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 

From Weeds to Wetland


By Erin Brooks and Liz Paul

Many hands made quick work of planting over 300 trees and shrubs at Jason Cagle’s constructed wetland in Greenleaf on April 20.  The work involved digging into hard-packed dirt, fording the high-flowing Pipe Gulch Creek, working on steep hillsides and remembering how and where to plant the many species of plants. The Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN) and NRCS recruited more than 20 volunteers to help, most of them from Xylem, Inc, BREN’s 2018 Corporate Stewardship partner.  Xylem employees will be participating in three river projects with BREN in 2018.

The Cagle project started in 2017 when Jason approached the NRCS with his idea to transform a weed-infested lot into a habitat-rich wetland.  The site has excellent water availability, and a design was created by NRCS engineer Doug Higbee that included removing the large Russian olive trees from along the ditch and revegetating with native plants, excavating a small wetland and planting willows and shrubs around it, as well as establishing native plants along a second tailwater ditch that runs through the property and on the steep hillside.  The project totals 2.3 acres.


The wetland designed by NRCS.


Jason and Erin










Development in the lower Boise River watershed has resulted in a significant loss of wetlands, and cooperative projects like this can provide important habitat for native birds and animals.  Wetlands also help to reduce nutrient in the water that passes through them. Water quality is a major concern in the Boise River watershed. The NRCS can assist landowners with similar projects through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program which helps to offset the costs for projects that have natural resource benefits.

Due to a long history of land alteration, wetland and riparian areas along the Boise River have been reduced in extent and function. The Boise River Enhancement Plan recommends creation of constructed wetlands to replace some of the lost habitat and enhance water quality.

carryingplants   planting  shovelinhand

Boise River Boating Report

Flows have fluctuated on the lower Boise River this spring, but as the river begins its final downward dance, many people are thinking about getting on the river in their canoes, kayaks and rafts.  Rivers are dynamic natural systems that are always changing.  The lower Boise River is no exception, and the recent weeks of flows above 6,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and heavy rains and winds, have undoubtedly brought down trees.  You should always expect the unexpected and exercise good judgement when you boat the lower Boise River. And with that caveat, we’re happy to share this report from BREN member Scott Ross who scored an early season trip. You can also learn a lot from the Boise River Guide and Google Earth Tour. Safe boating!


The Little Dry Creek diversion in 2012

Scott’s Boating Report

Ran the North Channel on Apr 26 @ 2100 CFS and again on May 2 @1250 CFS. Put in at Willow Lane and took out at Linder Road. The Little Dry Creek diversion dam below Glenwood bridge was unrunnable (as usual) and the portage trail on the left just above the dam is choked with debris, making the portage more difficult than in the past. The gravel push-up done last year to divert more flow into the North Channel has washed out, but still the flow into the North Channel is significant and generally provided enough depth on these trips to avoid bottom-dragging.

At this time the channel is generally clear — with two exceptions: 1) A downed tree blocks most but not all of the channel upstream from the pedestrian bridge near Reid Merrill Park. Easy portage or paddle around the tree on river left. 2) The North Channel splits near the Eagle Sewer District wastewater plant and taking the right channel appears to be the best option because it has more flow. However, that channel is completely blocked by a downed tree, forming a dangerous sweeper several hundred yards downstream and requiring a difficult portage. Avoid this channel and instead take the left channel, which has low flow, brushy banks, and tight turns near the split but quickly opens up to a nice, clear channel.

On both trips the flow was high enough to paddle right over the Middleton Irrigation District diversion dam just below the Eagle Island Parkway bridge — no portage necessary!

river float


IBO’s Boise River Research Station

By Gregory Kaltenecker, IBO Executive Director

Most people know about the Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Lucky Peak Station high in the Boise foothills. Volunteers help band hundreds of migratory birds there each year. But IBO has a new research station on the Boise River on the pool created by the Barber Dam. This area of the river has been heavily impacted by the dam which was built more than 100 years ago. IBO has plans to restore some of the river’s natural function and improve aquatic and riparian habitat.

IBO has worked for the past five years to secure more than 20 acres of property along the Boise River  in southeast Boise.  First, in 2012, Boise State worked closely with Idaho Transportation Department to secure management of a parcel of river bottom at the Highway 21 bridge.  A few years later, the university purchased an adjoining parcel of riverfront.

For the past few years the Boise River Research Station has been used to develop an outreach and education program headed by Education Director, Heidi Ware.  The long range plan is to make major improvements to the property to enhance its natural features and to develop infrastructure that will aid in outreach activities. Come on the June 6 field trip with the Boise River Enhancement Network to see the area for yourself.

