Idaho is an outdoor wonder, and that includes lakes and the famous Snake River. It is often overlooked due to being only 479 miles long. But given the serpentine bends of waterways create a massive 107,000 miles of aquatic wonder for you to explore on a kayak. The trick is knowing where in Idaho to find the right kayaking water for you.
Idaho has excellent kayaking, regardless if you are a beginner or a whitewater adrenaline junkie. Great places are:
- Blue Heart Springs
- Boise Whitewater Park
- Dierkes Lake
- Hells Canyon
- Lake Cleveland
- Lower Salmon River
- Murtaugh Reach
- Payette River
- Selway River
People always talk about Idaho and potatoes as if the state has nothing else to offer. But Idaho is gorgeous, with an abundance of mountains and forest. Of course, you can explore by hiking and mountain biking through the great outdoors; but if you really want to see the wildlife get out on the water. After all, every living creature needs to drink.
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13 Places To Kayak In Idaho
We’ve scouted around for thirteen fantastic places for you to have a kayak adventure. There is something for everyone. No worries if you have never kayaked before. Idaho has many places that give classes and guided tours. But yes, the daring adventurers will be able to find their thrills too.
But if you are a visitor or new to the state, please familiarize yourself with Idaho’s kayaking rules and regulations. For example, while non-motorized kayaks and canoes do not have to be registered, they are still required to sport a Protection Against Invasive Species sticker near the bow of their boat.
Also, remember that Idaho is a state that has four distinct seasons. How challenging and accessible a particular spot or stretch is heavily season-dependent. So do plan ahead to ensure you get the experience you want.
Blue Heart Springs
Blue Heart Springs has water the color you’d see in a tropical paradise film. It’s an amazing natural spring oasis. You reach it by getting in at a calm spot along the Snake River that you can access at Banbury Hot Springs (those are worth checking out too). This is the perfect spot for a hot day when you want to relax.
Check out this YouTube video to see a charming goof and a more elegant kayaker enjoying the spot.
Boise Whitewater Park
Boise Whitewater Park is where you can kayak in the city. This is a very safe place to get some whitewater experience before trying it out in the wilds. It’s also great fun. The waves and rapids are set off ponds, providing areas of wave-free calm. They also have some WaveShaper Cams set up so you can spy on the area.
Dierkes Lake is a mile’s drive from the Shoshone Falls. This is another quiet water spot, thanks to the ban on motorized boats. Dierkes Lake is also a popular spot for scuba divers. Who knows, after a visit, you may add another water passion to your list.
Hells Canyon is one of the most sought out sections of the Snake River for those that enjoy the rush of Class II and IV whitewater. Granite Rapid is a class IV that will give you the perfect Green Room experience if you time it right. You go over a boulder and drop right into an ocean-worthy wave.
This YouTube video shows adventurous souls taking on the Green Room in their (non-kayak) boats.
Kelly’s Whitewater Park
Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade along the Payette River. This is a place for beginners to learn some essential skills in order to have a good time in a kayak. It is also wonderful for family fun, especially when the skill levels are mixed. This park is free to the public and is supported by donations and the community.
Lake Cleveland is 8,300 feet up with Mt. Harrison looking down. Looked after by the Sawtooth National Forest Service, it is an excellent spot for quiet kayaking, as motorized boats are forbidden. It’s a pretty spot to get some camping in, too.
Lake Walcott is on the Snake River next to Minidoka Damn. The 17-mile reservoir makes a nice spot for those wanting relaxing flat water to kayak on. The 60-foot-docks are also a treat, providing ease for getting in and out of the water. It’s also a good area for those that enjoy paddleboarding, jet skiing, and sailing.
Lower Salmon River
Lower Salmon River is a top whitewater lover’s run. Some of the rapids are a bit mellow in summer, but in spring, Ruby Rapid is considered wicked class IV, and Slide can reach Class 5 when the water is right.
Obviously, spring kayakers tackling the Slide need to be of professional standard. Even Ruby has some tricks with “the pencil sharpener” and the “pancake wave” that require a high skill set.
Murtaugh Reach is a great technical challenge on the Snake River for experienced kayakers. The rapids swing between class III to Class V, depending on the flow.
Check out this YouTube video to obtain a bird’s eye view of the whitewater, complete with kayakers tackling the falls.
Payette River is split into four sections: Main, North Fork, South Fork, And Middle Fork. They are significant tributaries to The Snake. None of them are too hectic, class II to Class II rapids. There are sections recommended for beginners, and they are popular for family exertions. It is also a great section to catch sight of some wildlife.
Selway River is a brilliant multi-day whitewater run. However, getting permits can for the official “season” can be tricky. Depending on the flow, you’ll be hitting mellow class III all the way to high volume class IV. If you can handle IV+ rapids, you might be lucky and snatch an early-season cancellation from those with less skill that are rethinking their life choices.
Stanley Lake is another gem in the Sawtooth National Forest. No whitewater, obviously, but plenty of camping and hiking to do with stunning mountains to gaze at. For people looking for a relaxing get-a-way.
The Thorofare From Priest Lake To Upper Priest Lake
The Thorofare from Priest Lake to Upper Priest Lake is only 2.5 miles long, but it is a wonderful stretch to take in the area’s natural beauty. It is considered easy paddling and makes a wonderful add on to a camping trip. Folks that have done it have spotted animals such as bald eagles, white-tailed deer, and even the occasional bear.
Idaho is a gorgeous place with plenty of water to enjoy, no matter your skill. Just remember, the time of year, rainfall, and other factors can turn typically tame areas into a much more wild adventure. So always talk to locals before dipping a paddle in. Be safe and enjoy your Idaho kayaking adventures.