It's that time of year again... rivers are at their peak!
The Memorial Day Weekend is usually the start of the river season in Idaho. Temperatures are warming, snow is melting and rivers are running high. That was indeed the case over holiday and I’m here to tell you, a fast moving river poses a whole different set of issues that can catch a newbie on the water off guard. When we went on Saturday, the flow on the Upper Main Payette river was about 10,800 cubic feet per second. By comparison, the average summer flow is about 3,000 cfs. That means the river was running cold, fast and big. In fact, some of the rapids were washed over due to the high flows, while others were bigger than normal. For example, Go Left and Mixmaster will definitely get your attention. There was so much water flowing downstream that we went from Banks to Beehive in less than two hours. That float is usually good for 3-4 hours depending on how many stops you make.
Needless to say, we had a blast. However, we were wearing dry suits. If you do have to swim, you’ll want to think about proper equipment and that includes at least some kind of wetsuit. Also, if you’re not familiar with how the river behaves in these kinds of flows, you’ll want to have an experienced friend or a guide with you. Water is very powerful, it’s impossible to fight these fast flows, so knowing how to work with the water makes a big difference when it comes to safety.
Between now and the next couple of weeks, the levels will be high. We’ll see flows two to three times normal levels. That makes for a yeehaa kind of day for sure. Once we approach the middle of June, things will begin to settle down and the temperatures will get much warmer. As for me, the summer river season is too short. That’s why most weekends, you’ll find me and my family somewhere on the Payette. Here’s to a great season! See you on the water!