Adventure June 14, 2011

Get Out There



New River Academy
A Cool School [pg. 2]

Hot Springs
The State of Soaking [pg. 3]

Get Wet Sports
Places to Play [pg. 4]

Boards and Kayaks [pg. 5]

Idaho's First Whitewater Park [pg. 6]

On the Water
Listings for the Middle Fork of the Salmon [pg. 7]



School on the River Less Traveled


School. The word quite often reverberates moans, groans, excuses, and stress throughout homes everywhere. It is rigidly defined in the dictionary as, “An institute for giving systematic instruction, or the buildings used by such an institution,” but whoever said that “school” couldn’t be redefined?

What if school was a place to learn without walls and boundaries? What if it was a place where students could map out a micro-hydro power facility on a small self-sufficient island on the Nile River in Uganda for a physics project, or study number and food vocabulary by going shopping at a market in Chile for Spanish class? What if school could be held in open-air restaurants, along the banks of rippling streams, or in any place that looks comfortable, convenient, and constructive on any particular day? What if school combined the health of mind and body, and focused not only on facts, but also on how to expand them based on personal interest and individual exploration?

It makes perfect sense, yet seems all too dreamlike, but, lo and behold, this is the definition of school in the case of New River Academy, a traveling kayak high school based out of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Here, students carry out the essentials of formal education, while at the same time receiving an education of the world. The academy spends their first and last quarters in the U.S. and Canada, and then heads south for their winter quarters to live and learn in such places as Costa Rica, New Zealand, Uganda, and Chile.

Clockwise: Slacklining in Chile; Hauling kayaks to the Nuble Valley; Yoga on the Rio Claro bridge; Students atop the Volcan Villarica.


Wayne Poulsen, 15, the son of Sun Valley locals Craig and Alison Poulsen, started attending New River Academy this past fall. Wayne began to learn to whitewater kayak the previous year in the Valley, attending pool sessions at the YMCA and doing day trips over Galena Summit to the Salmon River whenever he could.

The teenager was hooked, and when he heard about New River, he was immediately sold. However, while he signed up simply to go kayaking every day with some of the best coaches in the world, he ended up getting much more than he could have imagined. The school has six full-time teachers and caps its enrollment at 15 students. So as Wayne describes, “It’s more focused for each student’s personal needs. It’s easier to learn here, and you learn a lot faster with one to three students in each class than you would at a regular school.”

Students typically wake up every morning for a yoga, strength or cardio workout before breakfast, have a full day of school, and then go kayaking. They’re so active that they’ll sit down for class contentedly, and in terms of getting homework done, the best motivation of all looms over this paradise of education—if you don’t do your work, well then you don’t get to go kayaking. Needless to say, it’s the norm for students to stay on top of any class from calculus to AP English.

Left to right: Kayaking coach and Spanish teacher Lorenzo Andrade Astorga dives in; View of the Rio Claro from above.


Being in exotic locations and having to figure out such things as how to cook dinner for 20 people in half an hour results in your average 16-year-old learning just as much outside of the “classroom” as in it. New River Academy scholars take music classes in Chile, visit schools in Africa and are encouraged to fully explore and immerse themselves in their surroundings.

Students who are beginner kayakers as well as students who are on the U.S., Canadian, and New Zealand National Teams, learn, work, and play together and, upon graduation, have moved on to attend Ivy League colleges, own successful media companies and thrive as professional kayakers.

One might speculate that much of the students’ (and the school’s) success comes from New River Academy’s philosophy of “And that has made all the difference,” taken from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Less Traveled.” When asked about the philosophy, founder of the school David Hughes states, “This slogan has guided every large school decision and served as a reminder as to why we’re here. As teachers, we should strive to make a difference and for us that difference comes via challenging ourselves daily, academically and athletically, and exploring cultures, traveling and fully engaging ourselves. Really, I wanted to remove kids from TV, video games and the Internet. It’s an active environment and that’s real life.”

And perhaps that’s school as it should be.