The plan includes restoring a natural side channel and reconnecting it to the river to improve fish and wildlife habitat. Side channel habitat is sorely lacking along the Boise River as a result of urban and rural development.  Side channels provide refuge for fish when river flows are high, and the cover provided by trees and shrubs cools the water and protects the fish from predators. Students learn more when they can explore the riparian area safely, so an interpretive trail system is being planned. To minimize impact on the wetlands and protect critical habitat, raised boardwalks will be installed in some locations.  Wildlife viewing blinds will be built to avoid disturbing wildlife, especially nesting birds. The important upland habitat will also be restored by removing invasive plants and fostering growth of native vegetation like willows and woods rose.  Pollinator gardens filled with flowering plants that bees and other insects rely on with also be built.

Intermountain Bird Observatory Master Plan


Volunteers Dig In and Dig Out at Hyatt Reserve

More than 90 volunteers made quick work of planting 550 shrubs at the City of Boise’s Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve on April 14 as part of the Boise River Enhancement Network’s cooperative project to improve wildlife habitat and decrease fire risk.  Re-establishing native plants and controlling weeds is recommended in the Boise River Enhancement Plan. The volunteers included members of Rotary Clubs from across the Treasure Valley and 32 youth from Boy Scout Troop 100 and the Idaho Fine Arts Academy Interact Club.


Martha Brabec, Boise Parks and Recreation Restoration Specialist said, “This site used to be a gravel pit, and most of the native vegetation was removed. We’re rebuilding the natural habitat and creating important diversity for the birds that live here and stop over during migration. Thousands of new plants will be in the ground by the time the project is complete.”


The project aligned perfectly with Rotary International’s 1.2 Million Tree Planting Challenge; a national campaign to plant one tree for each member of Rotary. It also was a great fit for Jayanth Mouli, a sophomore at Boise High School who selected this conservation project for his Eagle Scout service project.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of native plants destined for planting at the reserve were transplanted to “conetainers” for the summer. Members of the Silver Sage Girl Scout Council, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho and others had gathered and planted the seeds in the fall. The seedlings needed bigger quarters, and the volunteers carefully separated the sprouts and replanted them in cone-shaped containers that provide plenty of space. Sean Finn of the Golden Eagle Audubon Society said, “Growing plants is an exciting way for kids to be part of the Hyatt project. It’s a win-win because plants grown from local seeds have a better chance to survive.” 


The new plants are already changing the look of the hillsides at the reserve, but it’s critical to keep down the weeds that can out-compete the native plants. On April 25, 25 volunteer Weed Warriors took to the reserve with trowels and shovels eagerly digging out thistle, teasel and other weeds. Martha Brabec identified the weeds and demonstrated the best method to use. Many of the volunteers visit the reserve regularly, and they promised to continue the weeding on their own now that they have guidance.


Nestled in a residential and commercial area in West Boise, the ponds, wetlands and hillsides of the reserve blend together to create a unique pocket of wildlife habitat in the center of urban Treasure Valley. The reserve enjoys year-round use by people attracted by the rich bird life, the wide paths and the outstanding scenery. The 18-month multicultural habitat enhancement project is led by the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Boise River Enhancement Network and City of Boise Department of Parks and Recreation.

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, College of Western Idaho, The Wetlands Group, Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign, Rotary International and Partners for Clean Water.

Cooperative Project Will Remove Tons of Sediment

Work Begins on Water Quality Protection Project

The Farmers’ Co-operative Ditch Company of Parma is breaking new ground in northwest Canyon County as work gets underway on an 8.8-acre sediment basin designed to remove 2,000 tons of sediment from the water in the canal. When completed, canal water will be diverted into the sediment basin and travel a sinuous 2,000 ft before returning to the canal for delivery to producers. Many Farmers’ Co-op shareholders currently receive water with large amounts of sediment that damages pumps, clogs irrigation systems and accumulates in concrete ditches.

Farmers’ Co-operative Ditch Company Directors

After irrigating crops, the water drains to either the Boise River or the Snake River depending on the location of the farm.  Water quality in both rivers is impaired by excess sediment and nutrients. Federal plans are in place to bring the rivers into compliance with water quality standards that protect the aquatic ecosystem and recreational river users. Agricultural compliance with the plans is voluntary, and public/private cost-sharing projects like this one are critical to implement needed improvements.








Farmer’s Co-operative Ditch near Parma                                Site of the sediment basin

The project is the first sediment basin developed and managed by an irrigation delivery entity in the Lower Boise River watershed. The Farmer’s Co-op is leasing the land for the sediment basin and providing staff and shareholder support. $500,000 from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service Regional Conservation Partnership Program will help build the sediment basin and also provide matching funds for Farmers’ Co-op shareholders that install on-farm conservation practices to reduce water usage and improve soil health. Project Fact Sheet.

