Flood cycle: Biking a wet Boise River Greenbelt
It’s been a rough year for Boise cyclists and bike commuters.
December through February, we had to trade our two wheels for four-wheel-drive. Now that the snow and ice are gone, the river is lapping over the Boise Greenbelt and riding the bike path has gone from inconvenient to impassable.
I usually commute on the Greenbelt from Glenwood Avenue to near Americana, where the old railroad bridge provides the Greenbelt Connector up to the Bench near the Statesman offices. It’s seven or eight miles: a bracing morning wake-up as good as caffeine and an evening tonic that’s better than gin.
Lucky Peak releases into the Boise River have climbed steadily in the past few weeks, from below flood stage (7,500 cfs) to now above 8,000 cfs. When I looked at the Glenwood Avenue Gauge on Wednesday (yeah, it’s a real gauge — a giant yardstick stuck in the river) it was lapping at 10.8 feet, well above the 10.3-foot flood level.
A couple weeks ago, the water started interfering with my ride. A puddle turned into a small pond at the Glenwood entrance, forcing me to detour through the nearby RV park. Then the city of Garden City officially closed the bridges (and someone actually chain-linked them off) that cross from Garden City to Boise near Plantation golf course. Then water on the further reaches of Garden City pathway forced me to commute up Adams Street, where I could hop back on the Greenbelt at Veterans Memorial Parkway.
Not now. A little puddle under the Veterans Memorial bridge that I had been able to splash through is deep enough now to cover the pedals (and my shoes). A small puddle on the southside pathway west of the Whitewater park across from Esther Simplot Park (the river simply ignored the pathside sandbags) turned into a small creek. It’s now deep enough to require careful navigation.
Most people (and news reports) pay attention to the Greenbelt in or near Downtown. When I explain all the standing water on the Greenbelt west of Downtown, most people don’t know what I’m talking about. They’ve seen the flooded Glenwood Avenue tunnel (always the first to fill), but not the vast inundation all around Glenwood Avenue. And in the tucked-away southside sections of the bikepath, between about 47th and 44th Streets in Garden City, the river is completely out of its banks and simply runs down the bike path.
So I took my bike and the GoPro down the path I ride to work, to get video of the flooding. I got wet and cold and I don’t recommend the ride. Water that is not in standing puddles is mountain-snowmelt cold, and there’s enough current to carry a dog or a child away. So stay away. Since I did it Wednesday, the city of Boise has actually closed other sections.
But this is a great moment to see that our river is a living river. If you want to get your feet (a little) wet, walk or ride west of Garden City city hall. Out toward the water-treatment plant, the path disappears into a shallow lake in places, as it does around Glenwood. Then get back into your warm car.
Let’s hope our water managers are right, and our wet socks in March help prevent disastrous floods in May.