Floating the Boise River is a fun summer activity for people of (mostly) all ages and abilities. Because the river is not very deep, it means bringing your kids (with life vests of course) is a great way to get them outside and on the water. There are a number of things to know before your Boise River float though, so here are our top tips for floating the Boise River in Boise, Idaho.
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The short answer is: no. There are a number of things that go into the decision to “open” the Boise River. Because the water is controlled and can be much higher or lower throughout the year, those decisions are based on your safety. The window normally begins around June and ends in August or September.
While there are people who do float outside this window, you will always hear of many of them needing rescued — and that is not cheap (yes, there is a good chance they will charge you for the rescue if you are outside the open window). Just do what they say and float within the window.
Your Boise River float will begin at Barber Park, which is located around six miles from downtown Boise. The park itself is beautiful, with some of the best wildlife (expect to see anything from deer to bald eagles year-round) and scenery in all of Boise.
When you get to Barber Park, you can rent a tube or raft from a local company (more in the next section) and they will pick it up for you at the end of your Boise River float.
To get to Barber Park:
- From I-84, take the Broadway exit (exit 54), turn right (1.7 miles)
- Take a right on Boise Avenue until Eckert Road, turn left (3.6 miles)
- Take your first left from Eckert Road into Barber Park
Boise River Raft & Tube is open at Barber Park during the float season in Boise. They offer rafts and tubes, depending on your needs. They have tubes, deluxe tubes, 2-person kayaks, 4-person rafts, or 6-people rafts. All items are first-come, first-served, and I have been there on a super busy day where they ran out of everything — so be prepared. Rentals cost anywhere from $25 for three hours (for a tube) to $60 for three hours (for a six-person raft).
You can also purchase a tube or raft at many local stores, anywhere from REI and Target to even Walgreen’s sometimes. If you want a quality one though, they can get spendy — so if you are only going to float the Boise River once or twice, the rentals are probably a better investment. If you do bring your own raft though, you can air them up at stations at Barber Park.
Boise River Raft & Tube is closed for some major holidays, so it’s always good to check their website before you make plans.
Boise River Raft & Tube also operates a shuttle service between Barber Park and Ann Morrison Park. The shuttle costs $3 per person and leaves Ann Morrison Park every hour on weekdays and every 20 minutes on weekends.
Many times on busy days there are lines for the shuttle, but if you’re willing to wait, it’s a great cost-effective option to float the Boise River.
There are a number of rules when floating the Boise River, and it’s so important to follow them. Each year around 100,000 people float the river.
Here are some rules for floating the Boise River (from Ada County, Idaho):
- You cannot drink within 100 feet of the Boise River, so no alcohol (this is something people used to do on a regular basis)
- Make sure everyone can swim
- Everyone should wear a personal flotation device — they are included in your raft rental
- Do not try to take out an unapproved floating vessel, like air mattresses, inner tubes, or beach toys
- Do not take children under 50 pounds on the river
- Use a “buddy system”
- Tell your friends or family when you are expected to get off the river
- Wear shoes to protect your feet
- Always know where you are on the river, so you can tell a rescue team if you had to call them
- Do not throw trash in the river or surrounding areas
The float itself takes around 1.5 hours to complete. You will get out of the Boise River at Ann Morrison Park. There is a dam just after the park, which could endanger your life — so get out where you are supposed to. There will be signs directing you to exit, and if it’s a busy day you will see everyone else getting out too.
Once at Ann Morrison Park, you can find the shuttle and head back to Barber Park.