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Another record-breaking year of floating the Boise River

two pairs of people floating the Boise River on inner tubes. The pair in the foreground is about to enter a small section of whitewater.
Troy Oppie
Boise State Public Radio
Floaters enjoy the Boise River during triple-digit temperatures on August 31, 2022.

It’s been another record-breaking summer on the Boise River. Boise and Ada County officials estimate more than 150,000 floaters put in for the 6-mile ride down the river this summer - and there are still four days left in the “official” floating season.

“We kind of predict every year will be record-breaking,” said Robbie Sosin, Ada County Parks and Waterways Program and Education Specialist.

Boise River use saw about a 22% increase from 2021. The true number of floaters is likely higher because the estimate is only based on shuttle and parking numbers, leaving out folks who get dropped off at Barber Park and don’t park or take the shuttle.

Shuttle ridership is way up and Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway says that reflects the difficulty of parking at Barber Park.

“We’ve spent a great deal of time with Ada County Parks and Waterways promoting, 'use the shuttles, park at Ann Morrison, don’t park at the neighborhood out here,'” he said.

Complaints from area residents about floater traffic or other inappropriate behavior remained about the same this year, Holloway said, adding that Boise Police regularly patrol the area and have cited and in some cases towed improperly parked vehicles.

Many floaters may not have realized the river was running higher than usual this summer. That, more than anything, said Boise Fire special operations division chief Paul Roberts, contributed to the number of calls for help more than tripling compared to last year.

“When those water levels are high, there are a lot more hazards out there,” he said.

The current river flow is around 770 cubic feet per second (cfs) but was near 1300 cfs for much of the summer.

Roberts said one of many close calls this summer was a floater pinned underwater against the broadway bridge by a rope tied between rafts. Rescue crews were nearby and cut the person loose.

Floaters should not tie their rafts together, and should always be aware of hazards on the river, he said.

First responders intervened in about 115 incidents on the river this summer, according to a Boise Fire Department spokeswoman.

“We try to up-staff when we know it's going to be busy and we know it’s going to be hot. I suspect that will be the case over the weekend. But I want to emphasize, we’re not lifeguards and we’re not staged at specific locations,” Roberts told media at a media briefing Wednesday morning.

A Boise police spokeswoman said the department has not made an arrest in the case of a person jumping off the Baybrook bridge and landing on floaters below. That incident sent two people to the hospital. Police say the person who jumped has still not been identified.

“Fifty feet of distance is the required separation,” for jumpers to stay away from floaters, Roberts said.

Roberts and Holloway both stressed being properly prepared when venturing onto the Boise River, with proper footwear, capable rafts and inner tubes and a plan for transportation.

“If you want to enjoy it, know a little bit about it,” Holloway said.

The official float season (with available shuttle service, rentals and paid parking) ends Monday. Officials expect a very busy weekend and encourage the use of the Barber Park shuttles - especially Friday afternoon and evening, when Ann Morrison park hosts the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic.

This story has been updated with additional information from Boise Police.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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