Boise & Garden City

Surf’s up on the Boise River! Kayakers, wave riders have more rapids at whitewater park

After several years in the making, the final phase of Boise’s whitewater river park is now open.

The series of rapids, officially called J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation Boise Whitewater Park, now features four wave-shaping structures over roughly half a mile on the Boise River. The first phase of the park, which opened in 2012, has long been popular with surfers and kayakers who splash through the waves created by a hydraulic dam system controlled by city technicians.

“What started in 2012 when we cut the ribbon of Phase One ... within a couple of days, (people were) saying, ‘Let’s do a Phase Two,’ ” Doug Holloway, director of Boise Parks and Recreation, said at the ribbon cutting on Thursday afternoon. “The idea of a Phase Two was really a pipe dream at that time.”

Construction on the waveforms began earlier this year, when crews diverted water from a 520-foot section of the river to place the structures. The second phase cost $11 million.

IMG_Whitewater_Park_Phas_2_1_6UD36CLR_L364592629.JPG
This map shows an overview of the Boise whitewater park, including its now-opened second phase, which comprises the three dark-blue wave shapers at the right, adjacent to Esther Simplot Park. City of Boise

The newly opened phase features another mechanized wave, as well as two drop structures crafted from boulders. Depending on river flows, the boulders create different “play waves” for visitors to paddle through.

On Thursday, there were already several surfers, kayakers and boogie boarders crashing through the waves in front of dozens of spectators.

According to Holloway, the whitewater park was designed to merge seamlessly with the adjacent Esther Simplot Park. A vast field connects the two, and a newly paved portion of the Greenbelt runs right past.

“The interesting thing about Phase Two is it’s certainly an in-river amenity ... but I think what makes us more excited is we have this park within a park,” Holloway said. “The access here that has been provided to the Boise River is unprecedented anywhere else in the city.”

In January, Holloway told the Statesman that the first structure in Phase Two is meant as a continuation of Phase One. However, city wave technicians are still fine-tuning “the perfect wave” on the new mechanized structure. Holloway said it took about two years to perfect the original structure.

“This one is a little bit more difficult (than Phase One),” Holloway said. “Phase One is a little smoother. Right now we’re asking that only experts use the waveform.”

The first boulder structure in Phase Two is targeted to intermediate kayakers and surfers, while the final structure is ideal for beginners, Holloway said Thursday.

The Phase One mechanized waves operate on an alternating schedule, creating ideal rapids for kayakers or surfers depending on the day. A schedule has not been set for Phase Two’s mechanized wave structure, according to a city news release.

The new construction also includes several tiers of boulder seating for spectators and watercraft take-outs that allow park users to circle back to the beginning of the rapids.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter lauded the City Council and other contributors, including the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, which donated about half of the funds for the second phase, and the Simplot family.

“It’s rare in life that ... what you get is actually better than what you ever imagined,” Bieter said Thursday.

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