Boise Whitewater Park

Photo courtesy of Jeff ‘Jefe’ Banks

A Very Short History

Note: As of November 1, 2016 the name of the park was changed from Boise River Park to Boise Whitewater Park.

The site on the Boise River was once filled with concrete and debris from abandoned slaughter houses which were bulldozed into the river. The Thurman-Mill irrigation dam was deteriorating as well. There was little if any riparian habitat available in the stretch of river below Fairview to Veteran’s Memorial Park. In the late 1990’s citizens joined with the City of Boise and other stakeholders to look the future of the Boise River within the city limits and beyond. The outcome ws Boise River Vision 2000 – a blueprint for moving the early vision of Greenbelt pioneer Bill Onweiler, who launched the idea of the Greenbelt in 1966. With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, Boise was left with little choice but to rehab the river.

To view the 2014 Boise River Resource Management & Master Plan – click here (PDF)

With the completion of the early Boise River Plan, a group of enthusiasts began the process of understanding how a “whitewater park” would work in and for the Boise River. In 1999 Northenders Jo Cassin, Paul Collins and others began the process of traveling to whitewater park conferences and meeting with the designers, engineers and environmental advocates to study the feasibility of finding a location on the Boise River and understanding the regulatory process to get the complicated project going. By 2004 Idaho River Sports had taken a leap of faith and purchased a property to move their store to the area that provided the most promise. At nearly the same time a group of citizens formed the “Friends of River Recreation” to jump start fundraising and planning in conjunction with the City of Boise.

In 2012, after 13 years of work and through the support of more than 200 individuals and organizations, the Boise Whitewater Park opened. Private donations and the significant support from the City of Boise, the JA and Kathryn Albertson Foundation and the Harry W. Morrison Foundation, among others, made the first phase a reality. The result is the Boise Whitewater Park, Quinn’s Pond and Esther Simplot Park combine to make up one of the largest urban boating and boarding centers in North America. And it is a stone’s throw from the North End.

The centerpiece of the Boise Whitewater Park is an adjustable play wave. Ramps built for irrigation equipment maintenance provide access into the river above and below the play wave. Also, there are observation places and seating on rocks and benches. The 36th Street Footbridge spans that section of the river and provides another view of action in the park and Quinn’s Pond next door.

Why a “River Park”

Despite the name being changed 3 times in 4 years, the Boise Whitewater Park offers enhanced recreational opportunities for kayaking, surfing and stand up paddle boarding. Our park was designed and is operated to attract paddlers from around the world and provide avenue for safety training, paddling techniques and competitions. One of the recent trends in whitewater recreation especially for kayakers and surfers is the importance of “park and play” spots. A “park and play” spot is a location on a river which is easily accessible and attractive because its’ hydraulic characteristics.

The Google map below is updated as new features are added. With Phase II of the project, the map will be enlarged to include areas involving Esther Simplot Park and portions of Veteran’s Park.

One Comment Add yours

  1. shannon l Cade says:

    I work for the City of Boise. We would like to use Jeff Banks’ photo of the Boise Whitewater Park (w/the hot air balloons) for the cover of our annual budget book. Will you please have him contact me at 208/972-8148? Thank you, Shannon Cade

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