Field Notes: South Fork of the Payette River


The Payette River, with the Boise River and Weiser River, are the river systems that drain the westerly side of the Idaho Batholith in central Idaho. Like its more famous cousin, the Salmon River and its various forks, the Payette has carved deeply into the Batholith. Unlike its sister streams, in many stretches of the South Fork of the Payette, the native rock that predated the plutons that make up the batholith, is exposed, pushed up, twisted and metamorphosed by the gigantic plutons of granite that rose up underneath the older rock.

Map of the Payette River drainage basin in western Idaho. Made using USGS National Map and NASA SRTM data.

Map of the Payette River drainage basin in western Idaho. Made using USGS National Map and NASA SRTM data.

The geology, made more complex by some volcanic intrusives and basin and range stretching, has created very steep-sided terrain, and deeply carved river canyons. It was a great place to visit around the 4th of July, escaping the heat and noise of the city. WC and Mrs. WC settled on a trip to Warm Springs Creek, the last named creek up the South Fork, shown on the map.

Upper Gorge, South Fork of the Payette River, Idaho

Upper Gorge, South Fork of the Payette River, Idaho

The flatter stretches of the upper river are pretty sweet, too.

South Fork, Payette River, 2 miles below Warm Springs Creek

South Fork, Payette River, about two miles below Warm Springs Creek

The birding was good, if not great. The campground host had hummingbird feeders up, which had attracted in a generous number of the amazing little birds. Mrs. WC put ours up as well, and it attracted this pretty lady.

Calliope Hummingbird, South Fork of the Payette River

Calliope Hummingbird, South Fork of the Payette River

At the entrance to the campground, across the highway and back by the river, there was an Osprey nest. It was a long ways, but even this lousy photo shows a remarkable three nestlings.

Three Osprey Nestlings, South Fork of the Payette River

Three Osprey Nestlings, South Fork of the Payette River

The South Fork has a reputation for lousy fishing, but obviously the Osprey disagree. A little further away, on a walk up Warm Springs Road, we found a Downy Woodpecker male, working a dead tree.

Male Downy Woodpecker, South Fork Payette River

Male Downy Woodpecker, South Fork Payette River

But the stars of the trip were the the squirrels at the Bonneville Campground. There were three species: Least Chipmunk, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel and Red Squirrel. WC got photos of two of them.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, South Fork of the Payette River

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, South Fork of the Payette River

Least Chipmunk, South Fork of the Payette River

Least Chipmunk, South Fork of the Payette River

Bonneville Campground is at about 4,750 feet and, for a wonder, there was no wildfire smoke. The night sky was pretty spectacular.

Night sky from Bonneville Campground, South Fork of the Payette River

Night sky from Bonneville Campground, South Fork of the Payette River

And altogether excellent trip.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Field Notes: South Fork of the Payette River

  1. Pingback: Field Notes: South Fork of the Payette River | Wickersham’s Conscience – Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog

  2. Brings memories both of my time at Outward Bound (south side of the river in the Sawtooths, and north of it on the Middle Fork of Salmon) AND of my first job after undergraduate, which being paid very, very good money for a 21-yo to scramble all over the South Fork’s watershed looking for gold.

  3. Pingback: Field Notes: South Fork of the Payette River — Wickersham’s Conscience – PerchSpective

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