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Psychologists have long studied the human attraction to water. Studies have shown that exposure to environments with water can improve our mental wellbeing and even improve physical health. But the question remains: why? What makes water, and in McCall’s case, Payette Lake such an attraction?
While we are not able to tackle the universal “why,” we do have a few ideas about what makes Payette Lake so special.
First and foremost, Payette Lake is the centerpiece of activity in McCall. Whether you are swimming, sailing, waterskiing, jet skiing, canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding or boating, the lake offers endless activities to keep the family entertained.
Yet despite the limitless recreation offered by the lake, the most memorable attribute of Payette Lake seems to be its beauty. Ray Dupree, long-time owner of Payette Lake Cruises says, “I have toured people from all over the world and the one thing that they remember from their vacation is the beauty of Payette Lake.”
Dupree grew up in Houston, Texas and after graduating from college, spent time in the Marines as a pilot. From there, he transitioned to commercial airlines, flying the Seattle to Tokyo route for American Airlines for many years. Fifteen years ago, he made McCall his home and dedicated his summers to taking tourists and locals alike on scenic cruises around Payette Lake.
During his time on the water, Dupree, an avid historian, gathered stories, tid-bits and local gossip about some of the unique features around the lake to share with his guests. “Everybody loves the lake and the more I can tell them about the history, the more they appreciate it,” says Dupree.
Dupree graciously shared some of his favorite Payette Lake lore and landmarks, laughing as he cites poetic license may have been used in the telling.
Yard art can be seen at many of the homes that border Payette Lake; however, one of the most-loved is the Statue of Liberty. During the Fourth of July, the lakeside home where the statue resides is trimmed with American flags and decorated to the nines in red, white and blue. It has become customary for boats passing by the statue to slow and salute Lady Liberty.
Peter Johnson, considered by many to be the “steward of Payette Lake,” was one of the engineers in charge of the Bonneville Dam system. He also happened to be a world-class sculptor. This statue is of his granddaughter when she was eight years old and placed in the exact spot she would stop right before jumping into the water. Johnson created the statue as a tribute to all of the women in his life.
One of the most shocking finds in Payette Lake! This petrified crocodile defied nature and made its home in our high altitude alpine lake where water temperatures rarely reach over 70 degrees in the summer and freezes over in the winter. Apparently we aren’t the only ones who can resist Payette Lake’s beauty.
The crystal clear waters of the lake are a haven for wildlife. It is common to see deer, elk and even moose (along the Upper Payette River near North Beach) by the water’s edge. On one boat tour, Dupree and his guests even spotted a black bear swimming in the water by Ponderosa State Park. But perhaps the most common animal to see on Payette Lake is an osprey. These birds of prey mate for life and typically have two chicks per year. If one mate dies, the lone bird does not mate again. Unlike eagles, osprey only eat fresh kill and find most of their food by diving up to three feet into the water.
In the heyday of the gold rush, gold ore from Warren was loaded by wagon and transported back to McCall to catch the train, giving the route its name, “Warren Wagon Road.” Rumor has it that when the railroad shut down, the president of the railroad took the bell off of the steam engine during its last run. That bell now calls a small point near the Simplot estate home.
Named for its shape, Sperm Whale Rock is a great place to stop and sunbath or jump into the water on a hot summer day. Find this small island off the tip of Paradise Point near Shellworth Island in Tamarack Bay.
While last year marked Mr. Dupree’s final lake tour, these special places and stories remain. Coupled with the lake’s beauty and recreational amenities these unique histories, legends and landmarks that are the essence of what keeps Payette Lake in our hearts.