Idaho is home to one of the most extreme whitewater competitions in the world, but with more than 3,100 miles of navigable whitewater it’s not hard to believe. In just its fifth year, the North Fork Championship has become the premiere extreme kayak race on the planet. This competition on Idaho’s world renowned North Fork of the Payette River is designed to show off the talents of the best kayakers in the world on some of the rowdiest whitewater in the world. This weekend gives you a front row seat to these amazing athletes, killer Idaho scenery, and a chance to experience a wilder side of the Gem State.

Kayaker on the North Fork of the Payette
Nate Garcia launching the boof at Rodeo Hole. Photo Credit: Mike Leeds.

The North Fork Championship takes place just 35 miles north of Boise along the Payette River so checking out this competition is as easy as loading up a cooler and the car and heading out for a great day along this gorgeous whitewater. Camping out for the weekend in Crouch is also a great bet and means you’ll have more chances to mingle with these world-class competitors. If you’re thinking about snagging a hotel room or a camp spot check out this list of suggested locations that will keep you close to the action and the weekend’s Whitewater Festival.

Crowd watching kayaker on Payette River.
The crowd watches kayakers at the North Fork Championship. Photo Credit: Mike Leeds.

So what’s this competition all about? Check out this breakdown of the events and start planning your NFC weekend.

June 14 – Kelly’s Whitewater Park, Cascade
Community Paddle and Movie
6:30 PM

NFC is hosting a community paddle and movie showing at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade. This event is open to anyone who would like to paddle with the athletes without the challenge of Class V rapids.

June 16 – Expert Division Qualifier
Two Miles north of Banks
10:30 AM

The first kayak event of the competition is the Expert Division Qualifier race. Athletes paddle through two massive rapids named Juicer and Crunch in a sprint where the fastest time wins.  The top five competitors from this race receive an invitation to the main event (Elite Division) on Saturday. Spectators should swing in to the newly remodeled Banks Café on the way and grab a hearty breakfast before the action. Banks is the hub of the whitewater community along the Payette River. It is where the North Fork and the South Fork of the Payette River meet, making it a busy location for whitewater enthusiasts of all disciplines.

June 16 – Melt Awards Film and Photo Festival
Egyptian Theatre, Boise
Doors open at 6: 00 PM, films begin at 7:00 PM
Tickets: $12 in advance, $13 at the door

People sitting in a movie theater.
A packed house at the Egyptian Theatre for the Melt Awards. Photo Credit: John Webster.

Boise is the official site for the NFC kickoff party with the Melt Awards Film and Photo Festival on Thursday night. Grab dinner at one of the incredible food options in downtown Boise, like Fork, Bittercreek Alehouse, or Saint Lawrence Gridiron before heading over to the Egyptian Theatre. A ticket to this party means you’ll be able to check out spectacular kayaking films and photography which are sure to inspire your inner river enthusiast. Guests are also encouraged to vote for a “People’s Choice Award” in both the film and photo categories, so make sure you pick your favorites.

June 17 -BoaterX Race
Big Eddy Campground, mile post 90 on Highway 55
3:00 PM

Friday brings the athletes and spectators back up to the river and into the beautiful mountains of Idaho for the rest of the weekend. The BoaterX Race takes place up at the Big Eddy Campground along Highway 55. This race consists of heats of six riders going head to head in an all out brawl down the explosive S-Turn rapid. Spectators can sit on the banks of the river just feet from the BoaterX and watch the carnage unfold.

Kayakers on the Payette River.
Things get extra interesting during the BoaterX Races. Photo Credit: Mike Leeds.

June 17 -18
NFC Whitewater Festival
Weilmunster Park, Crouch

Everyone is invited to Crouch to enjoy the NFC Whitewater Festival in Weilmunster Park on Friday and Saturday. Food, music, spirits, and outdoor games make for great times in the park. As the sun sets on the beautiful Garden Valley, join in the campfire conversations with outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world.

June 18 -Elite Division
Mile Post 86 on Highway 55
1:00 PM

On the final day of NFC action, the top 30 athletes will compete on Jacob’s Ladder – the fiercest rapid on the North Fork. Everyone is invited to come to the river and sit on the water’s edge to watch this amazing competition unfold. Beginning at 1 pm, the world’s best paddlers will launch off the NFC Red Bull Ramp into Jacob’s Ladder and head down Golf Course Rapids to compete for the title of King of the North Fork Championship!

Kayaker jumping off a ramp into river.
30 of the world’s best kayakers fly off the NFC Red Bull Ramp. Photo Credit: Tait Trautman.

Following the Elite Division competition, is the Stoke Float event. Young and old alike are are invited to take part in this float where 100+ paddlers kayak their way down to Banks on the North Fork. Those that have kayaked the North Fork and feel safe are invited for this stretch, but don’t worry if you’re not a Class V kayaker, there are two other sections of river with easy access points on the South Fork Payette, and Main Payette where many other paddlers will be ready to ride.

June 18- NFC Whitewater Festival Awards
Weilmunster Park, Crouch
6:00 PM

The NFC Whitewater Festival Awards in Crouch are the perfect conclusion to a weekend of wild competition. Awards for the Main Event and the peer voted award, the Catshead’s Award, are handed out and then the celebration continues with music, food, and great company.

Trip Tips

  • Plan for the day. If you’re making the North Fork Championship a day trip make sure you bring water, snacks, chairs or something comfy to sit on, and plenty of sunscreen.
  • This truly is riverside viewing. The North Fork Championship is unique in the fact that the public’s access to this event is right on the side of the North Fork. Make sure to bring shoes you are comfortable navigating rocks in. It’s also a good idea to bring your swimsuit in case you’d like to take a dip in some of the calmer waters near Banks.
  • Parking is serious business. Parking for NFC is typically along the highway. Please be patient and safe and look for volunteers to help steer you in the right direction. There are numerous pullouts along Highway 55 which are used for parking during this event, so keep your eyes peeled for people walking across the road.
  • Enjoy the water. If you feel inspired by these kayakers you might think about enjoying a whitewater raft experience in Banks. Check out Cascade Raft and Kayak, Bear Valley Rafting, and Idaho Whitewater Unlimited to get you started.
Visit Idaho is a proud sponsor of the North Fork Championship.

Published on May 19, 2016