Birders Gather Data for Cottonwood Creek Project

by Heidi Ware Carlisle, BSU Intermountain Bird Observatory

The east end of Julia Davis Park in downtown Boise will be transformed over the next year. What’s now a mono-culture of turf with scattered mature trees will make way for a vibrant small creek with aquatic and riparian vegetation taking root. Willows, Wood’s Rose, Golden Currant, Red-osier Dogwood and other native plants will grow on the banks of the new Cottonwood Creek and provide habitat for resident and migratory birds. Read about the Cottonwood Creek Daylighting Project.

Before and After

Without knowing what birds frequent the park now, it will be hard to measure the impacts of the project. To answer this question, BREN and project partner the BSU Intermountain Bird Observatory turned to local birders. In an example of citizen science at its best, local birders have been enlisted via eBird to document what they find when they go birding at the project site.

Eight dedicated birders have submitted eBird checklists for the Cottonwood Creek Daylighting Project so far. It’s exciting to see the power of citizen science at work, collecting pre-construction data on this project. All together, our volunteers have done the equivalent of eighteen in depth bird surveys by submitting complete eBird checklists of every bird they identified in the area. 

No Suprises Yet

So far, our census results are as expected. With no understory habitat or shrubs for riparian birds to use, the counts have been somewhat low. Even so, our volunteers have meticulously documented twenty individual species using the area. You can view the whole species list here:

A few species are of particular interest:

Black-capped Chickadees have been detected in the area, using the river corridor. These are a riparian-habitat-loving bird that live along the Boise River. It is a good sign that Chickadees visit this project area already. Chickadees are know for exploring, often moving up and down the river in search of good habitat. As restoration begins and more habitat is created there is a good chance that chickadees will be one of the first species to colonize this new area. These little birds are major insectivores in the summer, so we know they will enjoy hunting for caterpillars and other food in the newly planted shrubs

Black-capped chickadee photo by Ken Miracle

Canada Geese are the only species that has been detected on all 18 surveys! But this isn’t surprising, since the future location of Cottonwood Creek is currently grass….which just happens to be their favorite food! Canada Geese are likely one of the only species that won’t love the Cottonwood Creek Project. They like wide open spaces (with no cover for potential predators to hide in) and green grass. As we add native shrubs and plants, we expect Canada Geese to visit this area less often…..hooray for less goose poop!

Canada goose and goslings photo by Ken Miracle

The Song Sparrow is a nondescript passerine bird and not much to look at, but it has a beautiful song! Song Sparrows are a species that nests in low dense vegetation near waterways. The new plantings we will do as part of the Cottonwood Creek project will provide fantastic nesting habitat for Song Sparrows within just a few years! It won’t take long to get native habitat established that Song Sparrows will love to use!

Song sparrow photo by Ken Miracle

Yellow-rumped Warblers are a migratory species that visits the Treasure Valley during spring and fall migration, as well as the winter. For migrating birds, it’s not just about nesting habitat. They need to have good habitat in both their summer and winter grounds! By restoring Cottonwood Creek, we would ensure that the Yellow-rumped Warblers that visit us have a place to call home while they are here.

Yellow-rumped warbler photo by Ken Miracle

Get Involved

Do you want to get out and see what the Cottonwood Creek Project is all about? Visit this link to learn more about how you can contribute. We are excited to watch the data and bird sightings change over time as this project moves forward, and we hope you’ll join us!

Cottonwood Creek: “A Great Source of Trouble and Expense”

A deep freeze had clenched the Boise valley for weeks and snow lay thick on the foothills. In mid-January the temperature shot up to a balmy 50 degrees and rain began to fall.  Day after day the rain continued. On January 21, 1866, according to the January 23, 1866 edition of the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, “Cottonwood Creek came out of its bed and appropriated the whole of Main street to the depth of six to twelve inches.”

Luckily for the approximately 800 people that lived in Boise in 1866, the floodwaters were kept out of most of the Main St. cellars. But Cottonwood Creek continued to be a “great source of trouble and expense.” Winter rain-on-snow storms, spring freshets, and heavy summer downpours caused the creek to rise precipitously and follow the path of least resistance down 6th Street to Main Street to the Boise River.

