Boise, ID

Floating the Boise River — Keeping Cool the Idaho Way

Stuart Gustafson

It certainly is no surprise that it is HOT in most of Idaho. The temperature in Boise has been hovering right around the 100° mark for many weeks now. Even when it “cools down,” it is still in the mid- to high-90s. The calendar below from shows how it has been so far this month in Idaho’s capital city.

As it is in many locales where the actual temperature “in town” or at “your house” might vary, it is so true here in Boise. The official temperature is measured at the Boise Airport where there is more open space and possible breezes that help keep the ambient temperature a few degrees lower. Where I live in town, I figure it is usually five degrees warmer than the official temperature in the summer. In the winter, it doesn’t really matter because below freezing is below freezing!

Here is a short “How to Float the Boise River” video from YouTube that was posted a few weeks ago. It’s short, only about 80 seconds:

One of the first times that our family floated the Boise River was in August as our daughter had a senior high school foreign exchange student. Each of us had a big inner tube, and the water felt fine as we stepped into it from the shore and hopped into our rafts. As we moved away from shore, the rushing water from upstream started carrying us downstream — that is the normal plan. What we didn’t expect — having been in Boise for only a few years — was the temperature of the water.
Fifty Degrees

Yes, the water temperature was a cool, or rather cold, fifty degrees. But, as you think about it, the water coming from Lucky Peak Dam into the Boise River is from the winter’s snow melt (and maybe a couple inches of rain in the Spring.

Translated from ‘très froid’

As we all floated down the river from Barber Park with our behinds plunged into the water, our French foreign exchange student shrieked, “Très froid,” which we later learned meant “very cold.” Even when it’s in the nineties or low triple digits, that cold water is still COLD. It’s actually a little too cold to be refreshing.

The image above shows a rather placid part of the Boise River. It is calmer because the river is wider at this point than up near Barber Park, and a wider river (thanks to Bernoullis’s Law of Fluid Dynamics) means a slower flow because the total volume of water flowing at any point must remain relatively constant.

The Boise River is considered a tributary of the well-known Snake River, and this designation can appear to be somewhat misleading. Many people think that a tributary of a river is an offshoot of that river. But that’s not true. A tributary is actually a river, stream, etc., that flows into a larger river. And so it is that the 102-mile long Boise River flows into the Snake River at the western edge of Idaho, and then the Snake River flow north to become part of the border between Idaho and Oregon.

How many people float the Boise River?

According to Ada Country Parks & Recreation, each year “over 125,000 people enjoy a leisurely float down the Boise River, floaters put in at Barber Park and take out at Ann Morrison Park.” Floaters are not going very fast as it takes between two and three hours to float the approximate six miles between the two parks. There is a tube and raft rental operation s as well as a shuttle bus service between the two parks (Right — it would be a bummer to have to walk all the way back to get your car!)

Here are some of the Stay Safe on the River guidelines:

  • Make sure everybody in your party can swim.
  • Alcohol, drugs and the river don’t mix.
  • Wear a Personal Flotation Device as they are included in your raft rental and are available upon request. State Law requires that all vessels, including rafts, kayaks, and canoes be equipped with a personal flotation device for each person in the craft and children 14 years of age and younger, onboard vessels 19′ or less, must wear an approved life jacket when the vessel is underway.

It’s going to remain hot for quite a bit longer this summer, so I expect final “float the river” numbers to greatly exceed 125,000 this year. What do you think>

What are you doing in Boise to stay cool?

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Articles on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about travel, relevant local/regional items, some finance. Always with a slant to ask you to think.

Boise, ID

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