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 jetskis 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. Jetskis 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.
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 is a long class III wave train that is run down the middle.
I am a bit confused on the names of the next two rapids, 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. 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.
More of a III- than a III, but still fun. You can start right of center and boat scout this one.
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.
This easy class II means Slalom is coming up next.
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.
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.
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.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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South Fork Surf Wave
Dropping in to Slalom
Tight and Right
Deer Creek launch signs
Boat Slide and Stairs
Deer Creek Launch
Raft Launch Sign
Upper Deer Creek Launch
Staircase Panorama, South Fork Payette
Payette SouthFork Staircase Run
Stuck in Hole
Entrance to Staircase
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<?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.
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