-Kira Tenney, a Community School graduate and literature teacher for the New River Academy
-photos courtesy New River Academy


Nature’s ahh-some experience


Near the end of an all-day trek, a lone hiker plods a dusty trail winding through the Sawtooth Wilderness. The day’s heat has begun to fade as a fiery burn in his leg muscles continues to rise. A fine layer of grit and dried sweat coats his skin, and one thing keeps him moving forward: the thought of the soothing, soul-restoring soak that awaits him just up the trail in one of Idaho’s many natural hot springs.

 Idaho is blessed with more that its share of these hot, steamy wonders; as many as 232, according to the National Geophysical Data Center. Of these, 130 are considered soakable, a larger number than any other state in the nation, and most are on public land. (To be fair, Nevada does have more hot springs, but the majority are either too hot or too acidic to sit in.)

This is Why We're Hot

Josh Laughtland, who has administered the website for more than a decade, says that 90% of our hot springs exist because of a meteor that collided in southeast Oregon some 17 million years ago. The impact was deep—so deep that it effectively punctured the Earth’s mantle, allowing a massive bubble, or plume, of magma to rise just beneath the planet’s crust.

“As time passed,” he explained, “this hot spot was shifted and pushed through Idaho, essentially to its present day location in Yellowstone.” Moving less than two inches per year, the plume traveled from the southeast corner of Oregon to its current location beneath northwest Wyoming, leaving a wide swath of underground heat energy across central Idaho.

Today, in areas across central Idaho, this leftover energy heats the groundwater, forcing it toward the surface. It emerges in streams, collecting in natural or man-made pools that enjoy continuous supplies of fresh, hot water: hot springs!

Getting into Hot Water

In spite of summer’s heat, this can be a great season to enjoy the springs, as access is often difficult during the winter and early spring. Laughtland recommends Russian John, described as a “warm spring,” just north of Sun Valley: “It only clocks in at 97 degrees so it’s a great place to go in the summer.”

Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs, a roadside soak just west of Ketchum in the Sawtooth National Forest, is popular year-round, usually accessible by off-road vehicles in the winter months. In the summer, all sorts of folks gather here to enjoy these toasty-warm pools next to Warm Springs Creek.

With a little research and a willingness to hike, antisocial soakers can find plenty of less-crowded opportunities within an hour’s drive, including several east of Featherville, and others north of Stanley along the Salmon River. But remember, conditions change from season to season and not all springs are safe to soak in, so it’s important to get the inside scoop before you go.

-Eric Ellis
-photo by Glen Allison





Drive a few miles to the north or south of the Wood River Valley and you can take your pick of alpine lakes or mineral-infused hot springs. Water-skiing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, fishing or a hot soak are all a part of summer in—and on—the waters of central Idaho.

Stanley Basin

If you want to be wowed with the sheer natural beauty of Idaho, there’s no better place than Redfish Lake ( Named for the red sockeye salmon that come here to spawn every summer, the otherworldly clarity of the water at Redfish is rivaled only by the air quality of the high mountain lake (elevation 6,550’). The views alone are worth the trip, as the Sawtooth Range, highlighted by Mount Heyburn, rises over the lake like a snow-covered sentry. The Redfish Lake Lodge Marina offers a myriad of rentals from kayaks to canoes, paddleboats to outboards and pontoon boats. Waterskiing (also popular at nearby Alturas Lake) is not for the faint of heart, however, and a wet suit is recommended (average summer water temps at Redfish are 50-60˚F). Mooring is available to guests of the Lodge and Sandy Beach has a public boat ramp.

Right Angles

Drive across any river bridge in Idaho in the summer and you’re sure to see a fisherman, casting out in hopes of landing a lunker. Cutthroat trout is the state fish of Idaho for good reason—“cuts” and their fishy siblings, rainbow, bull, brook and lake trout, inhabit most of our rivers and lakes. And they’re not the only species. Salmon and steelhead have long populated area waters as well.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game makes sure that sections of the Main Salmon, as well as numerous other alpine lakes and streams, are stocked during the summer months. So just about every body of water in the basin offers some kind of angling opportunity. Bring your own gear or check in with any of the area guides—in Stanley or Ketchum—or visit the Chamber of Commerce’s website ( for more information.

Into the Wild

To get to the postcard picture of the alpine lake you bought in the gift shop is not impossible, but may require a little legwork. Whether you want to go it on your own, trail map in hand, or connect with a local outfitter, you won’t be disappointed. Sawtooth Mountain Guides ( leads custom treks that can be as short as an afternoon hike or as involved as a multiple-day backpacking trip. Call the Stanley Ranger Station for a map of the area at 208.774.3000.

Getting There

From Sun Valley, less than hour drive north on Highway 75, up and over Galena Summit, gets you into the Stanley Basin.


Magic Reservoir

On the edge of the Camas Prairie lies a small but defiant reservoir that refuses to go away—no matter how bad the drought. It’s Magic Reservoir, a local’s favorite and a warm alternative to the chilly alpine lakes. Magic is a great spot to waterski, wakeboard and windsurf. Rainbow and brown trout abound, as do yellow perch and smallmouth bass.

The Bureau of Land Management watches over the 14,000 acres of shoreline and water that make up Magic. According to Don Hartman, owner of West Magic Resort (, the number of people at the reservoir is directly proportionate to its water levels. “This summer will be a busy one with the amount of water we’ve gotten this winter.” Hartman’s resort includes two cabins, a restaurant and bar, convenience store, tackle shop and RV park. There are two sides to Magic, east and west, with the west side considerably more developed.

The east side does have just enough for some—a boat ramp, dock, nine semi-developed campsites and, perhaps most importantly, a bar (

Getting There

From Sun Valley, it’s little more than a half hour’s drive south down Highway 75, turning west on Highway 20, to reach the east side entrances. For the west side, which takes a little longer to access, stay on 75, past the Highway 20 junction, until you see signage on the right.



Hagerman, to the uninitiated, is home to one of the oldest horses in North America. The Hagerman Horse (Equus simplicidens) hails from the late Pliocene era, three and a half million years ago. But there’s more to this hamlet than old horse bones. Situated on the banks of the Snake River and bursting with natural hot springs, it’s an aquatic play land.

Tub Time

Hot or cold, inside or out, there is no shortage of Hagerman mineral water. Miracle Hot Springs ( has 19 private pools, a large warm outdoor pool and smaller hot pool. Jim House, who drains and cleans the pools every evening, says hot spring groupies, who travel the country like Deadheads on tour, come for the water and stay for the customer service. “We don’t shock the water with chlorine, so everything about it is natural. People appreciate how laid back we are, but at the same time how happy we are to accommodate them,” he said. High alkaline contents make your skin silky smooth, unlike their resident alligators, which are safely ensconced behind a fence near the mineral pools. Geodesic camping domes and an RV park with hook-ups are available if you’d like to make a weekend of it. The only indoor hot spring in town is 1000 Springs Resort, which( offers a large pool with high dive, slides and a lifeguard. It ranges in temp from 84-94ºF and is perfect for the whole family. Private rooms with tubs are also on site. Choice campsites are right on the water complete with docks, so bring your boat. There’s an RV park as well.

Land of a 1000 Springs

Landlubbers who prefer to just look at the water might find the 1000 Springs Tours ( that cruise the Snake River right up their alley. A 52-foot, heated and enclosed Catamaran Cruiser takes you on a “River’s Mist” two-hour, 12-mile dinner or lunch tour (complete with cocktails) where you’ll see waterfalls, birdlife, and maybe even an over-sized, prehistoric-looking sturgeon or two.

Getting There

From Sun Valley it’s less than a two-hour drive to Hagerman Valley. Take Highway 75 south until you hit U.S. 26 and take a right. Follow it until you hit U.S. 30 and make another left.

-Jody Orr
-photo by Cody Doucette




Stand Up Paddling (SUP) on Redfish Lake.Glistening water. Bright sun. Cool Idaho air. Blue skies and towering mountains. This is the idyllic alpine scene each summer at Redfish Lake.

