Payette River WMA

Before You Go

The Payette River WMA is 1,066 acres of scattered parcels on the Payette and Snake rivers. It includes three main sections – Birding Islands, Emmett segment, and Little Banks Island.

Public parking lots are available, but the WMA is closed to vehicle traffic and only allows foot travel. Sections of the WMA are closed February 1 to July 31 to protect nesting waterfowl.

Visiting Hours:

Open year-round, seven days a week.


Southwest Regional Office - Nampa

15950 N. Gate Blvd
Nampa, ID 83687
United States
(208) 465-8465

WMA facts

Primary Purpose: Waterfowl and upland bird production

Habitat: Riparian, sagebrush and wetlands

  • 1,066 acres
  • Payette, Gem and Washington counties
  • Established in 1960

things to know

The Payette WMA is closed to vehicles. Public parking areas are available, however, access is restricted to foot travel only.

Non-motorized small watercraft, such as float tubes and canoes, must be carried in by foot for use on ponds within the WMA.

The WMA islands in the Payette River can be accessed by motorized craft, but no motorized vehicle use is allowed on the islands.

Little Banks Island is only accessible by boat.

Sections of the WMA are closed February 1 to July 31 to protect nesting waterfowl.


The Payette River is a meandering waterway with numerous side channels, oxbows, and sloughs, which enhance the wildlife values of the river. It was named after Francis Payette, an early explorer and trapper with the Hudson Bay Company in the 1800s. Historically, the abundant wildlife and mild winter temperatures attracted a number of Indian tribes to this region. Nez Perce, Bannock, and Shoshone Indians all converged on the Payette River to harvest spawning salmon, sage-grouse, ducks, geese, mule deer, and pronghorn.

Today, the Payette River WMA has some of the best quality riparian habitat remaining on the lower 30 miles of the Payette River. It is 1,066 acres of scattered parcels in the Payette and Snake River drainages. The WMA includes three main segments: the Birding Islands, Emmett segment, and Little Banks Island.

The Birding Islands segment lies approximately 9 miles east of the town of Payette, Idaho. It includes several islands in the Payette River and adjacent sites on the mainland. Nine waterfowl production ponds have been constructed on the Birding Islands segment. Six shallow ponds are waterfowl nesting areas and are closed to human access from February 1 to July 31. Three gravel ponds on the Birding Island south side of the WMA have produced a warm water fishery and are open to fishing year-round.

The Emmett Segment is approximately 3 miles west of Emmett, Idaho, on the Payette River. This section includes a group of scattered islands and is primarily used for waterfowl and upland game bird production.

The 21-acre Little Banks Island is located in the Snake River approximately 1 mile south of the confluence of the Snake and Payette rivers. The island provides hunter access and waterfowl production habitat.

The drier upland habitat of sagebrush, grease wood, Russian olive, and annual grasses are interspersed with wetland and irrigated habitats. These areas are used by deer and upland birds, including quail, pheasants, and turkeys. Sandhill cranes concentrate in these areas during their spring migration.

More than 200 acres of the WMA have been developed as nesting cover habitat for waterfowl and upland game birds. These thick, dense plots of undisturbed residual cover help birds to successfully hatch a clutch. Many other wildlife species benefit from the hiding, nesting, and winter habitats provided by these cover plots.

The juxtaposition of quality riparian habitat and nearby agricultural lands in the surrounding private land creates an ideal landscape for migrating waterfowl and cranes. These species will feed in the fields during the day and return to the river or dense riparian vegetation to roost at night.



The Payette WMA supports a variety of hunting opportunities. It’s proximity to a large population center in southwest Idaho makes it a draw for pheasant, waterfowl, and some deer hunters.

Pheasant hunting is not only popular, but the WMA is one of the few places that supports a wild bird population in the area. To meet the demand for pheasant hunting, additional game farm birds are planted to provide hunting opportunity throughout the entire hunting season.

Waterfowl hunting is quite competitive on the WMA. Hunting spots are taken on a first come first serve basis. Local bird production provides hunting opportunity during the first weeks of waterfowl season before the bulk of migrating waterfowl appear in the Payette River Valley.

Deer hunting is allowed on the WMA, but is limited due to its small acreage. The season has a short-range weapons restriction, which allows the use of shotguns, archery, and muzzleloaders.

Turkey hunting is allowed in the spring, though opportunities are limited due to seasonal nesting closures on the WMA to protect nesting waterfowl and game birds.  Contolled turkey hunts area available in the fall.

Please be sure to check Idaho’s Seasons and Rules for up-to-date hunting information.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, rainbow trout, and bluegill occur on the WMA ponds and in the Payette River. Bass are the most popular game fish.

Six shallow ponds on the WMA were constructed for waterfowl nesting and are closed to all human activity, including fishing, from February 1 to July 31. Three gravel ponds on the Birding Island South side of the WMA are open to fishing year-round.

Furbearer trapping is allowed on the WMA, but interested trappers must register with WMA staff on site or at the Southwest Regional Office.

Wildlife viewing has become very important on the WMA, in part because of its close proximity to metropolitan areas. It provides excellent bird watching with its quality riparian habitat and location in an important migration flyway.

Some of the species using the WMA include: ducks, Canada geese, white-fronted and snow geese, sandhill cranes, pheasant, turkey, quail, bald eagles, mule deer, white-tailed deer, muskrats, beavers, fox, mink, and many shorebirds.

Payette River WMA has a spot on the Idaho Birding Trail.

Travel on the WMA is limited to foot traffic. There are numerous two-track roads winding through the area. Visitors are welcome to hike these established routes or explore other areas on their own.

Horseback riding is allowed on the WMA, but no facilities are provided other than parking.