Here’s how to stay safe on the Boise River during float season
It’s float season again! Authorities have cleared the river of most snags and Ada County will open its equipment rental and shuttle service at Barber Park at noon Wednesday.
What’s the route?
Floaters typically put in at Barber Park (located 6 miles from Downtown Boise on Eckert Road between Warm Springs and Boise avenues), then take out at Ann Morrison Park.
How long does it take to float the stretch?
The 6-mile float usually takes two or three hours.
Who rents equipment and what does it cost?
Boise River Raft & Tube at Barber Park contracts with Ada County to offer equipment rentals. Equipment rental is on a first-come, first-serve basis with no reservations. Rental prices range from $12 for a deluxe one-person tube to $55 for a six-person raft; both prices are for three hours. Life vests, oars and inflatable kayaks are also available to rent. Find a full price list online at boiseriverraftandtube.com or call 208-577-4588. Note: there is also a parking fee of $5 Mondays through Thursdays and $6 Fridays through Sundays.
What about shuttles?
They depart Ann Morrison Park to return to Barber Park every hour on the hour, from 1 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 1 to 9 p.m. on Fridays. They depart every 20 minutes from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Cost is $3 per person.
What’s the current river flow?
1,440 cubic feet per second (cfs) near the Glenwood Bridge. Imagine 1,440 basketballs speeding past the bridge at once to get an idea of what that means. Scott Koberg, director of Ada County Parks and Waterways, said float season varies between 800 and 1,500 cfs, so Wednesday’s season opener will be on the high side. Flows will fall to 1,200 cfs on Friday, considered “kind of the sweet spot” for floaters, said Koberg. For context, flood stage is 7,000 cfs.
How deep is the water and how cold is it? The depth of the river along the 6-mile float stretch varies from around 2 to around 15 feet, said Kelly Bridges with the Bureau of Reclamation. Even if the water is shallow, it’s still moving fast and can knock you off your feet, so be mindful.
The air may be warm, with projected highs near 100 until the weekend. But river water is very cold, Bridges added, in the mid-50s. Floaters should wear clothes — not cotton — that dry quickly, she advised.
How can floaters stay safe on the river?
Find a page of safety tips from Ada County online at adacounty.id.gov. Some highlights: Don’t take babies and kids under 50 pounds on the river. Use the buddy system. Make sure your friends or family at home know your plans. Wear covered shoes to protect your feet. Don’t take glass on your float.
Be aware of your surroundings and landmarks in case you have to call for rescue. If you fall in, keep calm, point your feet downstream and use your arms to carry you to shore.
And always wear sunscreen.
Life jackets are required for anyone 14 and younger. Koberg recommends that everyone use a personal flotation device, regardless of your age or swimming ability.
“People need to remember that the Boise River is not a water park. There will always be obstacles, and things to look out for, and to paddle away from,” said Koberg.
Haley Williams, spokeswoman for the Boise Police Department, had a few other reminders: Alcohol is prohibited on and within 250 feet of the Boise River. Stand-up paddleboarders must have a life jacket, a whistle, and an invasive species sticker. No jumping is allowed within 50 feet of a boater/river user, and all dogs must be on leash on the Greenbelt and in all city parks (unless they are posted as off-leash).
Will the Broadway Bridge construction project affect the float?
No. Summer floaters will have clear passage under the bridge, according to county officials. Floaters will be able to get a view of the bridge’s new piers and girders during their downstream trip.
How can I keep up with the latest float conditions?
Ada County just launched a new Facebook page, Float the Boise River, said Koberg. Staff will update the page frequently, if not daily, with the latest on river conditions and other information.