Skimming along the North Fork of the Payette River

I'm attracted to water -- rivers, creeks, lakes, sounds and oceans I like them all. But I am often not long satisfied to just watch a piece of water. I want to interact with it somehow. Turns out we're all probably wired for this. Check out the book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.

This summer during a trip to a family cabin on Lake Cascade, I visited a little spot where the North Fork of the Payette River flows under the Hartsell Bridge. The Payette in late July above Lake Cascade is more stream than river, and it bubbles over shallow riffles through pastureland before it levels out into the upper end of Lake Cascade. It's so shallow much of the time that it's not, in fact, really navigable for any watercraft. Inner tubes would drag. Canoes and kayaks would scrape. But as I watched the riffles glittering in the sunlight, it struck me that a paddle board just might pull it off. We had a couple back at the cabin which we'd been using on the lake over the last few days. The next day I pulled the fins out of the underside of the paddle boards, and my daughter and I put in at Hartsell Bridge.

The paddle boards behaved beautifully. We skimmed through the shallow water, able to float with only a couple of inches beneath us. Sometimes we paddled along, sometimes we just let the current do the work. We wound through forests and fields. We slipped silently around corners to startle herons, kingfishers, pelicans, swans, and geese. Occasionally the stream would deepen into dark holes, where schools of trout held wavy positions. We passed over them like shadows in their sky. Cattle would look up, astonished to find us nearby. We moo'd loudly at them, and laughed, and floated on.

I don't expect that stretch of water gets many boaters. We certainly had it all to ourselves that afternoon. The paddling got more demanding once we got to the slackwater above the lake, and by the time we reached the cabin we were both pretty exhausted and maybe a little bit sunburned. I liked the minimal nature of the paddle boards, and how close to the water we felt during the trip. We had paddled over 12 miles that afternoon. But I certainly felt happier, healthier, and more connected after our time on the water.

Got some water nearby? Is there a way to get nearer to it, on it, in it, under it? Spend some time with whatever water is near you to get a dose of all that good stuff it has to offer.


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