Difficulty IV
Length 4.5 Miles
Gauge Payette; South Fork near Banks
Flow Range 410 - 10500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 42 minutes ago 1620 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 06/17/2019 5:42 am

River Description

Character: There are several rapids along this stretch with Bronco Billy (Class III+, with a road pullout that is used for a nearby hot springs), Staircase (Class IV), and Slalom (Class IV-) being the standouts. Rapids are described in more detail below. The Banks-Lowman Road is next to the river through this canyon making it easy to scout the entire run. 

Another possible hazard to be aware of is jet skis and jet boats. Jet boating is increasingly popular at higher flows. Jet boat operators report that they can navigate the entire Staircase run above 5000 cfs, and at higher flows they can even get up past Little Falls on the Canyon run. Jet skis have also been up as far as Little Falls. 

Logistics: From Boise drive north on State Highway 55 about 32 miles to Banks which is at the confluence of the North and South Fork Payette (Highway 55 mile 78.8).

Put in: From Banks, head east upstream along the South Fork Payette on the Banks-Lowman Road (Highway 17) that parallels the river and provides an opportunity for a road scout. Access points include Deer Creek Ramp, most commonly-used access point, at mile 4.5 or Upper Deer Creek Ramp at mile 4.8. Immediately upstream of this point the run is flatwater through Garden Valley but additional access points can be found.

Take Out: Confluence of the South Fork Payette and the North Fork Payette at the Banks Access area on river right (Highway 55 mile 78.8). This is a fee site but provides a concrete and sand ramp with boat trailer access, toilets, and changing rooms. Kayakers often take advantage of free parking and avoid the chose of the ramp at the confluence by taking out on the South Fork (river right) immediately before it passes under the Highway 55 Bridge.

Rapid Descriptions

Deer Creek Ramp

Class - III Mile - 0

At most flows the Deer Creek ramp is a super fun seal launch. Just don't put your hands down while sliding, you'll get terrible splinters.

Bronco Billy

Class - III Mile - 0.4

Bronco Billy is a long class III wave train that is run down the middle.


Class - III Mile - 0.7

A warning sign posted by the Forest Service called the rapid with the huge log in it Dogleg. A large midstream boulder towards river left separates the river into river left slot and a wide open line down the right. Go right. In recent years a huge log has blocked the left channel of the rapid. In June 2017, that log is gone, and an even larger log is there, with another log piled on top for good measure.  In May 2019 the log pile is larger. Rocks on the downstream side of the left channel make rolling under the log inadvisable. This rapid is visible from the road from downstream, and should be evident with a heads-up boat scout. 

Tight and Right

Class - III Mile - 0.9

More of a III- than a III, but still fun. You can start right of center and boat scout this one.

South Fork Surf Wave

Class - II Mile - 1.1


Class - IV Mile - 2.1

Staircase is a challenging rapid with a very long swim if things go wrong. There are multiple different lines that can be scouted from a large pull-out at mile 2.3 along the Banks-Lowman Road. A good line can generally be found down the middle while navigating around the holes along the way. From the top of the rapid to the run out is about 1/3 of a mile.
While bank scouting Staircase, take note of the large entrance rock left of center, which is called Whale rock, and the rocks below it, left of center. Many rafts have wrapped on a rock left of center, and there is a sieve rock further left as well. 
There is also a sieve below the right entrance rock, on the right line. 

Fake Slalom

Class - II Mile - 3.6

This easy class II means Slalom is coming up next.


Class - IV Mile - 3.8

Slalom is a long rapid with a couple holes to avoid. Start right but immediately begin working left as the biggest hole in the drop known as “See More” is near the start of the rapid on river right. Once you have passed the first big hole work back right to avoid a hole on the left. One final hole is near the bottom right. This rapid is more of a class IV- than a class IV, but it is a challenging rapid with unpleasant consequences if you end up in one of the holes.


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Allison Dwyer
3 years ago

Idaho Power now has a gauge at the put in for Staircase that is more accurate than the one on here, which just subtracts the North Fork from the Main. https://www.idahopower.com/OurEnvironment/WaterInformation/StreamFlow/maps/streamFlowsDataTable.cfm?id=207221728

Gage Descriptions

While there is no gauge on the Staircase section, flows can be estimated. The method used for the virtual gage linked to this page, is to subtract flows of the North Fork Payette near Banks gage, from the flows on the Main Payette near Horseshoe Bend gage. There are several small side streams between Banks and Horseshoe Bend, so this method tends to overestimate flows slightly when those side streams are flowing high.

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  
2018-07-14 n/a Fatality Other Read More
2007-07-02 n/a Fatality Other Read More
2002-08-14 n/a Fatality One Boat Trip Read More
1995-07-03 Medium Fatality Other 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.

Todd Hoffman


Paul Martzen


Bill Hunt


Rick Widmer


Thomas O'Keefe


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1199646 03/20/11 Todd Hoffman Updated rapid descriptions.
1198071 08/14/10 Paul Martzen Added additional rapid descriptions.
1210168 07/27/18 Bill Hunt Mentioned a wrap rock and sieves in Staircase rapid.
1190390 12/14/04 Rick Widmer n/a
1198070 08/14/10 Paul Martzen
1201247 05/09/12 Paul Martzen updated gauge info
1199883 04/20/11 Todd Hoffman Updated flow descriptions.
1212741 06/06/19 Bill Hunt updated image position
1212931 06/17/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated description
1202333 06/22/13 Bill Hunt
1206450 05/21/16 Thomas O'Keefe minor updates
1205636 12/15/15 Thomas O'Keefe photo updates
1206697 07/07/16 Thomas O'Keefe logistics added