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A record number of people floated the Boise River this summer

Ada County Parks and Waterways final day of operation is Labor Day
Posted at 1:27 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 15:27:53-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise River float season officially ends on Monday as Ada County Parks and Waterways will close up shop after Labor Day, officials expect one more big weekend.

Ada County Parks and Waterways, the Boise Parks and Recreation Department and Boise Fire all work together to attempt to make it safer and more convenient to float the river.

"I’ll say it is one of the most unique experiences you can have, there are not many towns or cities that have a beautiful river flowing right through downtown," said Robbie Sosin of Ada County.

Floating the Boise River has been a long-time tradition here in the Treasure Valley, but with population growth and the heat, every summer sets a new record for the most floaters in a season.

This summer Ada County Parks and Waterways estimated 150,000 people floated the river as they counted around a thousand people an hour on a busy Saturday, numbers are tough to come up with because there isn't an exact way to count the number of people on the river.

"Almost every weekend is actually a record breaking day," said Sosin. "I believe four out of our top five busiest days were just in July, every weekend it is packed and we are trying to do our best to make sure it is an efficient process get people out floating the river."

With more people come more instances as the Boise Fire Department performed 115 rescues on the river this summer.

"That is up significantly from years past," said Chief Paul Roberts of the Boise Fire Department. "I attribute that to the volume of people that are floating the river as well as the higher flows that we saw for a long time during the float season."

The Fire Department cuts out wood and other hazards before the season, but they want to remind people to have proper footwear, not flip flops, children 14 and under need to have a life jacket per Idaho law, but it is really a good idea for everyone to wear one.

The Boise River is still a natural river with hazards, currents and it still runs cold, Roberts advises people to not drink on the river and refrain from taking young children down the river as they had several scary incidents involving kids.

"Leave your toddler at home," said Roberts. "They will reach an age where it is safe for them to float the river."

The Fire Department also advises people to not tie tubes and rafts together, they also had many incidents at the Broadway Bridge where tubes went on either side of one of the pillars creating a dangerous situation that could have been deadly if they hadn't been there.

"We had one event where an individual was trapped underwater between the rafts, the rope and that concrete pillar," said Roberts. "We were there and cut that person out immediately and it ended up being ok in the end."

Other incidents this year involving people jumping from the Baybrook Bridge onto floaters, which is legal, but people need to watch out for floaters and give them the right away, Roberts said jumpers need to give 50 feet.

Most of the floaters navigate the Boise River with no problem, but it is important to know that floaters go down the river at their own risk, there are no lifeguards but one of the positives about the river is that people always seem willing to lend a hand.

The increasing popularity of the Boise River also creates problems with parking, Sosin told us there has been a 22 percent increase of cars at Barber Park, he said on an average day 530 cars will park at the put-in.

But there is a shuttle service for three dollars that will take people from the take-out at Ann Morrison Park back to Barber Park and this year 45,000 people took advantage of that amenity, if people park in surrounding neighborhoods there is a good chance they will get a ticket or be towed.

We also asked Sosin about the future of the air pumps that originally closed down during the pandemic, but didn't re-open with Ada County Parks and Waterways citing that it caused more congestion at Barber Park.

"It just doesn't work for Barber Park right now," said Sosin. "Those bottlenecks we were experiencing before the record breaking years was a problem back then, we have made it a way more efficient process and those air pumps aren't going to be coming back anytime soon."

The Boise River never closes, but the amenities will end after Monday as government officials expect one more big weekend on the Boise River.

"With a really busy weekend coming up more than ever we really encourage users of the river to continue to use that shuttle service," said Doug Holloway the Boise Parks and Recreation Director. "Park at Ann Morrison Park and take the shuttle service out here to barber park for your launch."

The Spirit of Boise is this week so floaters won't be able to park at Ann Morrison on Friday, Holloway told us he expects the park to be busier on Saturday as well.