Category Archives: Idaho

Kelly’s Whitewater Park – a hidden gem

tim hunter ready to launch kellys

Kelly’s Whitewater Park is located in Cascade, Idaho (about 2 hours north of Boise) and is absolutely a hidden gem for paddling families. Cascade is a quiet small town tucked into a river valley and surrounded by mountains. With a population of just under 1000 people the economy was historically driven by the Boise Cascade Sawmill, which closed in 2001. The Whitewater park was built in 2010 as one piece of a multi-faceted economic development program.

kellys wwp

The whitewater park is located on the North Fork of the Payette River, just below the Cascade dam. There are 3 main features and 2 smaller features which provide something for everyone to play, learn and grow on. There is a great rock island in the middle that makes for easy access to all of the features below the top BIG one.

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Our visit definitely counts as early season. The water actually “turned on” 4 days before we got here, jumping from winter constant flows of 200 cfs up to 1200 cfs. It seems that summer peak averages are around 1800 – 2000 cfs. Although there was still snow in the mountaints, our two days in late April had bright sunny skies and temperatures in the low 20’s Celcius (mid 70’s F), and to our surprise, the water wasn’t ice-cream headache cold.

tim hunter chatting kelly's

We wandered around our first morning and looked at all of the features. The boys decided that they were going to start at the top to check things out. Hunter was excited to try “the big hole”, which really reflects the growth we’ve seen in his paddling just over the last 3 weeks. He and Tim spent time talking through the green wave, the white burly hole and strategies for paddling both.

tim wave 1 front

tim wave 1 back

Tim had some fun playing in the meat of the hole and Hunter played around with entering on the wave and jet ferrying across into the foam pile of the hole to get comfortable with things.


hunter wave 1 side

hunter wave 1 back

After playing around at middle wave for a while (see below for more details) Hunter and Tim headed back up to the big hole where Hunter ended up with his first scary experience of being stuck in a hole and being worked. The good news is that he was upside right the entire time and did eventually find a way off the ride, after a scream to the eddy for help.

hunter wave 1 hole

After some deep breathing and eddy coaching from Dad on strategies to extricate oneself from a hole, he was right back out there putting his learning into practice. Definitely another progression step from last fall, both physical and mental, which is so neat to watch.

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Our favourite wave was middle wave – a medium sized wave that stretches across the entire main channel. It fit all three of us at once which resulted in hours and hours of bumper boat surfing and spinning over our two days! Nothing but non-stop giggles and banter…

tim hunter wave 3 kellys

tim hunter wave 3 2 kellys

The best part about bumper boat surfing is that it develops a higher level of comfort on the wave and in the water in general. You learn to manage your boat while many forces are playing havoc with the environment around you – way beyond just the wave itself. On top of that it’s fun so doesn’t feel like learning and skill development!

In addition to the Whitewater park, the area has a 5 mile walking/biking trail, 18 hole frisbee golf course, beach volleyball court, bocce ball courts and tonnes of green grassy areas for kids to run around.

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Overall this was a fabulous stop and we are so happy that the spring run-off worked in our favour this year. A summer time visit here, with all it’s amenities and warm temps (water and air) would be so much fun. Lot’s of RV parks within 2km and we boon docked right in the gravel parking lot at the play park. Restaurants, grocery stores, and the movie theatre are all within walking distance. If you haven’t checked out Kelly’s before then you definitely have to put it on your road trip list!


Craters of the Moon National Park

IMG_2474Our stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument was a fairly last minute decision – as we were driving eastward from Boise towards Moab Tim asked the simple question of “what else is there to do in Idaho”? Out came the map and we discovered that this National Monument was only 2-3 hours out of the way and fit well into our Earth Science school curriculum!COTM CampgroundWe got there just after dark and camped in the campground, which has no services but is well laid out with sites marked based on size. The skies were pitch black thanks to no light pollution and just filled with stars – something we hadn’t seen for a while and always enjoy. It was really neat to wake up surrounded by black lava piles.

We woke up early and hit the ranger station just after it opened at 8:00. We gleaned the basics of the park and Hunter completed his Junior Ranger/Astronaut badge. We learned about some caving opportunities in the park so signed up for a permit and were headed back out the door to have some adventures!


