Jul 23, 2017

South Fork of the Payette - Sawtooth Wilderness Section

Kirk and I headed to Idaho for a week, and ended up packrafting some on the Middle Fork of the Payette, and then backpacked into the South Fork of the Payette into the Sawtooth Wilderness along the Idaho Centennial Trail.

River levels were about 1,300cfs, and while the lower section looked perfect for our boats, the upper sections about 5 miles above Grandjean were a bit meatier with lots of logjams. That being said, Kirk would have run some sections (Class V) had he had more support. We both agreed that a lower flows (maybe 600-700cfs) the upper waterfall drops would be more manageable for a boater like myself. We'll have to come back in the fall another time to try some of those upper sections.

We hiked in the 5 miles on a Tuesday, dropped our boats off around the transition zone into waterfall land, and then spent the next 3 days hiking to the headwaters. Upon our return we picked up our boats for the float back to our car.

Ensue bushwack. Getting to the river from the trail was a bit of a willow bashing fest, but we finally made it and transitioned to packraft mode. All gear stored inside the boat, day bag with sunscreen, lunch (in this case one packet of hickory smoked tuna. That’s it. Sucks.), and water.
We launch on a swift little current on a narrow log-congested river, gravely braids of river channels everywhere.
The water was clear and blue and green and it felt like we were flying through the canyon, until we got to logjam, after logjam, after stupid logjam. It was still worth it though. I actually expected more in an un-dammed river in the heart of the Sawtooth Wilderness.
The 4.5 miles of trail turned into 9 miles of river with all the meandering channels, but still worth it.
We were worked by the time we made it back to the car mid-afternoon. We had a short rapidy section about half way, but it was mainly the numerous log jams we had to portage with full boats and careful walking to not impale ourselves on dead trees, or break a leg in a beaver hole. So much fun!! Really!

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