South Fork Payette - Canyon Run [PS2]


Though it is near a road, this run has a surprisingly pristine feel to it. At high water, the river below Big Falls is practically one long flush. At medium flows and lower, the river takes on pool/drop characteristics; the rapids are steep but short.

From the put-in to Pine Flat Campground (an alternate put in), the river flows through a moderately steep, forested canyon. It is Class III water with no major rapids. Just downstream from Pine Flat is an excellent hot springs stop.

Below Pine Flat, the canyon becomes deeper, steeper and drier. Six miles from the put-in is Big Falls, a mandatory portage. The falls comes after a right-hand bend with a scree slope on the outside of the bend. Portage on the left.

The first rapid below Big Falls is Blackadar’s Drop, names for Dr. Walt Blackadar, the legendary big-water boater from Salmon who died while attempting to run the drop. His boat got pinned under a log (since removed.) There is a memorial plaque on a rock on the right side of the river just above the left-hand bend upstream from the rapid.

Both Big Falls and Blackadar’s are visible from the road above.

About two miles below Big Falls is Little Falls, a short ledge drop at a point where the road comes close to the river. At medium and high flows, the best run at Little Falls is on the right; at low water, run it on the left.

A mile below Little Falls, the river flows through a straight, narrow gorge. A take-out is on a left-hand bend just after the gorge. A steep trail goes up to the road.


To reach the put-in, drive west from Lowman or east from Garden Valley to the bridge over the Deadwood River (3.5 miles west of Lowman). The take-out is eight miles down the road. From the west, the best way to recognize the take-out is to drive to Little Falls, then turn around and go back one mile. An alternative take-out exists 3 miles downstream at Danskin Station (recommended for rafts.)Camping: The best nearby campground is Pine Flat, which features a hot springs reached via a trail that follows the river downstream from the campground. There is another campground at the confluence with the Deadwood.

River Stats



IV- to IV+

Trip Length

9 mi.


Spring & summer


USGS Realtime Streamflow