Tree in Boise River near Pine causing added danger

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jul 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-14 17:37:18-04

With the hot weather, many Idahoans are looking for a place with a lake or stream where they can cool off. One of those places is the South Fork of the Boise River near Pine, but there's a spot on that stretch of river locals are calling deadly.

The Pine/Featherville area is one of many places close to the Treasure Valley where people escape the city to enjoy the outdoors. And when the weather heats up, Terry George gets very busy, renting rafts and tubes to people wanting to float the South Fork Boise River. But he says many unsuspecting floaters end up in a place some locals call "the graveyard".

"They call it the graveyard because most of the people who go through there, their tubes get flattened out, their rafts get flattened out and they felt like they were about to die themselves as well," said George, with Anderson Ranch rentals. 

The tree in question has been in the river for at least two years, and the natural hydraulics pull anything or anyone floating on the river straight into it. With the floating season heating up, George believes it's just a matter of time before someone loses their life here.

"The paramedics had a rescue two weeks ago that somebody had gone under that, so it's gonna happen," he said.

In Boise, the fire department clears hazards like the tree from the Boise River, but in rural areas, it's unclear who, if anyone, could or would have an interest in making the South Fork more safe for floaters. We spoke to the Boise National Forest which maintains the Elk Flats Campground just upstream and were told the river is not in their jurisdiction. Stephanie Church from the Mountain Home Ranger District says Elmore County has permission to access forest service land to remove the hazard, but the sheriff's office says it's not the county's responsibility. Both point out that this is a natural river with natural hazards, and a sign at the campground warns people that if they float, they are doing so at their own risk.

That's frustrating to Terry George, who wishes someone, anyone, would step in to move the tree.

"It's a wild river," said George. "The South Fork Boise is wild, but this is a bit too extreme and wild for flotation devices...Something has to be done before someone dies."
George encourages anyone planning to float to stop by his shop for information about safely floating the South Fork.

For those who are planning to float that stretch of river, be aware. That hazard is just downstream from the Elks Flat campground and the Johnson bridge. The forest service says many people are using private land to access the river on the east bank near the Johnson bridge, which is illegal.