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Living in the PNW, in the land of cold water and waterfalls, does not make it easy to find consistent access to playboating fun. And while there is plenty of flatware around to play in, reliable features are few and far between. This is why, this summer, when the Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, Idaho, was running, I knew for sure it was where I wanted to be.

Kelly’s WW Park is a series of man-made features on the North Fork of the Payette River. The beautifully landscaped space is located in Cascade, Idaho, about 30 minutes from McCall and roughly an hour from Banks. From my house in Washington, it’s about a six-eight hour drive, which means that ideally, I want to go for at least the weekend. Luckily, Kelly’s is Park N’Play, with easy access to multiple features for a range of levels, and it is easy to play and paddle until your arms fall off.

Kelly's Whitewater Park: Worth A Visit


My two favorite features are the top two: Feature 1 is a wave/hole made famous by several different competitions over the years, such as The Payette River Games. When the top feature is at prime flows, literally every trick on the scoresheet is possible- at least for some of us…. But, even at lower, summer flows, the top wave is still a lot of fun to surf, carve, blunt, back blunt, or helix.

At lower, summer flows, (1400-1800) The middle feature is where I like to spend most of my time, whether working on hole boating skills or river surfing. It isn’t the deepest or most retentive feature in the world, but it’s slow and friendly. This summer, I had a time trying McNastys, Lunars, cartwheels, and tricky woos while dialing in loops and spaces. For people still wanting to hone in on front surfing and spins, the river left (surfer’s right) shoulder is incredibly friendly. There are big eddies on river right and river left, and while there is current, there is normally time to practice a few rolls!

Kelly's Whitewater Park: Worth A Visit

Be prepared to share the wave with boogie boarders, River surfers, sups, and inflatables. There is often a fun party-vibe from the locals onshore, who range in age from real little to not at all. If you want some serious training sessions, try and hit the water before 10 am.

Downstream is another, green, steep wave that is fun for trying kickflips or for jumping on a river surfer. The wave train ends in a big calm pool, albeit with decent-sized whirlpools, and it is easy to walk back up for more.

Kelly's Whitewater Park: Worth A Visit


Kelly’s park is named for Kelly Brennan, and it is designed to be a community-friendly space. There are toilets (open from 10-7 pm), and the old logging mill has been turned into a wonderful amphitheater-like space where you can escape from the heat and sun while you charge your camera or get some work done on the Wifi before your next session. There is a small retailer store/rental where you can buy what you need, demo the newest Jackson Kayaks (yay!), or rent a SUP/surfboard. There is also a YMCA gym with a pool where you can buy a punch pass for showers, etc. The park area has lots of water and charge boxes, tables and small day-use trashcans, and bocce ball courts.

You can drive or bike into downtown Cascade (2-5 min away) to stock up groceries or snacks, do laundry, or grab a coffee. It’s easy to walk to the burger place, where the deal of the day is $10 for a burger, fries, and a drink. Be sure to check out what is playing at the local movie theatre- rumor has it they have one of the nicest screens in the country!

I love going to Kelly’s in the summer when it is easy to camp. If you want to go, it’s worth calling the park and asking if they are allowing self-contained camping on site. If yes, RAD! Park up, put up a sunshade and make sure there is ice in your cooler and you are good to go. If not, there are loads of campsites nearby ranging from $10-25/night. Check out Cascade Lake or Horsethief Reservoir. If you’re not the camping type, there are also several motels/bed and breakfasts to check out nearby.

Pro-Tip: In the summer, the name of the game is beat the heat. So, bring sunscreen! Loads of it! I’m a big fan of Zink sticks for my PFD as well.

Kelly's Whitewater Park: Worth A Visit

My summer Kelly’s uniform is a hooded NRS Sun shirt or dress, boardies, a bathing suit top, sunnies, and a big ole’ sun hat. At night it’s sometimes nice to have light pants for the bugs, but you don’t need much.

I also hang out in the air con during the day or find patches of shade under sun tarps. Plan on going for lots of swims in the river, and nothing beats a dunk right before bed.

Also be sure to check out Xxx restaurant- great sandwiches, soups, and more. AND… if you happen to be in Cascade around July 3rd, Idaho’s statehood day, don’t miss the 3rd of July parade!

If you like Mountain Biking, check out the Eagle’s Nest trail or head to Mcall to lap Jugg Mountain.

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