Me, with my raft, in my typical floating attire. You can see the steps down to the water at Barber Park, where most people put in.

I Likes Da River

One of my summer activities is to float down the Boise River. The Boise is a fairly tame river that flows through town at a calm four miles per hour. When I go with other people, I take my raft, but when I go alone, I just take an inner tube. Most of the time I do go alone. Even if other people I know did go as often as I do, part of the appeal is that I can go without any planning or significant preparation. It's just a quick "Do I want to go today?" "Yes." Change clothes, grab my inner tube, and walk to the shuttle bus. During the summer, my inner tube and water socks stay by the front door and my swimsuit/Tshirt hang on a doorknob in the bathroom where I hang them to dry. They only get washed in mid summer and end of summer. In case you don't know what water socks are: they are a slipper-like nylon shoes with rubber soles. They were meant for use on jet skis as minimal footwear with some traction. Even though the rocks in the river are worn smooth by centuries of flowing water, it hurts to walk on them without a little support of a shoe sole. Other people use sandals.

The logistics of getting up river are also easy. I live on the edge of a large park. I have to walk about a third of a mile to get to the place where a shuttle bus picks people up to take them up river. It leaves once an hour, twice an hour on weekends. (Lots of people float the river.) For 3 dollars, it takes people six miles up river to another park where people generally start floating. Then I just float home. Don't even need a car for this outdoor recreation. The upriver park even has inner tubes and rafts for rent that can be returned at the downriver park. But, like I said, I have my own. People leave their cars in either park and use the shuttle bus or they arrange some other way of crossing the distance that they float. The upriver park also has plenty of free air hoses for filling inner tubes or rafts.

 A fairly typical stretch of the river.

Most people float the river in rafts because the water is pretty cold. To me, the coldness is part of the appeal. Where else could I enjoy a piece of nature and get chilled to the bone on a hot summer day? I've got much more tolerance for cold and I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to heat. It's nice to have such a temperature contrast in July and August. Even people not floating the river are enjoying it. As you might expect, fishermen are fishing, both from shore or wading. And at several places along the way, people have attached ropes to trees so they can swing out into the river. Some are skilled enough to do flips after letting go of the rope. At one place near the water treatment plant, there are a couple concrete structures about 8 feet high along the shore. The water is fairly deep there, so kids jump from these into the river. Sometimes I stop, walk up shore to these, toss in my inner tube and jump in after it. I've got a little bit of kid in me.

And there are dogs. Spring, summer, and fall people bring their dogs to the river for recreation. Those Labrador retrievers can be shivering cold but also shivering with excitement to have someone throw a ball into the river so they can chase it. They love to chase a ball and they love to swim. If I get reincarnated, I want to be a Labrador retriever. They love, they are loved, and they enjoy simple things. Their main downside is they can't ever seem to get enough of the ball chasing and swimming to be satisfied. People also take dogs down the river on their rafts. One time a dog got off its raft and got lost. It swam up to me on my inner tube and I let it rest a while. But an inner tube is not very stable for a dog so it moved on to someone else in a nearby raft. I was glad. Dogs, especially swimming dogs, don't realize the pain they can cause with their claws. When I got to the downriver park, I saw that the dog got reunited with its owner.

