Kayaking in Idaho

Idaho Whitewater Trail

Idaho has more whitewater river miles than any other state in the lower 48, more than 3,000 miles to be exact, and some of the best known rivers too, including the Lochsa, Payette, Snake, Main Salmon and the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Enjoy a gentle drift down a lazy river or take a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride down incredible rapids. Guided trips can be arranged and vary from a few hours to several days in untracked wilderness. The highlight of Idaho’s river-running community is the Idaho Whitewater Trail an outfitter rafting opportunity that combines seven of Idaho’s best whitewater rivers with some of the best scenic locations in the state. These half and full-day whitewater trips can be an introduction to aspiring rafting adventurers while still offering a challenge to people who already enjoy the sport. Besides bragging rights when you’ve rafted all seven sections, you’ll also get an Idaho Whitewater Trail completion package. If this is your idea of thrill seeking, you’ve come to the right place. www.idahowhitewatertrail.com

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Trail Sections

Snake River near Hagerman
This Class III trip offers plenty of whitewater action for all abilities. Located just off the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway, the beautiful scenery is an added benefit with plenty of natural springs from the Snake River aquifer cascading into the river.

Upper Salmon River near Stanley
At this point, the Salmon River is a small mountain river, not far from its headwaters in the spectacular Sawtooth Mountains National Recreation Area. The scenic beauty and natural history of the Upper Salmon River makes this an ideal trip for beginners and return rafters alike.

Salmon River near Salmon (Shoup section)
This popular 13-mile stretch of Class II and Class III rapids is the start of the “River of No Return.” Famous for turning back the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery canoes in 1805, experience this thrilling world-class whitewater river with modern rafts.

Lochsa River near Lowell
Lochsa means “Rough Water” in Native American languages and is pronounced “Lock saw.” This Class III and Class IV+ whitewater river tumbles through north central Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest. A green cedar and fir forest with steep granite valley slopes and abundant wildlife, the river corridor itself gets exciting during the spring snow run-off. From its headwaters in the Bitterroot Mountains to its confluence with the Selway and Clearwater rivers, the Lochsa has more than 40 major rapids.

Salmon River near Riggins
Riggins to Lucille is a maximum-fun, Class III run. It features lots of “big-water” rapids, yet is relatively safe. The adjacent road (good for scouting), deep water and clear channels are comforting to novices. Rapids like Time Zone, Chair Creek and Fiddle Creek keep’em coming back for more. These rapids are well-spaced with slack water in between allowing visitors to take in the splendor of the Salmon River Valley.

North Fork of the Payette River near Cascade (Cabarton section)
The Cabarton run has the secluded feeling of total wilderness because there is no road along most of it. The first few miles are mellow and offer a chance to unwind and gradually warm-up, while the secluded, timbered landscape offers a fantastic setting.

Tressel Rapids is a rather long rapid and can be identified by the railroad cut on the river’s right bank. It starts gradually and picks up after passing under the railroad tressel. This Class III+ is the most difficult rapid on this stretch. The run finishes with Howard’s Plunge at Smiths Ferry.

South Fork of the Payette River near Garden Valley
The road along the South Fork of the Payette River is located high above the river at many points, giving this run a surprisingly pristine feel. During high water, the river below Big Falls is practically one long flush. At medium flows and lower, the river takes on pool/drop characteristics with rapids being steep but short.

From the put-in to Pine Flat Campground, the river flows through a moderately steep, forested canyon that’s primarily Class III water with no major rapids. Below Pine Flat, the canyon becomes deeper, steeper and drier. Approximately six miles from the put-in is Big Falls, a mandatory portage. The falls come after a right-hand bend with a slope on the outside. Portage on the left.

How to get flowing on the Idaho Whitewater Trail:

  1. Download an Idaho Whitewater Trail map and outfitter list.
  2. Choose a river.
  3. Enjoy yourself.
  4. Have the chosen outfitter verify your completion of each segment.
  5. Send in completed map for Idaho Whitewater completion gift package.

Download a Trail map and outfitter list above and discover your route to adventure on the Idaho Whitewater Trail.

Information Courtesy of VisitIdaho

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