Why An Idaho River Race Has Become A Destination For The World's Best Kayakers

Jun 11, 2015

Kayakers from around the world are headed to compete at the fourth annual North Fork Championship on the Payette River today. The three-day event along Highway 55 has some of the best whitewater in the world.

Dane Jackson is one of the athletes who's being drawn to the wild Idaho river. The 21-year-old world champion has been kayaking since he was two years old, and comes from a family well-versed in the sport. His dad started the Jackson Kayak company, which – along with companies like Red Bull and Go Pro – sponsors his professional career.

Jackson says the whitewater kayaking community is a close-knit global group.

"The people that are going to be at the North Fork this weekend are tons of kayakers from all over the world," says Jackson, "and I know pretty much every one of them competing. So it's really fun competing against all my friends."

Jackson hopes to do better at the North Fork Championship than he did last year, when he placed ninth. He says the event is something he looks forward to each year, and is a well-run competition. The world-class athlete says the Payette River has some of the most challenging whitewater he's encountered.

"The rocks that are in it are actually rocks that were blasted out for the road and the railroad tracks, [so] it's got a little bit of an unnatural feel to it. The rocks are really jagged," he says. "Compared to the rest of the world it's definitely one of the more intense races and runs you can do."

After the event the Tennessee native will stick around southern Idaho for the Payette River Games, which are set to take place the following weekend.

Here's footage from last year's North Fork Championship:

NORTH FORK CHAMPIONSHIP III [by River Roots] from The North Fork Championship on Vimeo.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio