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Play Boating the Payette

Kelly’s Whitewater Park opens this weekend


Valley County’s latest recreational center is making a splash, literally.

Man-made waves, rapids, eddies—even an island—will open to the public on Monday, June 14, in Cascade.

Kelly’s Whitewater Park, located about an hour and a half north of Boise, caters to kayakers, tubers, rafters and canoeists of all levels, but is primarily geared toward beginners, intermediate-level paddlers. The best part of the news is that the park is free to the public.

Project backers Mark and Kristina Pickard, who largely funded the private $3 million venture, are hoping it will attract tourists and Boise-residents to the local economy.

“We see this as a stimulus to the local community. By drawing in kayakers, their families, friends, cousins, uncles ... we’re hoping to see some benefits for local business,” said to Wayne Brown, the park’s director.

Brown noted that the park also has plenty to offer those who don’t want to get wet. “Hopefully there’s enough stuff going on that non-kayakers can enjoy it as well. Picnickers, concert goers, outdoor enthusiasts, tourists—there’s something for everyone.”

Groundbreaking for the infrastructure took place in November 2009, and work on the river began in January 2010.

The park includes five features for play boaters.

“These are designed-in water features created by placing rocks and gravel into the water to manipulate the flow, creating the kind of waves that freestyle kayakers and beginners can practice and learn in,” Brown said.

The waves vary in size and shape, with different drop levels and speeds. It’s like a skate park for whitewater enthusiasts.

“It’s a safe whitewater environment for people to practice, learn and develop paddling skills,” Brown added.

The park is also home to a new 2,600-square-foot welcome center, which includes a pictorial exhibit highlighting the history of the lower Long Valley. Future exhibits will focus on the Native Americans, settlers, ranching, railroad, mining, timber industry and the recreational background of the region.

There’s also an outdoor amphitheater for summer concerts and events, and the popular band Blues Traveler is slated to perform on Saturday, Aug. 21. Park management hopes to announce additional artists in the coming months.

Even kids who don’t know which end of the paddle goes in the water can join in the fun, thanks to Kelly’s Kayak School, which will provide free lessons to beginner students as a way to bring more young kayakers into the sport. Unfortunately for Ada County residents, the free lessons are only open to student from Valley County in fifth through 12th grades.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter will kick off the grand opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, June 14. For more information visit