First up was a steep climb up the Inferno Cone which seemed to keep going and going. It also afforded amazing views of the rest of the national monument and surrounding area.

A 360 view that just blew us away – definitely not what we were expecting from this National Monument…

Then we headed off to explore the caves & tunnels. We had learned about whitenose bat syndrome fungus two years ago when we went caving on our last trip. It continues to be a concern so we had to ensure that we were wearing different clothes than had been worn in any caves in the past to ensure we were not spreading the fungus.

We spent time playing in Beauty Cave (easily accessible right off the path and no need for a flashlight), Indian Tunnel (some fun scrambling from various entrances to the far exit, lights not needed for most places) and Boy Scout Cave (lights mandatory, scramble in entrance and then pitch black). It’s always fun to scramble and explore and we definitely recommend getting a cave permit if you come to the monument.

Although this National Monument is somewhat off the beaten path, it is very family friendly and highly educational – covering off both astronomy and earth science topics.

Boise Whitewater Park

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After our fabulous late season experience at the Bend Whitewater Park we decided to stop at the Boise Whitewater Park on the way east to Moab.  Unfortunately for us the water level had just dropped from mid fall levels of 400 to winter levels of 243 two days prior.

Boise only has 2 waves that are side by side so they rotate the wave between surfers and kayakers on different days. Kayak = Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday + 1/2 of Sunday, Surfing = Monday, Weds, Friday + 1/2 of Sunday. The wave changes each day at 10:00 am.

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We rolled into town at 7:30pm on Wednesday night, just as it was getting dark, and parked in the temporary parking lot along main street and the greenway. We had hoped to boondock in one of the two parking lots along the greenway but after chatting with someone from the Corridor Paddle Surf Shop that idea was nixed. We then learned about the local ordinance that does not allow overnight parking, which put Walmart and Cabela’s off the list. We checked out Flying J’s but they were jam packed with trucks so ended up at a Cracker Barrel, at 11pm, that had a vague sign regarding RV Parking. Needless to say there was very little sleep had. We definitely recommend getting a campsite if you are coming to town.

We were back at the river by 8am and parked in the temporary lot beside the put in (Pay $5.00 to Corridor Surf Shop for access). Everyone rolled back to bed to try to catch a little sleep as the wave was still set as a surf wave. We wandered out just after 10:00 and met Paul the new wave technician (Ryan, the former wave tech is now the wave tech at Bend). With new low flows at 243 Paul was struggling to get a good kayak wave going so Tim spent the next hour being his guinea pig as they adjusted various gates and the waveshapper.

It was neat to see inside their control shack and check out all the various ways that they can influence the waves. In Bend we saw Ryan standing at the top bridge and manipulating everything via an iPad – definitely the next generation from what they have in Boise as Paul had to go into the shack every time to make changes.

After a quick lunch we all ended up in the wave for an hour in the afternoon. It was fairly retentive and not as forgiving as the Bend lower wave, which made things more challenging. It is a powerful feature that definitely has potential.

I would have to say that our stop in Boise was fun but not the fabulous experience of Bend. It seems to be a very surf centric environment and low flows could have played into that as well as they normally shut things down at this level. Paul is passionate about making good waves for people and wants to find a way to have decent waves for the winter.  Phase Two of the park looks like it will be very family friendly and a great place to spend a few days.

Idaho – sorry we were so brief…

When we laid out our initial travel plans, we had anticipated spending 3-4 days in Idaho, looking at a combination of Mountain Biking and playing at the 2 whitewater kayaking parks.

To our major disappointment, the water levels at both Kelly’s Whitewater Park and the Boise Whitewater Park plummet in early October and don’t return again until late April / early May.

That, coupled with unseasonably cool weather (aka temps near freezing and snow chasing us) lead us to make the call to drive straight through Idaho on our way to southern Utah.

In addition to enjoying the major highway through southern Idaho, we did spend the night at a rest stop just south of Boise. The scenery outside the window was nice and I hope that we will be back again some day to enjoy all the things on our list.