This ambitious project aligns perfectly with recommendations in the Boise River Enhancement Network’s  Boise River Enhancement Plan.  On-site enhancement, like the on-farm best management practices that will be implemented through the project, is recognized as the best way to improve water quality. Conversion to sprinkler or drip irrigation and precise application of fertilizer are two BMPs that improve water quality. Construction of sediment basins is also recommended as an effective way to reduce sediment and nutrients entering the river.

Project partners include the USDA-NRCS, Lower Boise Watershed Council, and Canyon Soil Conservation District.

Photos by Bob Braun and Lori Kent

     Dan Steenson     large group    Tom Johnston

Directors of the Farmers’ Co-operative Ditch Company, Canyon Soil Conservation District, and Lower Boise Watershed Council celebrate the groundbreaking on April 6, 2018 along with staff of NRCS.

More Than Waterfowl at Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve

By Heidi Ware, Education and Outreach Director for the Intermountain Bird Observatory

Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve teems with birds. Birders come to Hyatt in droves for the excellent views of charismatic species like Ruddy Ducks, with their bright blue bills. Or the families of Pied-billed Grebes with their odd, croaking calls and cute zebra-striped babies. Birders and passers-by marvel at the Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and Ospreys fishing–each in their own way. We think of the raucous calls of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, the classic Red-winged Blackbird “conk-a-ree”, and the raspy, energetic chatter of Marsh Wrens.

When the reserve was formed, a restoration effort created excellent wetland habitat that attracts a great variety of species.


Photo Kathy Hopkins



A male Northern Shoveler swims on the pond at Hyatt wetland. Northern Shovelers are common visitors to Hyatt during the Fall, Winter, and Spring.


Photo Kathy Hopkins


A Yellow-headed Blackbird sits in the sun atop cattails at Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve.

Photo Kathy Hopkins







Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve is Home to More than Waterfowl!

If you look at the species list, Hyatt may host a huge variety of waterbirds, but in reality, more than half the species that call Hyatt home also rely on its upland habitat for survival! American Kestrels hunt for mice and grasshoppers in the shrubs and fields. California Quail, Black-billed Magpies, and numerous Sparrow species rely on Sagebrush and other shrubs for food, shelter, and warmth.

An American Kestrel snacks on a Grasshopper at Hyatt Hidden Lakes.  A Black-billed Magpie at Hyatt Hidden Lakes. Photos by Ken Miracle


The cover that Hyatt’s upland habitat provides means birds have a home year-round, even during the cold of winter, when shelter is especially important. And while birds already love and use Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve, the upland habitat is not what it could be.

a male and female California Quail snuggle together in the sunshine on a snowy day

Two California Qual snuggle in the warm shelter of Hyatt’s upland habitat. Photo by Idaho Birding admin Tom Carroll

A number of invasive grasses and shrubs have taken over large patches of Hyatt, making it less attractive to birds than the native plants that should be there. If you can believe it, Hyatt could someday be even more valuable habitat for birds with just a little TLC.

Upland habitat restoration is underway!

I hope you’ll join me, and the rest of the birdwatching and nature loving community, in supporting the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Habitat Enhancement Project. There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of room for enthusiastic volunteers to pitch in. As a fan of Hyatt, I cannot wait to watch the bird list grow even larger as the habitat continues to improve.

To hear what we’re doing to make Hyatt even better, don’t forget to attend our BREN Brown Bag Lunch Program on April 11 at the Boise Library at 11:30 am.

To learn more about the birds that call Hyatt home, be sure to join the Idaho Birding Facebook community. Our local Golden Eagle Audubon Society often visits Hyatt during their group field trips.

You can also view a species list and illustrated checklist of Hyatt’s bird diversity on eBird. Or, even add your own observations of Hyatt’s bird life by submitting your own eBird checklist.


ACHD Invests to Protect the River

Unbeknownst to most harried commuters, Ada County Highway District (ACHD) is reducing pollution of the Boise River as part of many road improvement projects. ACHD is leading the valley in investment in roadway Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI), and new projects on State St. and Franklin Road demonstrate two different techniques. While ACHD has not permitted new discharges of stormwater to the Boise River for decades, stormwater from hundreds of miles of older roads travels through pipes to the Boise River carrying sediment, bacteria, nutrients, oil, grease, and heavy metals. Gross!

The Blooming of 15th and State St.

