at the bottom.
You can start out on the tongue but be sure to exit to one side or the other to avoid the hole at
Keep your eyes open for a small bedrock island that marks the kayaker take-out or continue on
down through easier whitewater to the formal access at Danskin Station.
Jet boats have been able to run all the way up the South Fork to below Big Falls, above 5000
The Banks-Lowman Road parallels the river but is hundreds of feet above the river in most
The primary put-in for this run is at Deadwood River Access at road mile 29.9. Kayakers sometimes
use the alternate put-in access at Pine Flat Campground at road mile 27.9 which cuts off the
first two miles of warm up class III.
If doing a road scout you can see Big Falls from the overlook at road mile 25.0 and Little Falls
at road mile 22.7.
The Kayaker Access which is an alternate take-out used by kayakers is at road mile 21.9. It is an
unmarked roadside pull-out with a decent trail down to the river. You can recognize it by the
small bedrock island on the river right side of the channel that is just upstream of the access
The primary take-out is at Danskin Station River Access at road mile 19.5. This is a formal
access site with a set of steep stairs from the river to the parking lot. For the rafters, there
is a wooden ramp at Danskin but it is steep and involves carrying the boat up the bank about 100
vertical feet, another reason to load rafts lightly for this trip.
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Last Updated: 2015-09-02 16:26:45