South Fork Payette (Staircase)
|Stretch:||Deer Creek Launch to the Confluence|
|Distance:||4.5 miles, half day|
|Flows:||500 to 15,000 or so. Current American Whitewater gauge|
|Gradient:||31 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Deer Creek Launch Site|
|Take-out:||Town of Banks, North and South Confluence|
|Shuttle:||5 miles (5 minutes) one-way|
|Season:||spring into early summer, from snowmelt|
So the only time that I have run this run thus far was on the way to the Middle Fork of the Salmon. As we were driving on 55 by this spot anyways, we figured we may as well boat it. The plan was to play at Climax on the Main 20 minutes towards Boise then boat this run, staircase however was not in (good 4,500 and below) so only Staircase got run this day. It has a highway 55 next to it the entire length allowing for easy scouts of the two big rapids along with easy portage routes if one desires. I walked away from this river thinking it was fun, but thinking that there were only two rapids worth anything, for that matter there were only like 6 rapids at all, two of which were class II, two of which were class III and two of which were class IVish… as my recollection serves. It was however worth doing at 3,500 and I have been told is good to go into the 15,000 range as well as all winter long in the frigid 350 range. As it is only 4.5 miles long I would recommend this if driving to the Middle Salmon, and by the quantity of people who were on it the same day, and the quantity of times my local friend has run it, recommend it plainly if in the area.
- Put in (III-). Just below the put in is a nice rapid which had some nice surf wave
in the middle of the rapid. From above they look like holes (probably are at lower
flows). Run or surf down the middle… edging towards center/right.
- Staircase (IV). This is probably the most challenging rapid on the run as it is the
longest and requires more moves than any other. The line I choose was to enter on
the far left near the shore, executing a zigzag move into a small hole. From here I
immediately started to work my way right around some rocks. Once around the rocks
I saw a rather large hole downstream to the center/right, so I began to work my way
left to avoid it. The rapid then continues as class II for another 100-200 yards.
- “Play Hole” (III-). This rapid is actually easy, straightforward wave train down the
gut, but to the left there is a nice hole to get thrashed in, real meaty and thrashy,
good fun. To recognize it, there is a log on the left coming out into the river.
Slalom (IV-). There were two lines at the top of this rapid. There are two large rocks in the water at 3,500 cfs, I went to the left of the left rock doing a zig behind it to avoid the hole to the left behind it. Diane went to the right and work left to avoid some rather large holes in the wave train following the right entrance. Once the entrance is made, the rest is easy. We rounded the large holes in the center on the left and ran the rest kind of on the right, although all seemed to go.
Take Out: At the bridge over the South Fork on Highway 55 at the town of Banks at the North Fork and South Fork Confluence. The left bank just above the bridge is good, there is Poison Ivy though.
Put in: Drive up Highway 17 following the river, turn off at the Deer Creek Launch Site, there is a large ramp down to the water for rafts.
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