Boats zip around, pulling waterskiers and wakeboarders. An occasional sailboat or fleet of rented paddleboats bob about. There are canoes, campers, anglers and surfboards … surfboards? Yes, surfboards. Stand-up paddleboards, to be exact. The ocean-bred sport has caught on in our beloved mountain state.

“Stand up paddling has definitely taken hold in Idaho and all over the world in land-locked locations,” explains Mike Fox, who owns paddleboard maker, Boardworks, in Oceanside, California, and spends time paddling in the Gem State. “At first you scratch your head thinking, how could this be? But the sport lends itself very well to inland environments. It really is a wonderful alternative to canoeing and kayaking, and also offers the ability to wake surf and fish off the boards.”

Jim Smith owns Stand Up and Paddle Idaho, a Boise-based paddleboard dealer and school that, along with Idaho River Sports, offers lessons to people of all ages, sizes and abilities.

Smith explains that, for some, paddleboarding just comes naturally, “Like so many other people who grew up surfing or near the water, the desire to get out in the water has never left me even though I live in Idaho.”

Smith says there are few main attractions to the sport. It offers an intense core workout, similar to Pilates, with quite a bit of cardio as well. But he really just enjoys the ability to peacefully cruise around the water on his own time, no motor and no rush. “The thing about it is that because you are standing you get a different perspective of the water. You are looking down on it with new eyes,” he says.

Legend has it that stand up paddleboarding began in the 1960s when tourists wanted pictures of themselves learning to surf. Beach boys would follow them out to take photos while standing on their longboards, using their outrigger canoe paddles for stability.

Casey Schaefer, from Backwoods Mountain Sports in Ketchum, says that paddleboarding has become one of the fastest growing sports in Idaho and that their rental packages are sold out every summer weekend by folks heading up to Redfish, Alturas and Pettit. She even says that inflatable longboards for use on river trips have been gaining popularity as well.

–Katie Matteson
-photo by Eric Kiel





Much to the delight of Gem State kayakers, Kelly’s Whitewater Park (KWP) in Cascade opened last year as Idaho’s first such facility. A collection of five man-made rapids and a stunning Welcome Center on the North Fork of the Payette River at Cascade are the highlights of the park.

A dream come true for boaters, the project was kicked off by a citizen committee in early 2007. Events such as kayak film festivals and “Flatwater Races” helped get the dream rolling.

The park is the result of plenty of effort and determination by local residents and benefactors Mark and Kristina Pickard of Miami Beach and nearby Tamarack Resort. Besides the recreational potential, the park is also seen as a way to buoy Cascade’s economy.

In March 2009, the Pickards contacted the folks putting the park together. The couple was considering a community project and pitched in for a whitewater park named after Kristina’s late sister, Kelly Brennan, a sports enthusiast who passed away in an auto accident at the tender age of 23.

In just five months during the winter of 2009-2010, that included subzero temperatures, construction crews created the features and the Welcome Center, which offers a 180-degree view of the Payette River. A grand opening was held last June and a bronze statue honoring Kelly Brennan was unveiled in August.

Kelly’s Kayak School was assembled to provide free instruction for school-aged kids of Valley County and graduated more than 60 kids last summer. “The Strand,” an all-weather greenbelt, now runs for more than two miles along the Payette and a steel bridge between the shoreline and a rock island that forms the rapids was also installed.

Kelly’s, as it’s simple called by some, has been selected to host this year’s USA Freestyle Kayaking Point Series Championships on July 9-10. It will draw the nation’s best freestyle athletes to perform acrobatics in their tiny boats before thousands of fans. Park supporters see the championships as an opportunity to showcase KWP as one of the top play parks in the nation. Kelly’s will be an active place all summer long with art showings and music each week.

-Dan Gallagher
-photo by Kurtis Perkins






Idaho is a whitewater Mecca, with rivers that range from gentle floats along flat water with amazing fishing to some of the rowdiest rapids in the entire world.

