North Fork Race Readies for Record Runoff


Kayakers, start your engines. And those entering this weekend’s quintessential, Class V North Fork Race on Idaho’s North Fork Payette better have plenty of fuel in their tank to tackle the highest water the race has ever seen…

Massive snowpack in Idaho has turned the North Fork into a monster, flowing 6,000 cfs down a 15-mile, roadside gauntlet of sheer Class V hairballness. Rapids like Jacob’s Ladder, the Golf Course (yes, it’s known for its holes) and more have both organizers and competitors—which include most of the world’s top kayakers—fighting knots in their stomachs.

In a titillating story in, organizer James Byrd, who has run The North Fork Championships the last six years, as well as the popular Whitewater Awards ceremony held in Boise, agreed that years like this could well make it one of the most dangerous event in sports.

“You could say that,” he said, adding that safety is still the utmost priority and taken very seriously. “That’s not the goal, that’s not why we do this but it’s that serious, for sure. The North Fork of the Payette is in its own league…the river is just a different animal. You see other courses and that’s what they have to work with. We brought the event to this river because of its size and ferocity.”

They have that in spades this year, with the best of the best taking cautionary practice runs this week to hone their lines.

Consider some of the following FaceBook posts on the event’s page:
“Amazing snowpack and hot spring Idaho temperatures have made the North Fork Payette come into her famous ROWDY self.

“Scouted yesterday… Can’t wait to see folks try to make some gates in that monster! Better change it to a competition on who flips the fewest times. Carne asada con huevos grande (translation/prediction: carnage of boaters with big balls)!!”

“So much energy coming from the MOUNTAINS !!!”


“Out of all the years we should be at this one for sure!”

“High water Jacob’s Ladder is an awesome example of how powerful water and mother nature can be.

Proof of the latter can be seen easily in the Mike Leeds photo ( of past winner Alec Voorhees on a recent practice run.

And an Instagram post by Isaac Levinson sums it up thusly: “I got on the North Fork Of the Payette at 4,700cfs with @aniolserrasolses a few days ago and it blew my mind! It was intense, scary, but mostly a lot of fun. The margin for error is super low so I was always on my toes! It’s 🌶in there. Interested to see what the levels do this week leading up the race…”

Added Byrd: “This year, it’s turned out like I always dreamed—
the best paddlers on this river in its true form at high water. But along with that comes the logistics: What more can you do for safety? Is it smart to run it? We have a fall back plan if it rains and gets too high…”

Find more info on the race HERE