Idaho’s North Fork Championship needs to be on your event bucket list. This world-renowned whitewater kayaking event draws the best athletes from all over the globe to a mighty stretch of churning whitewater on the Payette River along Idaho’s Highway 55.  And that’s where the fun begins.

kayaker launching off ramp into river
Things get wild at the North Fork Championship.

Inviting someone to take a seat alongside the highway to enjoy some of the most insane whitewater kayaking in the world may be a bit of a tough sell, but trust me, once you make the trip and see what this competition is all about, you’ll be hooked.

Saturday is the best day of competition with a flurry of activity and a fantastic Whitewater Festival in Crouch that evening. So grab your sandals, your sunscreen and your sense of adventure and head on up to the North Fork Championship.

Here’s what you need to know.

Roadside Action

Mother Nature provided the perfect course for this river competition and it just so happens that Highway 55 runs right beside it.  You can’t miss the course location along the highway just north of Banks (follow the bright orange road signs, the cones, and the cars to Milepost 86) but be extra aware of slow traffic and people. Parking is limited to what is available along the highway so be patient, and be prepared to take a scenic walk from your car after finding a safe spot to park. Let the sounds of the Red Bull DJ lead your steps all the way to the competition site. Yes, there is a live DJ at the course site along the river, all day.

dj with a crowd along the river
Let the sound of music lead you at the North Fork Championship.

Grab A Seat

The heart-pounding action of the NFC is insanely accessible. Walk along the banks of the river to find your perfect seat on a rock or log or bring a chair or blanket and watch the kayakers battle the river from a higher vantage point, there’s not a bad seat around. The rocks along the river can be slippery, so wear shoes you are comfortable climbing in. Keep in mind, the weather can change as the day progresses so plan to pack sunscreen, water, and even a jacket or sweatshirt to cover all your bases. If you find yourself hungry after watching a few of these extreme athletes tackle the wild whitewater, don’t panic. Tap into your own cooler of tasty goodies or head on over to one of the vendors selling delicious snacks like street tacos or BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. Cash is key here and will give you more options when it comes to making purchases.

people standing along river bank
Find your perfect seat for this wild competition.

Unbelievable Athlete Access

The North Fork Championship’s design gives spectators extraordinary, up-close opportunities to see these talented kayakers. Before each course run, the kayakers walk along the river bank assessing the course and chatting with other competitors. If you end up with a seat near the Red Bull boat launch, you’ll be able to hear how each kayaker gets pumped up and ready to tackle the raging waters and on some occasions, you might even get to make jokes with the racers or give high fives.

kayaker coming down boat launch
Ready to ride!

Don’t Miss the Whitewater Festival

After a day of rowdy whitewater competition, it’s time to head to Crouch for the Whitewater Festival. This is a must-do. Live music fills the air at Weilmunster Park in this quaint mountain town while food vendors dish up hearty eats and yard games abound. Visit sponsor tents, pick up swag, enter the raffle for some amazing prizes and make new friends in this relaxing setting.  For hearty souls, the fun continues at the Dirty Shame Saloon when the sun sets. Pro Tip: Reserve a camping spot in advance to keep the fun going all weekend long.

man playing a yard game
The Whitewater Festival in Crouch is the place to be.

There’s a full schedule of events to keep you busy at the North Fork Championship.  Plot out a plan of your own or check out this video to see what you can expect during a North Fork Championship weekend.

All photos, including feature image, credited to Idaho Tourism.

Visit Idaho is a proud sponsor of the North Fork Championship.

Andrea Rayburn

Published on June 13, 2017