The Importance of River Access

Thursday, September 29 marks a notable event for Boise River recreationists. At 10:30 AM, Boise Parks and Recreation dedicates the new Willow Lane boat ramp. The new ramp is at the Willow Lane Athletic Complex, off State Street. The ramp is well designed to allow non-motorized, trailered boats- drift boats, dorys and large rafts- access to the river. This new access also provides access for canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards; wading fishers, dog stick throwers, lunch time gazers and sunset hand-holders. It’s an important emergency access for police, fire, rescue and flood control. There is designated parking for trailers, and restrooms are nearby. What a great amenity for our community!

This river access has been a long time coming.  In 1999, Boise convened a committee of citizens and agencies to develop the Boise River Resource Management Plan. The process was repeated, and the plan updated, in 2014. I had the honor of serving on both committees, and am proud of the work we did and the completed plan. There is evidence of the plan’s results all over the city. The surf wave at the River Recreation Park is the most visible. There are also many improvements to riparian habitat, emergency access, floater access at Ann Morrison Park, signage and portage trails.

One of the more challenging components of the plan has been providing access for trailered, non-motorized boats. The fishing community, particularly the Boise Valley Fly Fishers, have worked diligently towards this goal. They deserve kudos and high-fives. The Willow Lane boat ramp is a big step toward improved fishing access on the river.

For now, the take-out is at Garden City’s Westmoreland Park. This is an unimproved access, but boat trailer pros should have no problem getting a drift rig in and out of the river here. Hopefully Garden City and the river recreation community can work together to improve this access in the future.

There are many opportunities to better connect our communities to the river. Star is considering a ramp. Eagle is updating their master plan, and would do well to take on this issue. Eagle has over a dozen unimproved accesses in the North and South Channels of the Boise River, but no improved, sustainable access. The State is starting to move forward on updating Eagle Island State Park. It’s past time to implement the 2006 Eagle Island State Park Planning Committee’s recommendations and connect the park to the river. It’s hard to believe, but Eagle Island State Park, surrounded by the river, has little public access to the river.

One concern looms large for our rapidly urbanizing river. Boise has an ordinance prohibiting motorized recreation on the river. Ada County, Garden City, Eagle and Star do not. City and county codes should be updated to keep the Boise River non-motorized.  Nothing against motorboats- I have spent hundreds of days fishing and cruising in them. There’s a place for everything, and our urban river is better left quiet.

Chel is the author of the Boise River Water Trail a mile-by-mile guide to floating the Boise River from Lucky Peak Dam to the Snake River.

Chel in canoe