6 great Treasure Valley options for early season paddling

Local ponds and secluded areas on reservoirs make for shakedown paddling adventures

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comMarch 20, 2014 


    • Canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are small, and wind and waves can come up suddenly. Keep an eye on the weather.

    • Don't overload your boat. Two adults or an adult and two children are just about right in a tandem canoe.

    • Wear life jackets.

    • Always keep an eye on the shore and try to stay a safe distance out that you are comfortable with. Don't paddle out into the middle of a lake far from shore if you're not an experienced paddler in rough water.

    • Always be aware of motor boats and their wakes. Point your bow into oncoming wakes to avoid flipping over.

Boisean Jayne Saunders got a jump on the paddling season when most people still have their gear stored in the garage.

That's because she already hit Quinns Pond with her stand-up paddleboard in early March for preseason workouts.

Quinns Pond and others like it in the Treasure Valley are great early season paddling areas and good places to work on the paddling muscles and sea legs.

Local canoeist Stan Kolby, part owner of Idaho River Sports in Boise, canoed the shoreline of Lucky Peak Reservoir in early March to launch his boating season.

"It was a good workout," said Kolby, "I just got there before the winds came up and kept an eye out for motorboaters."

Lots of ponds in the Treasure Valley also are good bets to take the kids out for their first paddling adventure.

Here are some areas to try with your flatwater canoe, paddleboat or touring kayak:


What: This is one of the most accessible ponds near Downtown Boise. It's made for urban paddling with boat-launching steps just off Whitewater Park Boulevard and Pleasanton Avenue.

It's one of a string of ponds along the Boise Greenbelt and by far the most popular for paddling.

Two docks, which are wheelchair-accessible and located at opposite ends of the lake, make good picnic spots.

Wind factor: Parts of the pond are sheltered from the wind, but the pond doesn't get really strong winds

Distance: It's .75 miles around the pond in case you want to do laps.

Getting there: Hit Whitewater Park Boulevard (30th Street Extension off State Street or Main Street) and park behind Idaho River Sports.

The carry: It's an easy carry from the car - only a few steps to the pond from the parking lot.


What: This is one of the larger ponds along the Boise Greenbelt and offers a little more distance for paddling.

The neat thing about it is there are shorelines away from the Greenbelt where you can get away from people.

It's almost like your own private pond, and because of a little more seclusion, you might see more wildlife, especially waterfowl.

Since it does require carrying your boat a little farther, there are fewer paddlers on the pond.

There is a dock, but not in a place you would want to launch. It's too far from parking.

Wind factor: Since the pond is a little more open than Quinns, you can expect slightly stronger breezes.

Distance: It's about a mile around the pond if you're keeping track of laps.

Getting there: Park in the Veterans Memorial Park parking lot off Veterans Memorial Boulevard and State Street.

Get as close to the Boise River side of the park as possible to get close to the pond.

The carry: About a quarter-mile.


What: This 94-acre desert reservoir is just the right size for a canoe or kayak. It's tucked in a rimrock cove off the Snake River arm of C.J. Strike Reservoir and sheltered from some of the winds.

Although it mostly attracts anglers, wildlife photographers have a heyday in the spring. If you're on the water, just make sure your camera is in a Pelican box.

There is a dock at the lake, but it's easier to launch right when you come to the small parking area off the access road.

This is an enjoyable paddle trip, and I've even hooked into a few trout while dragging a Mepps spinner behind the canoe. Paddling and then having a trout dinner - you can't beat that.

Wind factor: The waves can build up on this reservoir, so watch the weather and stay close to shore.

Distance: If you do a lap, it will be about 1.75 miles.

Getting there: The reservoir is reached by heading south out of Mountain Home on Idaho 51. Cross the Snake River bridge and keep going toward Bruneau until you see the sign to the reservoir. It's 8 miles to the reservoir on gravel roads.

The carry: There's a boat launch at the lake.


What: Lucky Peak Reservoir is a pretty big body of water for a canoe or kayak, but you can get a workout if you hit some of the sheltered areas.

Try the sheltered canyon near Macks Creek boat ramp, which is in the upper Middle Fork arm just before you get to Arrowrock Dam. (Don't go paddling near the dam).

The calmer waters of the upper canyon are easy to paddle and good for wildlife watching.

You may have motorboats in the area, so stick close to the shoreline.

Start at Macks Creek and head upstream on the north side of the reservoir for a ways, and then cross over to the south shore and paddle downstream past Macks Creek to just about where the reservoir opens up. Don't venture across the open water.

I've had several good paddling adventures in the canyon and even caught some trout while trolling in the canoe.

Wind factor: Strong winds can come up, so don't venture out in the middle of the reservoir. You can get swamped by whitecaps.

Distance: You could do a lap of about 6 miles in this section of the reservoir.

Getting there: Drive Idaho 21 northeast out of Boise. Just after crossing the High Bridge, turn right toward Spring Shores.

Continue past the state park into the upper canyon and look for the Macks Creek boat ramp.

The carry: If the Macks Creek Boat Ramp is open, it's a few steps to the water off the ramp. If not, it's about a 75-yard carry from where you park the car.


What: Lake Lowell is a large reservoir, but there are little hidden stretches of shoreline on the south end that are ideal for bird watching and paddling.

The lake is filling with storage water right now, and if it gets into the willows, it's like paddling in the flooded timber or Southern states. It has wetlands and a forested feel to it. Boating on the shoreline doesn't open until April 15, so keep this spot in mind for later in the spring.

Wind factor: It's a really big lake with extremely high winds, so keep the weather in mind and always keep an eye out for approaching storms.

Here's an important note: GPS the spot where you launched because chances are you won't see it once you start paddling, and since everything looks the same, you could be paddling for an extra hour returning and trying to find the launch area. Been there, done that.

Distance: There are 7 miles and more of paddling one way along the south shore.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 from Nampa to the Riverside Road turnoff and drive across the dam to the south side. The first parking lots, No. 8 or No. 7, along Lake Shore Drive are good spots to launch. No. 1 also has a launch area.

The carry: You'll have 60 yards at Parking Lot No. 7, depending on the water level, and a longer one at No. 8. No. 1 is close to the water.


What: The lower section of the Main Payette River where it empties into Black Canyon Reservoir near Emmett is a good early season float for intermediate paddlers. There is moving water and in extremely high flows, it can be tricky handling a canoe or kayak.

It is considered a family canoeing trip at moderate flows, and it's a true wildlife-watching adventure because it is located near a wildlife management area.

The float is very scenic as the river winds through foothills terrain, wetlands, woodlands and braided channels.

Wind factor: Although much of the river is sheltered from the wind, when you get out on the reservoir you could experience strong winds. Just stay close to shore.

It could make the last part of your run to the boat ramp a little more strenuous with a head wind. Been there, done that.

Distance: A little over 5 miles.

Getting there: Drive north on Idaho 55 to Horseshoe Bend and turn left on Idaho 52 toward Emmett. Drive about 9 miles to the Triangle junction, where the Montour Road, Ola Highway and Idaho 52 meet. Turn left on the Montour cutoff and go about a mile to the river.

Note: You'll have to leave a shuttle vehicle at the first boat ramp on Black Canyon Reservoir, which is farther west on Idaho 52.

The carry: It's a few feet from parking to the river.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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