Few river runners take advantage of the upper reaches of the South Fork of the Payette. The Sawtooth Mountains provide a scenic backdrop to this small and narrow river. The top 10 miles offers some very challenging river running with flows at about 1000 cfs max and drops at a respectable 45 fpm. Kayaks or self-bailing rafts are recommended on this action-packed Class IV run. Beware of log-jams all along this run. Another attraction is the fine hot springs called Sacajawea near the put-in.
Canyon Creek Rapid, a Class IV, can be scouted from the dirt road. It is about three miles below the put-in. Take out a Warm Springs Campground for a 10 mile run.
Below Warm Springs, the river slackens a bit. This section would make for a nice raft or decked canoe trip. There are still some tight drops to negotiate. A recent wind storm blew lots of timber into the river, though most of it has since been cut out.
Things pick up again 2 miles above Kirkham Hot Springs to Class IV-. You can take out near Lowman or float another four miles to the Deadwood River. Lots of logistical combinations exist for this section.
There is a road along the river, but good views of the rapids are difficult to find. You have a choice of four fine hot springs.
Put in at Grandjean which is 33 miles upriver from Lowman and east of State Highway 21. Leave the highway at the Grandjean turn-off and drive six miles on this dirt road. Put-ins are all along this run.Take-outs vary. Warm Springs Campground is one possibility for an early take-out. Since the road runs along the river, take-out as desired. Steep banks are the only deterrent.Camping: Good camping can be found at Grandjean, Bonneville, Kirkham, and Pine Flats Campgrounds. All have superb hot springs.