Picture this: You’re kicked back in a raft, feet up with a can in your hand. The sun is hot; the river is cool and calm. You close your eyes and tune into the river’s rushing sounds – smooth, steady, soothing. You blink your eyes open to the clear blue sky as you hear the river getting louder ahead.
Readjusting, you grab your paddle and get ready, like an Old West cowboy saddling up, ready to ride. Raft in position, can secured, you slide through the drop in the river. A woosh of clean, clear water spills into your lap. Refreshed, you settle back into your only duties for the two-hour raft ride: chill, sip, paddle, repeat.
That’s floating the Boise River.
Floating the river is a summer tradition here in Boise. The season usually begins in late June and closes late August. Exact dates depend on water flow and level, and are announced in early summer each year.
The main Boise River float is from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park. The trip is about 6 miles and takes 2-3 hours. All in all, it’s pretty chill. There are three small drops in the river and several curves that require light navigation.
It doesn’t take much to have a great float down the Boise River, but there are a few essentials to make your trip the best it can possibly be.
Get a good raft or tube
First things first: You need a good raft or tube and a paddle. You can bring your own, purchase one at a store like Fred Meyer or Albertsons, or rent one at Barber Park.
To rent a raft, visit Boise River Raft & Float in Barber Park. They offer three-hour rentals for tubes and rafts on a first-come, first-served basis. You can rent one-person tubes, four-person rafts, six-person rafts and two-person inflatable kayaks. All raft rentals come with life jackets and paddles.
Once you’ve secured your rental, hop in the river right there at Barber Park and enjoy the float. When you exit the river at Ann Morrison, bring your gear to the clearly-marked return area near Ann Morrison bridge.
If you bring your own raft, don’t forget to bring a pump. You might just need it.
Gather your gear
The general rule of thumb for floating is if you don’t want it to get wet, don’t bring it. Especially if you are floating in a tube. Make sure to pack out whatever you bring and don’t forget to put on sunscreen!
What to bring: raft/tube, ore, pump, patch kit, water bag, water bottle, canned drinks, sunglasses, hat
What to leave: glass bottles, phone (unless waterproofed or you have a waterproof bag), anything you don’t want to get wet
Getting to the river
To float the river, you need a vehicle at Ann Morrison (where you exit the river) and a ride to Barber Park (where you start your float). Parking at Ann Morrison is free and available in several locations. Parking at Barber Park has a seasonal fee and is limited. There’s not much street parking outside of Barber Park either and parking in surrounding neighborhoods is not permitted. There are two ways to get to Barber Park: a one-car shuttle or a two-car shuttle.
One-car shuttle: Park at Ann Morrison and ride the park’s shuttle service to Barber Park. It’s $3 per person and departs from Ann Morrison every hour on the hour, Monday-Thursday, 1-8 p.m. and Friday 1-9 p.m. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the shuttle departs approximately every 20 minutes from 12-9 p.m.
Two-car shuttle: Park one car at Ann Morrison and pile into another car, drive to Barber Park and park there. At the end of the float, you will drive back to Barber Park to pick up the second vehicle.
Get pumped up
Do not forget the holy grail of floating gear: a portable pump. There are no pumps available at Barber Park, so you absolutely must bring your own. Once you’re pumped up, put your raft in the river, hop on and enjoy.
It’s a leisurely 2-3 hour float down the Boise River. Most of the river is wide and tree-lined, with depth varying from very shallow to several feet deep. You have a high chance of seeing wildlife along the way. Some navigating is required around corners so you don’t get caught up in the trees or brush.
On the float, you’ll pass by several sandy beaches and places to stop along the shore. You will also pass some Boise landmarks, including Warm Spring Golf Course, Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park, M.K. Nature Center, Boise State University and its football stadium, Julia Davis Park, the Ann Frank Human Rights Memorial, and finally, float right into Ann Morrison Park, just a few blocks from downtown Boise.
The route also passes under six bridges: The Red Bridge, Parkcenter Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Friendship Bridge, Capitol Bridge, Ninth Street Bridge. Exit at the pull-out on the South (left-hand) side of the river, right before Ann Morrison Bridge.
Once on dry land, deflate your tube and pack it back to your car. If your tube popped along the way, you can discard it in the “dead raft” bin located at the take-out by the bridge.
Getting off the river at Ann Morrison leaves you steps away from downtown Boise and all it has to offer. If you’ve floated up an appetite, cross over the bridge to the Northside of the river and grab a bite and a beverage at Green Acres Food Truck Park, Payette Brewing or Push & Pour coffee shop.
River Safety 101
- Make sure everyone in your party can swim.
- Don’t be too cool to wear a personal floatation device, especially if you can’t swim well.
- Use the buddy system and stay together while floating.
- If you fall in the river, keep your feet pointed downstream, use your arms to get to a safe place on shore or to another raft, and use your feet to push away from rocks or other obstacles.
- Use sunscreen.
- Drink lots of water
- And most importantly, check river safety on the City of Boise’s website before you go!