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The Laura Moore Cunningham

Payette River Scenic Byway

"We really do have spectacular driving and riding, wonderful scenery and very interesting diversions that happen as you are driving those byways. You start appreciating that perhaps this is the way to travel."
        --Karen Ballard, Idaho Department of Commerce

From just west of Boise the Payette River Scenic Byway winds along highway 55 for over a hundred miles to the tiny community of New Meadows. Along the way this road passes through the communities of Horseshoe Bend, Cascade, Donnelly, and McCall. From Horseshoe Bend the byway follows the beautiful Payette River where whitewater rafting opportunities abound. The section of the river below Banks is an easier stretch where you'll often see dozens of rafts and other watercraft on hot summer days. Above Banks the North Fork of the Payette is a very challenging run where you're more likely to see a few expert kayakers.

Another more reasonable rafting section is the Carbaton run above Smith's Ferry. Guided trips are available on both the Carbaton and the Main Payette. Whether you're rafting, sightseeing or looking for other activities, the Payette Byway has much to offer. There are plenty of places along the river to fish, camp, hike or just relax.

Another option for all those activities is Cascade Reservoir, formed by the waters of the Payette River. Near the reservoir are the Hembrey Creek Wetlands where you can see all kinds of migratory birds, raptors and waterfowl. Further up the byway is another beautiful body of water, Payette Lake. The resort town of McCall is perched along the shores of the lake and nearby Ponderosa State Park is a popular gathering spot both summer and winter. Winter visitors also flock to McCall each year for the McCall Winter Carnival and its impressive snow sculptures.