There’s no other way to say it: stand up paddle boarding, also known as SUP, is hot.
And Southwest Idaho is the West’s epicenter for SUP adventures. Here, you can paddle rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and even specially-made SUP-friendly waves and obstacle courses.
Quinn’s Pond & Esther Simplot Park
This enormous 55-acre park is a true water playground for the SUPing enthusiast. There are over 23 acres of ponds for fishing, wading, canoeing, paddle boarding and swimming. Plus all of the trails, docks, wetlands, boardwalks, shelters, grassy open areas, a playground, bridges (and convenient restrooms) for all to explore and enjoy.
Esther Simplot Park SUPing. Photo courtesy of Idaho Tourism.
SUPers will enjoy the “meandering stream” that connects the park’s two ponds with Quinn’s Pond, creating a circuit for paddling that encompasses a total of over 50 acres. It also creates an interface with the Boise Whitewater Park as well as Veteran’s Memorial Park further downstream, with its approximately 74 acres, including another 21 acres of ponds and waterways. This brings the total to almost 69 acres of navigable ponds.
Esther Simplot Park is located in the middle of the Boise Metro Area, making it easily accessible to everyone. Funding for development of the park has been provided by the Simplot Foundation with Scott and Maggie Simplot leading the way.
Boise Whitewater Park
The Boise community has come together to create North America’s premier urban paddling park. Built with a state-of-the-art wave-shaping Thurman Mill Diversion Dam, the whitewater park can produce 3 different types of waves, for a truly unique and fun experience for everyone.
Some waves are better for SUPing, and others are better for kayaks and play boats. But all are welcome to use any feature any day. Green Wave days cater to stand up paddle boarders, and Wave/Hole days will likely have more kayaks and play boats.
Check out their website for the most up-to-date wave schedule and water conditions, but Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays tend to be Green Wave Days.
The Boise River
The most relaxing and best way to experience the beauty of Boise is by paddling down the Boise River. This is one of the most popular SUPing and floating trips in Southwest Idaho, and for good reason! This will take you through the heart of the city on gentle currents.
The most popular spot to get on the water is at Barber Park, located about 6 miles from downtown on Eckert Road between Warm Springs and Boise Avenue.
From there you have six amazing miles of river to paddle down and enjoy. Floating the river can take 2-3 hours from start to finish – less time if you are paddling – so don’t forget your sunblock!
A shuttle runs every twenty minutes on the weekends between Ann Morrison Park back to Barber Park to return you to your car. See their full schedule here.
There are several stops you can pull into along the way for a small break. Look for the signs on the river.
Ann Morrison Park is the final take-out spot for floaters. We highly recommend you avoiding going further: an irrigation dam is just below the park. From here, take the shuttle back up to Barber Park.
Kelly’s Whitewater Park
Heading up to Cascade or McCall for some mountain air and SUPing? Paddleboarders and river surfers value Kelly’s Whitewater Park for honing their skills. Kelly’s has become recognized by many as one of the premier whitewater parks in the nation. And you can immediately tell when you get there!
Kayaker at Kelly’s Whitewater Park. Photo courtesy of Idaho Tourism
It has been built to fit into the landscape seamlessly by integrating the recreational whitewater features with riverside trails and community facilities. Today, Kelly’s Whitewater Park includes an international competition level feature, an intermediate feature, a beginner channel, and lots of Payette River access points. This is THE whitewater destination to check out when you are heading up HWY 55.
When you’re done playing on the river, go and experience the 2,600 square foot Welcome Center, perched over the river with panoramic views of the water features. Exhibits showcase the history of the Native Americans, settlers, ranching, railroad, mining, timber industry and the recreational background of the region in a gallery type setting.
The Welcome Center features bathrooms and changing rooms, a wood burning stone fireplace and indoor seating. Plus the 3.4 acres of landscaped grounds include an outdoor amphitheater.
Don’t miss out on this outdoor adventure away from the city. Plus, it’s free to the public!
The Payette River
The Payette River is long and winding, with several awesome places for SUPing. To make it a little easier, we’ll show you our favorite places to go.
Beware: there are many stretches of the Payette River system that are downright deadly for SUPers. Always scout and talk to locals before entering the water.
South Fork to Banks
Take State HWY 55 north from Boise to Banks, Idaho. From there turn onto the Banks-Lowman Road (Highway 17) heading east. There are several good access points along the way, but locals love the Deer Creek Ramp, about 4.5 miles down the road. From there, paddle back to Banks and pull in to the dock.
This is a fee site, so it is recommended that you pay before you head up to Deer Creek Ramp.
Middle Fork near Crouch
Follow the same directions for South Fork, but instead of stopping at the Deer Creek Ramp, keep going until you reach Crouch, Idaho, about 10 miles. Once there, your best place for putting into the river is Weilmunster Park. From here you can paddle all the way back to Banks and enjoy some truly amazing scenery. We recommend taking a friend and two cars with you on this trip. One car to park at Banks, the other to drive up to Crouch.
Lake Cascade is a true treat for SUPers. Located 75 miles north of Boise, it is an easy hour and a half drive from the metro area. The backdrop of Lake Cascade is the West Mountain Range. Bring your camera for some great evening sunset shots over the water.
What makes Lake Cascade so special? It’s way bigger than Payette Lake, and often overlooked. Lake Cascade is five times bigger than Payette Lake, meaning you have more room to yourself out there. Most people zoom past on their way to McCall and Payette Lake (which we also love), but if you are looking for great views, great water and a ton of fun things to do, then stop and enjoy Lake Cascade.
There are a dozen campgrounds and the city of Cascade right next to the water for some great overnight staying options.
Little Payette Lake
Beautiful scenery and peaceful water make Little Payette Lake a delightful escape from the crowded waters of other areas. Little Payette Lake is located less than one mile to the east of McCall, making it a very accessible SUPing option.
SUPing on Payette Lake
Most jet skiers and motorboats head to the larger Payette Lake, so SUPers will appreciate the quieter experience found here. This is a great mountain lake to visit and “get away from it all” without roughing it in the backcountry.
The best way to access Little Payette Lake from Boise is:
Take HWY 55 N to Elo Rd. Turn right onto Elo Rd until you get to S Samson Trail (approx .25 miles). Turn left onto S Samson Trail and drive to Spring Mountain Ranch Blvd (1.9 miles.) Continue onto Spring Mountain Ranch Blvd and take it to Lick Creek Rd (1.3 miles.) Turn right onto Lick Creek Rd and drive 1.7 miles all the way to Little Payette Lake. The dock will come into view when you get there.
Home to the tallest sand dune in the western hemisphere, Bruneau Dunes State Park is also home to great SUPing! Dunes Lake is located at the base of the dunes, making it one of the best adventures spots in Southwest Idaho.
If you are looking for a killer story to go back home with, you can’t find a better one then, “I went SUPing at the base of a gigantic sand dune!” Seriously, you need to experience this in your life.
There is so much more to explore in Southwest Idaho. See more of our travel guides here and find your adventure today!