The Fort, the City and the Creek

In July 1863, the U.S. Army established Fort Boise on a slight rise overlooking Cottonwood Creek. It appears that the nation’s river experts, the Army Corps of Engineers, were busy elsewhere and did not participate in the decision on where to locate the Fort. The low-lying part of the Fort was built in the path of Cottonwood Creek.

Not long after this, in August 1863, Boise City founders laid out a townsite about a half-mile away. The initial plat was for ten blocks on each side of Main Street between 5th Street and 10th Street.  Fort Boise and Cottonwood Creek were thought to be a good distance away, but actually the channel of the creek cut diagonally through the townsite. During the periods when the creek flow was low or non-existent there were no problems, but when the waters rose, Cottonwood Creek made a beeline for Main Street. So began an expensive battle against the floodwaters and this battle continues to the present day.

Fort Boise is in the foreground of this historic drawing. The Cottonwood Creek channel can be seen.

8,000 Acres and 3,000 Feet

Cottonwood Creek is the largest tributary to the lower Boise River. It drains an 8,000‐acre watershed of the Boise Front, northeast of downtown Boise.  The headwaters of Cottonwood Creek are at 5,600 feet elevation, nearly 3,000 feet above Fort Boise. The watershed was heavily grazed in the late 1800’s and many mines were dug in the upper reaches.

“Quite an excitement prevailed”

By 1881, the population of Boise had more than doubled and the battle with Cottonwood Creek escalated.

As reported by the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman on February 3 and 5, 1881, incessant rains on the snow-covered foothills “caused such a rushing of the waters from the melted snow on the lower slopes of the mountains that all the small streams have been swollen into rivers.”  Cottonwood Creek “came sweeping down through the outskirts of the town into Sixth street, and thence into Main street at the Statesman office. In a few minutes these streets were flooded; many residences were surrounded by water, and quite an excitement prevailed.”

An army of towns folk jumped into action “to check the rushing of the flood down Main street.” The US Army at Fort Boise also sprang into action, but the newspaper reported the water “baffled them and found its way out of the proper channel.” The newspaper office was located on Sixth Street and the reporter had a front row seat to watch “the torrent again rushing down Sixth and Idaho streets, and threatening every moment to break the temporary embankment that had been thrown across Main street at the crossing of Main and Sixth.  The streets were soon filled with men rushing hither and thither with lanterns, and every possible effort was made to keep the water in its passage down Sixth street.”

“Considerable Damage Was Done”

The rain continued into the next day and despite a force of 50 men mustered by the Mayor to work on the dam at Fort Boise, Cottonwood Creek “suddenly rose some two or three feet.” The temporary dams at 6th and Main, “gave away and the water took its coveted way again down Main street. Many residences were surrounded by water to the great discomfort of the inmates, and considerable damage was done to property by the flooding of cellars, and compelling the removal of carpets and other furniture.”

Cottonwood Creek continued to flow through the eastern part of Boise well into March 1881. On July 30, 1881 the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman editor wrote, “This creek has been a great source of trouble and expense to Boise City.” The City Council was moved to action. On September 22, 1881 an advertisement appeared in the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman stating the City was accepting bids for the construction of a stone flume on Cottonwood Creek.

Part I of a blog series exploring the history of Cottonwood Creek. Made possible by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Boise River Enhancement Network.

The Cottonwood Creek Daylighting Project

The Boise River Enhancement Network is a partner in a cooperative project to ‘daylight’ Cottonwood Creek where it flows through Julia Davis Park and enters the Boise River. The creek currently runs through a stone flume under the park. A new open creek channel will be constructed for the creek benefiting fish and wildlife, water quality and park visitors, and the flume will be ‘retired.’ The project leads are City of Boise and Trout Unlimited.  Partners include the Intermountain Bird Observatory, Ada County Highway District, Golden Eagle Audubon Society, and Land Trust of the Treasure Valley. The project is funded, in part, by the US Bureau of Reclamation, the City of Boise Open Space and Clean Water Fund, and the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Boise River Water Quality Just Got Better

After what seemed like an eternity of disrupted traffic for State St. commuters, the new State St. and Veterans Memorial Parkway intersection is finished. Congratulate yourself if you’ve figured out how to negotiate the turn lanes. From the perspective of the Boise River, the inconvenience was well worth it. Improvements in stormwater management make this $8 million Ada County Highway District (ACHD) project a big win for fish and aquatic health.

