NewsIdaho Back Roads


Changes on the horizon for the expert wave at the Boise Whitewater Park

Posted at 12:45 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 14:50:53-04

BOISE, Idaho — In the summer of 2019, the City of Boise opened phase two of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation Whitewater Park, but three years later the expert wave still doesn't work right.

This wave replaced a diversion dam and has three main functions, to divert flows into the Farmers Union Canal for their designated water rights, to act as flood mitigation and lastly for recreation, the former two worked, but the latter hasn't.

"Unfortunately the design of that wave has not met all of that criteria for us," said Doug Holloway, the Boise Parks and Recreation Director.

As the flows in the river change it sometimes causes a dangerous hydraulic to form behind the wave forcing the Parks and Rec Department to have limited morning sessions where the wave has to be monitored for safety, surfers still love riding this huge wave when they get a chance.

There are monitored wave sessions from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Wednesday through Friday when conditions allow, the Parks and Rec Department has an app that alerts surfers if the sessions are a go or a no-go.

Every attempt has been made to rectify this as crews have been in the Boise River during the last three winters making adjustments trying in an effort to perfect the wave.

"They thought they had it right and it is close, but it needs to be monitored," said Guy Midnight a local surfer. "It should be a wave where you just set it and forget it, like the one up above where they don’t have to worry about it."

Phase two of the whitewater park cost $10 million with the city covering six million and theJ.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation donating four million, phase two does include much more than just the diversion wave.

The city contracted McMillen Jacobs Associates to build the wave who contracted S2O Design and Engineering to draw up the plans, S2O has built several successful whitewater parks including the 2012 Olympic Venue in London.

However, their design to bring a competition style wave that is really steep and really fast in the Boise River with so many other variables just hasn't worked.

"I just want to say a big thank you to our surfers and our kayakers who have been so patient with us since we cut the ribbon on this in July of 2019," said Holloway. "We haven’t had a usable wave since then."

The City of Boise has refused to sign off on the project being complete until they get a workable wave, McMillen Jacobs Associates has hired McLaughlin Whitewater to design a new wave, they are the company that designed phase one of the whitewater park, the work will start on that this winter and should be done by the summer of 2023.

"We are going to get this done, it is going to get done and it is going to be a wave that makes our users very happy," said Holloway. "We are going to have a great summer next year for our surfers and kayakers."

The City of Boise will not have to spend more money on this amenity, it is looking like there will be future litigation between McMillen Jacobs and S20, we reached out to S2O who told us they were advised not to speak about this issue for legal reasons.