The Grand Daddy of all Idaho river trips is the Middle Fork of the Salmon. World famous for its enticing mixture of wildlife, scenic beauty, remoteness, and exciting whitewater, it lives up to the hype whether you’re a novice in the world of rivers and rafting or a seasoned veteran who loves to kayak. If you want do the 4 to 7 day trip on your own, however, you’ll have to get pretty lucky and win one of the few permits in the annual lottery. If you don’t win the lottery, you can always book a trip down the Middle Fork with one of the many established outfitters operating out of Stanley, Idaho, a beautiful one-hour drive north of Ketchum. They offer everything from bare-bones trips to white-tablecloth extravagance. -Kitt Doucette

Echo River Trips

Established in 1972, ECHO prides itself on its professional and personable river guides who know what it takes to make a good trip a legendary adventure. This family-oriented company emphasizes quality on every trip and seeks to enrich the lives of their guests with an ecologically sound, meaningful and memorable vacation. Selected by National Geographic as one of 2009’s Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth, ECHO offers rafting trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Rogue River and numerous other trips from Alaska to Nepal.
800.652.3246 /

Far and Away Adventures

Launch an adventure of a lifetime and embark on one of the West’s most storied rivers, the Middle Fork, with the crew at Far and Away Adventures. Revel in out-of-the-ordinary offerings like private massages, chalet tents and organic, seasonal fare while around every rapid and river bend you will find a spontaneous dose of magic beauty. Customize a week-long trip to suit your group’s tastes and desires. From a fly fishing getaway to a fun family vacation, you envision the experience and we elevate it with five-star service. This summer, Far and Away is offering 2-and 3-night getaways.
800.232.8588 /

Idaho River Journeys

The team at Idaho River Journeys has been floating, fly fishing, exploring, star-gazing, hot springs-soaking, hiking and having fun on the Middle Fork and Main Salmon since 1978. Family-friendly, knowledgeable guides, top-notch equipment, delicious and widely-acclaimed camp meals featuring locally sourced ingredients, and very careful attention to the details make for a great vacation. Idaho River Journeys also hosts the Middle Fork Writing Workshop. This year’s workshop, scheduled from August 17-21, will feature travel writers Tim Cahill and Michael Shapiro.
888.997.8399 /

Mackay Wilderness Trips

Guiding whitewater rafting trips on Idaho rivers for over 30 years has taught the crew at Mackay Wilderness Trips what it takes to run comfortable, safe and fun trips. The guides are knowledgeable in history, geology, plants and wildlife and, when not paddling, teaching or setting up comfortable campsite, they’re cooking up some of the best Dutch-oven meals you’ll ever experience. Trips on the Main Salmon offer a Kid Wrangler program, where trained professionals do fun, educational events with the kids while the parents relax.
800.635.5336 /

Payette River Company

Specializing in rafting trips on the raucous South Fork of the Payette River, about an hour north of Boise, the Payette River Company (PRC) covers some of the rowdiest whitewater in the Gem State. Providing anything from half-day family trips to three-day adventures, PRC’s lead guide is kayaking legend Sean Glaccum (see story, page 72). Besides offering four different runs on the Payette, from nice mellow Class II rapids to 15 miles of the wildest Class IV rapids in the state, PRC also offers multi-day trips on the Owyhee River.
208.259.3702 /

Sawtooth Adventure Company

Since 2001, Sawtooth Adventure Company (SAC) has experienced phenomenal growth on Idaho’s Salmon River, which is a direct result of the charming guides and the superior quality of their trips. Offering world-class adventure vacations on Idaho’s Salmon River and in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), SAC trips include guided rafting, kayaking, mountain biking and fly fishing trips throughout the summer season. All day trips begin at the Sawtooth Adventure Company Headquarters in Lower Stanley on Highway 75 in the heart of the SNRA.
866.774.4644 /

White Otter

The folks at White Otter love what they do—and it shows. Specializing in guided day and half-day trips for families and groups of all sizes and ages, White Otter offers a little something for everyone. Experienced guides offer outstanding service and exceptional knowledge of the local area. A day on the Salmon River with White Otter is sure to be one of your most memorable days of the summer. White Otter also offers float fishing trips and rents boats and equipment from their location in Sunbeam, just downriver from Stanley.
877.788.5005 /

This article appears in the Summer 2011 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.