No More Stormwater Discharge to the River

New stormwater facilities have replaced the pipes that carried pollutant-laden water directly from State St., 36th St. and Veterans Memorial Parkway to the Boise River for decades. A combination of seepage beds, bioswales and stormwater basins now capture runoff from nearly 30 acres. From Whitewater Blvd. on the east to just beyond Arthur St. on the west and from Anderson St. on the north to N. Stilson Road on the south, stormwater is now captured and infiltrated into the ground improving water quality in the Boise River.

Stormwater basin on State St, Oct, 9, 2018

A basin on the south side of State St. captures stormwater from 3 acres west of the intersection. A  large basin with a forebay located on the west side of Veterans Memorial Parkway captures stormwater from most of the project area – 26.75 acres. Two small basins collect neighborhood stormwater at the Glendale St. and Alameda St. cul-de-sacs.



Stormwater basin on VMP Nov 7, 2018

During the Oct. 9, 2018 storm

Stormwater discharge at Americana Bridge

Stormwater Carries Pollutants

While ACHD, Boise and Garden City have not permitted new buildings and roads to discharge stormwater to the Boise River for decades, stormwater from hundreds of miles of roads still travels through pipes to the Boise River. Stormwater washes pollutants off roadways, and sediment, bacteria, nutrients, oil, grease, heavy metals and trash are flushed into the Boise River. The Boise River Enhancement Plan recommends use of green stormwater infrastructure like these basins to treat stormwater onsite.

Clean Water is Essential for a Healthy Boise River

Portions of the Boise River do not meet water quality standards established by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The levels of sediment, bacteria and phosphorus in the river harm fish and other aquatic organisms and have a negative impact on recreation. Discharge of untreated stormwater water to the river is one source of these pollutants. All of the water you see in the stormwater basins is water that used to dump directly into the river by Veterans Memorial Parkway bridge.

Wow! Is That a Stormwater Basin?

ACHD stormwater detention facilities have traditionally been very utilitarian. A big dirt basin surrounded by a chain link fence is a common look. ACHD made a major shift in 2017 by adopting new policies that require stormwater basins be vegetated. Vegetation improves the aesthetics of the basins and the plants uptake pollutants and provide habitat for birds and pollinators. The stormwater basins on State St. and Veterans Memorial Parkway have been seeded with native wetland and dryland plants including perennial bunchgrasses, sedges, and bulrush. A temporary irrigation system has been installed at the Veterans Memorial Pond to help the plants become established.

Permeable pavers in downtown Boise alley

ACHD has built many green stormwater facilities in recent years including permeable pavers in downtown alleys, and bio-retention planters at 15th and State St. and on Capitol Blvd.

More Improvements Ahead

Large transportation and redevelopment projects are underway across the Treasure Valley.  Stormwater from these projects must be retained onsite. Water quality will continue to improve as more and more stormwater is treated onsite.  Keep that in mind next time you’re stuck in a construction-related traffic jam.

Urban Reserve Feels the Love

120 youth and adults took to the hillsides at the City of Boise’s Hyatt Hidden Lake Reserve in October to create healthier habitat for birds and reduce fire risk. Armed with shovels of all sizes, trowels, and even a post hole digger, the determined volunteers dug through the rocky soil to plant nearly 2,000 native plants. The community planting days were the final public activity for the Hyatt Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project. The project is led by the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Boise River Enhancement Network and City of Boise, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and supported by numerous local partners.


Employees of Corporate Stewardship Partner Xylem      Xylem employee Jessop and sons

A big team of employees from BREN’s 2018 Corporate Stewardship Partner, Xylem Watermark, participated as well as groups from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, College of Western Idaho, Boise Veteran’s Administration, Suez, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Tomorrow’s Hope.  Dozens of community members helped as well. The plants were planted along the upper western edge of the reserve and in the area behind the Maple Grove parking lot.



Lots of plants in the ground and lots of smiling faces!

15-Month Makeover

Over the last 15 months, BREN and LTTV have involved hundreds of community members in activities to improve the habitat at the 44-acre urban reserve. All told, close to 3,000 plants have been planted. 1,500 fire resistant, resilient and drought-tolerant grasses – Sandberg bluegrass, Idaho fescue, bottlebrush squirreltail, and bluebunch wheatgrass – were planted.  Native shrubs were planted – golden current, woods rose, rabbitbrush, bitterbrush, sagebrush, and oakleaf sumac – to crowd out invasive weeds and provide foraging habitat for birds. Willow and thinleaf alder were planted to improve habitat close to the ponds and yarrow, hoary aster and milkweed were planted to support pollinators.

Hundreds of people helped with planting in 2017 and 2018 including the groups listed above and local Rotary Clubs, Boy Scout Troop 100, and the Idaho Fine Arts Academy Interact Club. Idaho Power, Rotary, and the Native Plant Network donated plants to the project.

Volunteers Grow Plants from Seeds

Hundreds of plants now nestled snugly at the reserve were grown by project volunteers. In an incredible display of purpose, volunteers gathered seeds from flowering plants at the reserve in the fall of 2017 and germinated them over the winter.  The seedlings were transplanted in the spring and nurtured over the hot summer months.  Girl Scout Troop 105, College of Western Idaho, Big Brothers Big Sisters of SW Idaho, new Americans from Nepal and other volunteers grew plants. The Golden Eagle Audubon Society Native Plant Network and Land Trust of the Treasure Valley supervised.


Spencer and Jon grew plants       New Americans grew plants         Rachelle helps transplant   

Weed Warriors

Volunteers also helped remove unwanted plants.  In 2017, employees of Xylem Watermark helped Boise Parks and Recreation take out Russian olive trees and provide space for willows and black cottonwoods. Volunteer Weed Warriors trained by City of Boise Open Space Restoration Specialist Martha Brabec worked weekly to remove thistle, teasel, goat heads and other weeds.


Weeds warriors Dondi, Hilary, John and Anne

Discovering the Reserve

The partnership project hosted field trips and birding outings to the reserve, which, in addition to the stewardship activities, introduced hundreds of people to this hidden oasis.  It was common to hear people exclaim that they’d driven by for years and never stopped. The increase in awareness and appreciation for the unique area is vital to ensure long term community stewardship of the reserve. The project also provided new residents from many nations the opportunity to visit the reserve and learn about the birds and plants.  BREN volunteers and others led groups from the Idaho Office of Refugees, the Agency for New Americans and new residents from Nepal around the reserve and provided binoculars to increase the fun. A big thanks to Golden Eagle Audubon Society and the Boise Watershed for helping.

Stewardship to Continue

Boise City Parks and Recreation and local organizations will continue to enhance the habitat and provide opportunities for citizen stewardship of the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. The new plants will require attention until they are well-established. Weed management will always be needed.  Please contact the Boise River Enhancement Network to be added to the volunteer email list.

The Hyatt Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project was led by the Land Trust of the Treasure ValleyBoise River Enhancement Network, and the City of Boise. Project partners include U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Office of Refugees by Jannus, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, Golden Eagle Audubon Society, Intermountain Bird Observatory, Boise State University, The Wetlands Group, Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign, College of Western Idaho, and Partners for Clean Water.

Goal Reached to Restore Greenbelt Bridge!

By Jan Johns, Executive Director Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands

September 23 – UPDATE

We met our fundraising goal!

We asked for your help, and you stepped up big time! Thanks to the generosity of you and your neighbors, the Plantation Island Greenbelt bridge and pathway will soon be restored.

Just last month we, the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands, spread the word that we needed your help to repair the Plantation Island bridge that had spanned the beloved Greenbelt. And you listened!

We shared that we had received partial funding for the repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). We called on you to help us raise the extra $75,000 needed to get us across the finish line. You did it! As of today we have raised the funds and are gearing up to get the bridge back in action! We could not have done it without you. Thank you!

Special thanks to Foundation for Ada and Canyon County Trail Systems, Linda Yanke, Don and Kay McCarter, and Citizens for an Open Greenbelt for their generous gifts, and to all of you in the community who gave gifts of all sizes! Thanks as well to all the individuals, businesses and organizations that helped spread the word.

Original Post:

Have you asked yourself, “When in the heck is the Greenbelt over the Boise River near the Plantation Golf Course going to be fixed?” Well, you are not alone!

The Flood of 2017 Damages Greenbelt

The west bridge at Plantation Island was located on land owned by the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands (IFPL), a public benefit nonprofit corporation. During the high water in 2017, the City of Boise, Ada County and the Ada County Highway District paid for the removal of the bridge because the bank was eroding around the bridge abutments. The undamaged bridge was lifted off its abutments by a crane on April 3, 2017 and put down near the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, where it sits today. The bank loss and Greenbelt damage on Plantation Island from the extended record-breaking flow of the Boise River was extensive.

damaged Greenbelt    

Emergency Funds Delayed

Governor Otter declared a flood emergency for Ada County that allowed IFPL to apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help with repair costs. Unfortunately, hurricanes and massive forest fires across the nation stretched FEMA resources thin, delaying funding approval for more than a year.

But wait, there’s good news!

Finally, in late June 2018, IFPL received approval from FEMA for partial funding to make the necessary repairs and replace the the bridge. Hoorah! The total repair costs are estimated at $200,000 and FEMA has granted IFPL $120,000. IFPL must now raise at least $75,000.

Bridge Repair Fundraising Campaign Launched

Between now and October, IFPL is fundraising to secure the needed funds. Everyone is asked to pitch in to restore this important bridge between the south and north sides of the river.  Commuters use this route as do children going to school, people going to the fairgrounds, Hawks Stadium, Garden City Library, and many other destinations. Plantation Island is also a great place to birdwatch, walk your dog or go fishing. The Foundation aims to raise the money in the next few months so the work can be done when the Boise River is at low winter flow levels.

Make a gift today!

Help Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands restore the beloved Plantation Island Greenbelt Bridge. Time is of the essence. Donate now. Thank you!

The west bridge to Plantation Island has been gone since April, 2017.

Parma Rancher Tackles Water Quality

return flowThe Pintail Ranch straddles the Boise River near the Highway 95 bridge by Parma, ID. Doug Bates bought the the beautiful property, in part, to create and improve wildlife habitat on the ranch. Little did he know what was happening on his ranch was harming the fish and wildlife that live in the Boise River. Being a man with a strong stewardship ethic, Mr. Bates has decided to tackle this problem. He’s beginning a phased conversion to a new irrigation system that will prevent tons of sediment from entering the Boise River each year.

Flood Irrigation Causes Problems

Corn is the primary crop at the 1,000-acre ranch, but there are large sections of ground kept in pasture and grazed by cattle.  The row crop land has been irrigated for decades by either pumping or gravity feeding water from the Boise River down long corrugates after which the excess water returns to the river.  Water is delivered to the pastures in the same manner, but the water spreads across the pasture and then returns to the river.

corn field irrgation

water in corrugates

This method of irrigation tends to be inefficient, requiring more water to be delivered than the plants can use. This is because fields aren’t flat and additional water has to be dispersed over the ground to irrigate the high spots. As the water flows through the fields it collects sediment, pesticides, chemicals, fertilizer, and phosphates and carries these substances into the Boise River. The moving water also erodes the river bank and field bottoms.   Slag pools form at the bottom of the fields and the cattle tend to wallow there. Cattle actively graze irrigated pastures, also.  Contaminants from cattle excrement are carried to the river in the irrigation run off.

The Pintail Ranch has summer irrigation water rights of approximately 46 cubic feet per second. This equates to the delivery of several million gallons of return water (accompanied by chemicals, fertilizers, and sediment) to the Boise River every 24 hours when the ranch is in full summer irrigation mode.

New Pivot Irrigation System

Mr. Bates is installing pivot sprinkler irrigation on four fields totaling 162.5 acres.  Pivots are more efficient and can irrigate the same acres with less water than needed in traditional flood and ditch irrigation.  Field runoff is nearly eliminated, and chemicals, sediments, and fertilizers stay on the ground promoting crop growth instead of being dumped into the river.  As a result, tons of sediment, along with with phosphorus and other pollutants from these fields will no longer enter the Boise River each year.pivotsinplace

The challenge with pivots should be no surprise; they are very expensive.  Mr. Bates received assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Canyon Soil and Water Conservation District in Caldwell to design the new irrigation system.  In July, the Lower Boise Watershed Council and Canyon Soil and Water Conservation District awarded Pintail Ranch 50% of the project cost, $187,500, from the 2018 State Agricultural BMP Implementation fund.  Phases 1 and 2 have started and are expected to be completed in the spring of 2019.