People needing a little help also seem to gravitate my way. Folks with their own inner tubes sometimes show up at the air filling stations, but they don't have valves. I keep a couple extra valves and caps in my swimsuit pocket and give them away when needed. I also carry a valve remover/replacer. I either find the extra valves and caps in the sand by the air filling stations or remove them from inner tubes that have been popped and discarded. And I end up giving advice to people. I think people who haven't floated before appreciate it, not because the advice is so important but because someone, me, who has floated dozens of times didn't mention any really scary things they have to do. I remove some of the unknown by knowingly mentioning the known. The advice is simple basic stuff: 1) it's best to stay in the middle, 2) stay away from trees; you can push against tree branches, but if you grab a hold, you get pulled right out of your raft, 3) when going over a rough spot or small waterfall, lift your butt so you don't hit it on a rock, and 4) when going over the waterfalls, you're less likely to tip over if you you go front first rather than side first. And if I see someone with a very full inner tube or raft, I recommend they don't leave it in the sun where it can heat up, expand, and pop. While floating, if I happen to be near someone when I spot a mink or something, I point it out to them. It's a minor way to share that experience with others. Lots of folks end up saying "Wow! I've never seen a mink before." And sometimes I end up floating with a stranger or two I just met, and we basically float the river together. People are generally friendly on the river. One time, I came across someone who had just got caught in some trees. The large raft and the whole family got dumped. It was rather dramatic, overly dramatic. The father was yelling for help while, with help from people on shore, he got the kids and stuff up the bank. When all were ashore, he literally collapsed on the sand, partly in the water. I was half a minute too late to do more than grab a stray paddle. No one was hurt but they didn't want to continue. So I put my inner tube in the raft, and helped the father guide the raft the last mile to the take out point and rental return. My part did no more than allay some fear, but he was very grateful. He literally asked whether I was an angel. Sometimes I am a little amazed that people are apprehensive about the water or they have trouble with basic paddling. It all just feels natural to me.

 A tuber coming down the first and biggest diversion dam.

Did I mention that I float the river about ten times a summer? That's what convenience of recreation can do. No planning, no preparation, just go. Occasionally I go with other folks: family, friend, or dates. Usually I go alone, though I rarely feel alone when I go. I feel at home in a lot of places, but especially in nature. I never feel alone in a natural setting. The Boise river isn't exactly wilderness, but it is a river and it is lined with trees that hide quite a bit of the suburbs and city I float through. And I do see wildlife. Like with most rivers, there is an assortment of birds along the shore. Some are the usual city birds, and some like ospreys, king fishers, and night hawks are less common and more fun to spot. Ironically, I've come to think of mallards, mergansers, and Canadian geese as city birds since I see so many of them in Boise, both summer and winter. Fairly often, a hummingbird can be spotted hovering a few feet above the water. I've never figured out why they just hover there like that.

On about half of my trips, I spot one or more mink along the shore and sometimes swimming. If you don't know, mink are dark brown, squirrel size, and move a lot like weasels. Along the river, they are often swimming to catch small fish. They tend to be shy and wary, but a few have stood and watched while I floated by, just several feet away. I have seen a mule deer and a white tail deer standing, more like posing, on shore watching me and other people go by. Occasionally I see beaver, but that only happens close to dusk. I prefer going a little later in the day because I don't need sunscreen, but the glare of floating towards the sunset can be hard on the eyes. Everything seems to have trade offs.

I mentioned a couple little waterfalls. These are caused by two diversion dams. There is also a third diversion dam along the way, but it is broken down and only causes a short stretch of rocky rapids. The two intact diversion dams are small dams, a few feet high. They back up the water enough so that some of it gets diverted into small side canals. The canals were probably for irrigation. There isn't irrigation farming along that stretch of the river any more, but like many places in the Boise area, the people who bought the land for housing acquired water rights along with it. A lot of areas in Boise have small canals flowing through backyards that people use to water their lawns. And every summer, some kid drowns in the bigger, feeder canals that flow through town. But anyway, the diversion dams cause a couple little waterfalls. Since they are not high, the water flows over them at an angle, not straight down. Sometimes people get dumped over, but otherwise they are a bit exciting without being dangerous.  I actually get wetter in some of the standing waves that form in the faster, deeper parts of the river. Most of the river is calm and slow and gentle, sometimes a little too shallow. I took a girlfriend, who never learned to swim, down the river on a raft and she felt safe. She went at least half a dozen times with me. Elsewhere, there are also large diversions dams. One just above the the upriver park, Barber Park, and one just below the downriver park, Ann Morrison Park. These dams are several feet high and would not be floatable. The put in and take out locations are well placed to avoid these.