Walk along the Boise River during fall and winter and youll see bicyclists, runners, walkers, anglers, kayakers, photographers and folks just hanging out.
It is a river for all seasons and activities.
Boise kayaker Ben Jacobs said it best while surfing the wave at the Boise River Park earlier this month.
I like being in the riparian zone. Its like not being in the city, he said.
He bikes, kayaks and fishes the Boise River and likes the places that are hidden from the city by a buffer of cottonwood trees and brush thickets.
He relishes the wilds even though hes in the middle of Idahos largest city.
A lot of people feel the same way, that the river is an escape from busy streets, stoplights and traffic noise.
The Boise River and its Greenbelt offer a wealth of recreation from dawn until dusk, day in and day out, and year-round, even during cold weather.
Its Treasure Valleys backyard playground.
Here are some ways to enjoy the Boise River from Lucky Peak Dam to Eagle:
LETS HAVE A PICNIC
The Discovery unit of Lucky Peak State Park downstream from Lucky Peak Dam is the perfect picnic area, even in winter.
Its a 10-minute drive or 30-minute bike ride from Downtown. Theres a $5 day-use fee if you drive in.
Discovery is a popular roadside park for picnics, walking the dog, fishing or watching eagles.
LETS GO FISHING
Idaho Fish and Game stocks the Boise River with around 2,000 rainbow trout a month from Barber Park to Star.
The river rarely freezes over, so it can be fished year-round.
Steelhead from the Snake River in Hells Canyon are being stocked in the river this fall to give anglers an opportunity to catch a big sea-run rainbow.
Youll find crowds of anglers around Barber Park, the Americana Bridge and the Glenwood Bridge when steelhead are in the river.
If youre just looking for trout, use the Greenbelt to the out-of-the-way places.
If youre a fly angler, try nymphs. Bait anglers can use worms, salmon eggs or Powerbait in the holes.
HOW ABOUT A RIDE?
You can bike the Boise Greenbelt most of the year and tailor a ride to suit your tastes.
The Boise Greenbelt has about 25 miles of riding from Discovery Park to Eagle Road, depending on the configuration of your routes on either side of the river.
To see the core of the Boise Greenbelt, take a 6-mile ride starting in Ann Morrison Park near Americana Boulevard on the south side of the river.
Start by crossing the Pioneer Footbridge and heading east on the north side of the river about 3 miles to the Baybrook Court Footbridge at ParkCenter. Then, cross the river and come back on the south side of the river.
For a more strenuous ride, road cyclists take the route from Municipal Park in Boise to Discovery Park. A new route in the new Marianne Williams Park is pretty smooth. You can avoid the bumpy path from the East ParkCenter Bridge to Eckert Road along Warm Springs Avenue.
You can get a real woodsy feel riding from the Glenwood Bridge upstream to the Main Street Bridge.
If you want to include a meal or snack during your ride, restaurants and cafes are close to the Greenbelt between Americana Bridge and Bown Crossing.
Surfing: Even though the flow in the Boise River is low in fall and winter, theres still a small wave and hole at the Boise River Park. Just ask kayaker Ben Jacobs, who paddled there in November.
The new park has a device on the diversion dam that creates a wave at many different flows.
Kayakers and boarders are continuing to use the river, even in very cold weather.
Floating the river: Some canoeists and kayakers attempt the Boise River from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park during the off-season, when the flotilla of tubers disappears.
Its possible, and it can be a rewarding trip because youll probably be the only one floating the river.
Watch out there are some obstacles. You might have to dodge wading anglers, but the reward is a chance to spot wildlife during the quiet season.
The diversions are low and rocky, and you might want to portage them.
There are shallow areas along the way where your boat will scrape bottom. You might have to get out and push, so wear waterproof shoes or boots.
Flatwater: If youre a flatwater paddler, Quinns Pond near the Boise River Park is an excellent place to practice or get a workout. The pond might freeze during winter, but it offers open water most of the time.
The pond is reached off West Pleasanton Avenue.
There is no better time of year to see wildlife along the Boise River. Winter is a great time to see bald eagles, and some of the spots they frequent along the river are Joes Crab Shack, Main Street Bridge, along Warm Springs Golf Course, Barber Park, near the Shakespeare Festival grounds and Barber Pool, and at Lucky Peak Dam.
The river also is home to wintering ducks and geese. It usually gets an influx of wigeons, which are cheery birds. Beautiful wood ducks are easier to spot with the leaves off the trees, and they frequent places like Kathryn Albertson Park.
Julia Davis Parks pond is another hot spot for wildlife, and in some years, swans come in for a visit.
The 1.6-mile Bethine Church River Trail is on the south side of the river between Bown Crossing and the Cottonwood Apartments. No bicycles are allowed.
The path goes through a 24-acre natural area frequented by waterfowl, songbirds and great horned owls.
Some of the other critters you might see along the river are great blue herons, mink, deer, elk, mergansers, goldeneyes, kingfishers and possibly a cougar.
When it comes to the Boise River, theres much to do even in the colder months.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445,Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors