Boise & Garden City

When can we float the river? Not until it’s clear of hazards, and that will take time

Trees in the Boise River are a hazard to floaters

Take a trip down the Boise River with the Boise Fire Department's Swiftwater Dive Rescue Team as they assess the hazards that need to be removed to make floating as safe as possible.
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Take a trip down the Boise River with the Boise Fire Department's Swiftwater Dive Rescue Team as they assess the hazards that need to be removed to make floating as safe as possible.

The Boise River has dropped almost enough for the Boise Fire Department’s Dive Rescue Team to start pulling fallen trees and other debris out of it.

This process happens every year in preparation for floating season. This year, months of flooding has delayed the job. Also, it will be a much bigger job than in most years, because all that high water pushed down a lot more trees than in normal years.

On Thursday, the Idaho Statesman toured the river with the Dive Rescue Team and saw a number of downed trees directly in the path floaters tend to follow. In a couple places, high water has changed the shape of the river, making some channels smaller and others larger.

If they’re not removed, trees and other debris are a major hazard to people who float down the river. Floaters get hung up in the debris and the current can push them underwater — and they sometimes drown, said Paul Roberts, the fire department’s special operations division chief.

Capt. Noel Rios, firefighter Joe Ostermiller, and firefighter Chad Tiffany of the Boise Fire Department Dive Team spent Thursday morning clearing obstructions from the Boise River in preparation for the 2016 opening of float season in Boise.

Ada County Commissioners have yet to green-light tube and raft rentals at Barber Park — the popular put-in area for the Boise River float to Ann Morrison Park. When it comes, that decision will signal the opening of float season. It’s legal to float the river now, but the fire department and county are warning people to stay out of the river. Anyone who floats the river and needs to be rescued could be billed for the assistance.

A lot of work has to be done before float season opens. In normal years, clearing debris from the river takes three to five days, Ada County spokeswoman Kate McGwire said.

This year, it’s almost certain to take longer. The Dive Rescue Team might need to hire outside help to operate cranes or other heavy equipment due to the size of some of the trees that have fallen in the river, department spokeswoman Char Jackson said.

In April 2017, workers removed a bridge from Plantation Island on a stretch of the Greenbelt, concerned it would give way as the bank eroded. On June 21, after the Boise River dropped below flood stage, the county flew a drone over the area to ill

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