150 Boise Icons: Boise River

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 20, 2013 


    Noon to 6 p.m., Thursday at the Sesqui-Shop, 1008 W. Main St. 433-5670: Enjoy art, food, drink, performance and historic displays. Learn how the river shapes the community and how the community can protect it.

The Boise River is, in a word, "fabulous," said Dave Cannamela, superintendent of the MK Nature Center.

"Even with man's intervention, the dams, the changing hydrology, the river still brings joy. It makes you feel good," he said.

The Boise originates in the high reaches of the Sawtooth Mountains. It flows west, connecting to the Snake River near Parma.

For Cannamela, the size of the river is key. It's not huge like the Columbia, where you stand on the shore and just feel its awesomeness.

"You wade into the Boise, you're in view of the other shore," said Cannamela.

The Boise is a river with a human scale. It supports all kinds of life, from warblers to yellow-headed and red-winged black birds.

Screech owls nest in the native cottonwoods on its shores.

Rainbow and brown trout, mountain white fish, bottom-dwelling sculpins and native suckers live in the Boise, said Cannemela.

"Nobody gives a sucker an even break," he quipped. But even the creature with the nonromantic name belongs. "Suckers are the vacuum cleaners. Everybody plays a part," he said.

The Boise's currents move the rich sediment where cottonwood seeds - carried in distinctive white tufts - take hold and grow.

Most Boiseans have a memory of the river. For Scott Smith, who grew up in Boise, it was foraging for empty beer and pop cans when he was in junior high. He and his friends wanted to recycle the cans to buy gear to climb Table Rock quarry.

They'd venture out on busy float weekends. Enlisting one of their dad's rafts, they'd float until they came to spots where they knew cans collected.

"My favorite was a giant eddy just below one of the three falls," said Smith.

"The contents of all those spilled coolers would get caught in that eddy."

The boys would put on masks and flippers and dive in.

"In the strange underwater soundscape, we'd hear the cans before we saw them, clanking and bumping. Then, out of the green gloom, a dense school of cans emerged, swarming and swirling," Smith recalled.

"We'd grab as many as we could, kick up to the surface, toss them into the raft, then dive again."

There were rewards in addition to the money they got from recycling. Sometimes the cans were full. The boys drank the pop and gave the beer to their folks.

"And when floaters realized what we were up to, they were genuinely surprised and grateful for our 'good deed,'" said Smith.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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