Boise & Garden City

One more year, and you can surf, kayak or paddle in Boise’s expanded whitewater park

Surfers, kayakers, paddle-boarders and other wave junkies should be splashing away in the second phase of Boise’s Whitewater Park next summer — as long as construction stays on schedule.

February will offer a good indicator of whether that will happen. Crews building the second phase must be out of the riverbed by then, Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said Tuesday.

That gives them no more than five months to do all of the work in the channel, since construction can’t begin until water has been diverted into an irrigation canal that heads north of the river. And that diversion must wait until irrigation season is over — typically in early October, Holloway said.

The city hopes to open the second phase next summer. It will include wave shapers, a rock terrace for sitting and islands designed to preserve cottonwood trees and other wildlife habitat.

Holloway said he’s not worried about the city’s contractor, McMillen Jacobs Associates, having enough people to get the job done in time, though projects around the Treasure Valley have been delayed in recent years because of labor shortages.

McMillen Jacobs has its own crews, so they can pull people off other projects to make sure the Whitewater Park is done on time, he said.

“If it looks like time is not on our side, they’ll do what they need to do to get the construction done,” Holloway said. “So if that means seven 10-hour days, they may need to do that.”

Weather is a bigger concern. If more water than the canal can hold is being released from the reservoirs upstream of Boise, the timing of construction could be thrown off, Holloway said.

“But if it’s a typical Idaho fall, we’re not going to have any issues,” he said.

The story below was published Jan. 2, 2018, under the headline “Float the Boise from Barber Park all the way to Veterans Memorial? It might happen.”

Work has just begun on the Boise Whitewater Park’s second phase, and already there’s talk of a third one.

There are no firm plans, nor has the city entered official talks with the various organizations that would need to be on board. But the implications are beyond anything the Whitewater Park’s first or second phases can offer.

Phase 1, completed in 2012, has a single dam-like structure that creates a variety of wave shapes. Phase 2, a half-mile long, will have three wave-shaping features.

The third phase would add a wave shaper to the dam at the Settler’s Irrigation District diversion just upstream of Americana Boulevard — the dam that Boise River summer floaters are warned to avoid just past the last take-out point at the Ann Morrison Park footbridge.

Installing a wave shaper there like the ones in the first and second phases would benefit wave junkies like kayakers and surfers, but it also could give floaters a safe route past the dam. You might float the river all the way from Barber Park east of Boise, the official launch point, to at least Veterans Memorial Park.

But Phase 2 comes first.

Crews are stabilizing banks as they begin the phase at the park, officially named J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation Boise Whitewater Park. After last spring’s heavy flooding, some banks needed repair, said Doug Holloway, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Last week, workers finished repairs to banks that will be underwater once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increases flows from Lucky Peak Dam, Holloway said.

Crews for McMillen Jacobs Associates, the contractor for the second phase, now are working high enough on the banks to stay out of the water when it rises, Holloway said. The Corps did not immediately respond to a request for information about the anticipated levels and timing of 2018’s flow increases.

This week, the contractor’s crews will trim trees along the Greenbelt between Main Street and Quinn’s Pond. They’ll rebuild about 125 feet of Greenbelt and lay concrete over the bank to reinforce it.

The area was a stress point during the floods. Some officials worried the river would breach its bank and flow into Quinn’s Pond, possibly flooding nearby apartments and other buildings. No breach occurred. Heavy sandbagging helped keep the river in its channels.

Installation of the whitewater park’s new wave-making features is scheduled to start in late August or early September, with the goal of completion by July 2019.


The whitewater park has been popular since the completion of its first phase in 2012.

The project was the first in a series of improvements to the area’s recreation corridor. Newer amenities include a beach on the north side of Quinn’s Pond and Esther Simplot Park.

Phase 2’s three wave shapers will start just north, or downstream, of the pedestrian bridge that connects the Garden City side of the river to the Boise side north of Quinn’s Pond.

The bank on the Boise side between that bridge and what is now a Farmers Union Ditch Co. irrigation diversion will have rock terraces where people can sit and watch the river.

McMillen Jacobs will dig a small, wadeable channel between the Boise bank and existing cottonwood trees, forming two small islands to preserve the cottonwoods and other wildlife habitat. Holloway said the channels also will improve flood control by giving the river another place to flow.

Workers will install a wave shaper, similar to the one built five years ago, where the Farmer’s Union diversion is located. The city will replace the diversion, too.

A strategically shaped rock that stretches across the river will be located a couple of hundred yards downstream of the wave shaper. A similar rock feature will be placed a couple of hundred yards below that.

These features will produce waves, too, though they won’t move as the wave shapers do. Both will produce waves whose intensity and shapes depend on the level of the river, much like waves at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade.

“When Phase 2 is complete, we will have an aquatic complex like no other in the country,” Holloway said in an email. “When you combine more than 65 acres of connected ponds [in Esther Simplot Park and Quinn’s Pond] adjacent to a mile-long park in and along the river, you create an amazing recreation amenity, free and accessible to all.”


Holloway praised the cooperation of Farmer’s Union, which has rights to water in the river, and the Waterfront District Homeowners Association, which owns land on the Garden City side of the project and is granting easements for the in-river features.

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is covering almost $4 million of the project’s $10 million cost. The city will cover the rest, Holloway said.

Boise still must secure permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and its own Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission. Holloway said he doesn’t expect any problems.