Mr. Bates said, “Although expensive, we think using pivots instead of ditch and flood watering methodologies is an elegant solution for irrigation.  Pivot irrigation is more efficient in terms of water usage and farming overhead. Most important, we avoid excessive discharge of phosphates, sediment (erosion), and other chemicals into our primary river systems.  We also believe the habitat and wildlife benefit from pivot irrigation methodologies.”

On-site Pollution Management

Agricultural best management practices, including conversion to sprinkler irrigation, are recommended in the Boise River Enhancement Plan. Managing pollution on-site is the best way to improve water quality. Conversion from flood to sprinkler irrigation has been proven to be effective in reducing the movement of sediment and pollutants from the field to the river.

All photos provided by Doug Bates.


Accepting BREN Coordinating Team Applications!

We’re looking for new Coordinating Team members!

The Boise River is shared among everyone in the Treasure Valley, and BREN membership and leadership is inclusive.

Land owners, elected officials, water users, consultants, researchers, resource managers, river recreation enthusiasts, teachers, environmental advocates, government workers, water managers, business owners and all those who live, work and play in the Boise River Watershed are encouraged to apply.

The BREN Coordinating Team is elected by the General Members to act on behalf of BREN. Applications to be place on the ballot to serve on the BREN Coordinating Team will be accepted until August 31.

Learn more about the current Coordinating Team, responsibilities and election process. Please complete this Coordinating Team application by August 31, 2018. If you have any questions or  ideas of who we could reach out to, please contact us at

Sediment and Phosphorus Begone

by Hal N. Anderson, Manager, Clean Water Partners LLC.

Can bio-engineered sediment basins and constructed wetlands improve water quality in the Boise River by reducing levels of phosphorus and sediment? In 2014, Clean Water Partners, LLC, (CWP), began a demonstration project at the North Alkali Drain in Canyon County to find out. Now, after four years of operation, data collected by CWP provide evidence that constructed wetlands and sediment basins effectively capture sediment and phosphorus.

Data Report part 1    Data Report part 2

2015-Year 2

Year 4 – 2017









The Alkali Drain has agricultural runoff from crop land and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The location of this drain at the lower end of the Boise River basin includes non-point sources along the drain as well as accumulated pollution loads from upstream sources. This pilot demonstration project is testing the concept that low tech and natural processes can effectively reduce sediment and phosphorus and provide scientific documentation of results.  It is an objective to transport the techniques and processes used to other drainages. With the information generated by this project, regulators, NPDES permit holders and river managers will be better informed regarding the means and methods for nutrient removal from the Lower Boise River and similar basins in Idaho and the West.

This project was designed to be both operational in that water quality is being improved, but maybe more importantly, the project was designed to provide an opportunity for additional research. Improving water quality, especially from non-point sources, requires a diversified approach. While projects like North Alkali are not the only solution, when combined with on-farm, re-use, and water use efficiency improvements, sediment basins and constructed wetlands can provide cost effective and quantifiable improvements to water quality.

North Alkali Drain

Discharge from project







The project was funded 60 percent by federal Clean Water Act funds distributed by Idaho DEQ and the Lower Boise Watershed Council and Canyon Soil and Water Conservation District. The 40 percent match came from the land owner, CWP, The Parma Company and others. CWP committed to measuring the project results for five years and is currently in the last year of monitoring. The results have provided very useful information on the effectiveness of constructed basins and constructed wetlands and also valuable details on how future projects should be designed and operated. Since the project began operation in 2014 approximately 130 pounds of phosphorus and 34 tons of sediment have been removed from the drain water before it enters the Snake River just upstream from the confluence of the Boise and Snake Rivers.

Editor’s Note: The Boise River Enhancement Plan recognizes the effectiveness of constructed wetlands and sediments basins, but cautions they require constant maintenance to dredge and harvest wetland plants.

