Payette Lake in Idaho

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

I had the day off work, so I started up to McCall from Boise to paddle the Meanders. The Meanders is a slack water area between Upper Payette and Payette Lake. It is one of my favorite day paddles as it is easy access and, although close to town, I often see Moose and other wildlife.

The month of May is generally a little early for mountain paddling in Idaho, but we had a mild winter and it has been unseasonably hot, so I thought I might give it a try.

After arriving at North Beach on Payette Lake, I got the boat ready and started up the River. This section usually has a very mild current and you paddle upstream for 4 or 5 miles and then turn around and head back downstream to the starting point. After about a mile, I noticed that I was fighting the current and not making the progress that I usually would so I turned back downstream and headed into the main lake area.

Payette Lake is about a 3000 acre lake and it gets busy with skiiers and power boats in the summer, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that as I neared the lake there were no boats in sight.

I headed along the shore of Norht Beach and then along the east side of the lake for some distance before turning around and making my way back to the parking area.

The lake is surrounded by ponderosa pine forests and granit outcrops on this section and there is little developement so it was a very nice paddle as I had the lake all to myself.

This trip taught me a valuable lesson about paddling somewhere at non-peak times. I would not normally venture onto the main lake becasue of boat traffic but on this day/time of year it was quiet and really a great paddle.


Pit toilet at the ramp area. No water available so bring your own. From June to September there is kayak and canoe rentals at the beach.


$4.00 Parking fee if you don't have an Idaho State park pass which runs $25.00 a year. In summer parking is limited.


The Meanders are located in McCall, ID on the north end of Payette lake. From downtown McCall you head west out of town and them turn north on Warren Wagon road. North Beach boat launch is on the right about 8 miles from the turn.


"Paddling the Payette" by Steve Stuebner has a great description of this and several other flat water and white water paddles in the Payette river system.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location