Thanks to a wet spring, the infamous boulder garden at the end of the Staircase rapid on the South Fork of the Payette is still wonderfully submerged. In fact, at this level Staircase, and Slalom as well, may be offering some of the easiest conditions seen in years.
The South Fork isn’t as pushy as a few weeks ago, giving rafters and kayakers time to relax in the rapid, almost casually working through it. But there’s still plenty of room to maneuver, and the lines are as straight forward as they get. Basically, you just paddle downstream and the water takes you along.
I’ve been on sabbatical, if you will, in the Sierra’s for the past two summers, so it has been effectively three years since I’ve paddled regularly in Idaho, so forgive me for forgetting the names of the rapids above Staircase, or holes within Staircase and Slalom. Right now there are two nice surf waves upriver from Staircase, and more should be coming in over the next couple of weeks. Keep an eye out for fast waves at the bottom of Bronco Billy and Slalom as the river drops.
I’m glad to be back in the whitewater state, where drinking a warm PBR alongside the highway as you load the truck always hits the spot. There’s something about a Southern Idaho sunset as you crest the Horseshoe Bend grade that you just don’t get elsewhere.
It might be just the time to take a paddler who has conquered the Main down the South Fork. Hit it before the sharks in the boulder garden begin to pop out.