Data Report part 1    Data Report part 2

Sagebrush is the Smell of Home

By Kali Nelson, US Fish and Wildlife Service

The Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve in Boise, Idaho is a 44-acre urban reserve. It provides habitat for a multitude of species such as red-winged blackbirds, gadwalls, Pied-billed Grebes, snakes, and others. The welcoming paths give visitors a quick and easy way to add nature into their day.

group walking

But the reserve does more than provide wildlife habitat in the city, it also provides a place for people arriving in Boise from all over the globe to connect to their new home. On June 11, more than 40 adult students from the English Language Center took a field trip to the reserve organized by the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve Habitat Enhancement project, the USFWS is a project partner. Some students brought their children, so it was a noisy, multi-generational group that got off the bus. The students eagerly picked up binoculars and headed off down the path with volunteers ready to point out the native plants and animals. 

There were exclamations of excitement over the birds. “See the bird nest?” said Allyson Turner of the Fish and Wildlife Service.  “This is where the baby birds hatch,” she said while cradling an imaginary baby in her arms. Smiles of recognition and excitement followed.  Everyone connects with and loves to hear about babies.

The students got a pleasant surprise when they were asked to rub the sagebrush leaves between their fingers and take a whiff.

“Smells like Boise,” one volunteer said, and this was repeated by the student with a large grin.  “Yes, smells like Boise.” Some of the students picked flowers found around the reserve and put them in their hair and everyone laughed when ducklings made an appearance.  birdwatching

The afternoon ended with lunch and a few photos before the students headed home. Regardless of the students’ ages or circumstances, I think it was unanimous that Boise is a cool place to live, with lots of natural space and opportunity- even in the middle of the city.  

A simple field like this is a great way to connect people to their natural world. It also can lead to a whole new generation of biologists – some of the visitors may decide to become conservation professionals.  

Kali NelsonVolunteering for the field trip gave me first-hand experience with people from other cultures. I grew up in Idaho where there’s little ethnic diversity. I really enjoyed the chance to grow by meeting people who didn’t grow up like I did. Clearly, Idaho is changing, and my participation in this event reinforced the positive aspects of growth and change.  

An important part of the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve Habitat Enhancement project is to connect people, especially those from other cultures, to nature.  The more people who appreciate our natural world the way I do, the more voices of support there will be for habitat enhancement. Whether we grew up in Boise or are newly arrived, everyone that day seemed to appreciate the place we call home.  

Boogie for the Boise River

Love to paddle, run, drink root beer or beer, listen to live music, and support the Boise River all in the same day? Here is your perfect opportunity. BREN will be hosting the 2nd Annual River Boogie Duathlon at Quinn’s Pond and Esther Simplot Park on September 16th, 2018.

Register Now!

The race starts with a fun paddle out and back on Quinn’s Pond followed by a beautiful 2-mile loop run on the Greenbelt. Participants can race as an individual or sign up as a team with one person paddling and one person running. This year we’ve added a course just for kids. The kids’ course is a shortened paddle in Quinn’s Pond followed by a 1-mile loop run around Esther Simplot Park. This is the perfect race for the whole family.


The race will be followed by live music, root beer, beer, food, raffle drawings, and vendors who all love and support the Boise River.

Register Now!

Volunteers Needed for Race Day

Volunteering at the Boogie is a fabulous way to support the Boise River. There’s a job to suit everyone.  Volunteer sign up.  Follow the registration prompts and select the volunteer option.


Thank you to our generous sponsors

Local businesses are supporting the Boogie so that all race proceeds go straight to funding the Cottonwood Creek Daylighting Project.

Rotary Southwest Boise     Idaho River Sports      Idaho Whitewater Association     YogAlyssa    Performance and Rehabilitation Chiropractic    Payette Brewing Co     Shu’s Idaho Running Co    Aerial Mastery,  Athleta,  Boise WaterShed,  Bucksnort Soda Company,  COILED Wines,  Dutch Bros,  Guru Donuts, McU Sports,  Roam Wild,  Telaya Wines,  Whole Foods,  Yelp,  YMCA,  Blue Sky Bagels,  Luciano’s