Bioretention planters were placed along the northwest, southeast, and southwest areas of the intersection of 15th and State St. in downtown Boise.  The planters will be backfilled with bioretention soil media (BSM), a nutrient-rich, permeable, engineered soil matrix comprised of sand, aged compost, and trace silt.  Plants selected for their ability to flourish in this unusual environment, including Joe Pye weed, Purple Maiden Grass, Culver’s root, ‘Black Adder’ Anise Hyssop, and Orange Coneflower, will be planted.

In a large storm event, approximately 6,100 gallons of stormwater will enter the planters instead of discharging to the Boise River untreated.  Additionally, the planters will beautify the intersection and offer habitat for invertebrates including important pollinators like native bees and butterflies. Bioretention planters can also be found on Royal Blvd.

  Orange Coneflower       Idaho fescue

Bioretention Swales Spruce Up Franklin Rd.

A different technique well suited for long stretches of rural roads is now in place on approximately .75 mile of Franklin Road between Black Cat Rd. and Ten Mile Rd. Bioretention swales were installed along both sides of Franklin Road and all four legs of the Franklin/Black Cat intersection.  The bioretention swales are filled with BSM and were seeded in December 2017 with a native seed mix that includes drought tolerant grasses and wildflowers including western yarrow, California poppy, Blanketflower, Lewis flax, Scarlet globemallow, Sideoats grama, Thickspike wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, Sheep fescue, and Sandberg bluegrass. 

Bioretention swale on the north side of Franklin Rd. under construction.

The swales are sized to retain approximately 253,437 gallons of runoff in a large storm event.  Prior to installation of the swales, no stormwater system was in place along these sections of Franklin Rd. and Black Cat Rd., and runoff flowed overland into Purdam Gulch Drain or Kennedy Lateral then to Tenmile Creek and on to the Boise River.  Like the planters on State St., the Franklin Rd. project swales will help to retain and remove pollutants from runoff before it enters our surface water.

ACHD is an independent government entity that controls 2,100 miles of roads in Ada County. ACHD Commissioners are elected by region .


Yellow Warblers Flock to the Boise River

Used by permission of the Intermountain Bird Observatory

For the past few months, Sage International School senior, Zoe Daly has been working on a project using Yellow Warbler data from the Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Boise River Research Station.

A Yellow Warbler is weighed at our Boise River Site, just before being released. Photo by Tom Carroll

A Yellow Warbler is weighed at our Boise River Site, just before being released. Photo by Tom Carroll

In the Fall of 2017 IBO ran nets daily during fall migration for the first time ever! This gave us an excellent, fine-scale picture of migration at the river station. We were also able to complete a full MAPS breeding season banding protocol this summer, sampling songbirds at the site once every 10 days. Simultaneously, we collected the same data at our long-standing Lucky Peak station.

This gave us the ability to compare between our Boise River and Lucky Peak stations like never before.

When we first started banding at the Boise River site, we knew that it was special for Yellow Warblers (we once caught more than 200 of them in a single day!) but we had never looked at the hard data or quantified exactly what was going on. So, when Zoe came along and told us she loved looking at data and graphs, we knew exactly what she should do.

The Cottonwood overstory and thick willow, currant, and rose shrub layer at our Boise River Site is ideal habitat for Yellow Warblers.

The cottonwood overstory and thick willow, currant, and rose shrub layer at our Boise River Site is ideal habitat for Yellow Warblers. Photo by Tom Carroll

Zoe took our banding data from Lucky Peak and the Boise River and compared Yellow Warblers at both sites. In particular, she looked at the fat levels of Yellow Warblers.

She found that Yellow Warblers were significantly fatter at our Boise River Station than at Lucky Peak.

This means that the habitat at the Boise River provides food that Yellow Warblers need during migration and stopover. They are able to spend time at the site, eat, and “fuel up” with fat for the next leg of their migration journey.

Zoe also found that Yellow Warblers at Lucky Peak tend to leave the area soon after their young fledge…they don’t stay at the site during late summer when migrants begin fattening up. Instead, they seem to travel to the river to finish molting and fattening up for migration.

This goes to show that the riparian habitat at the Boise River is a key resource for neotropical migrants like Yellow Warblers.

Congratulations to Zoe for completing this poster and finding such interesting results! Thanks also to Guy Falconer of Sage International School who connected Zoe with IBO to begin this internship.

Check out Zoe’s full poster to learn more:Poster showing graphs of Yellow Warbler fat levels. Yellow Warblers were fatter at the Boise River than at Lucky Peak

(full size poster PDF available here)

Why Do Beavers Eat Willows?

Have you ever heard of a beaver with a headache? Probably not. Beavers eat willow plants that contain the active ingredient in aspirin. And they don’t have to worry about child-proof caps.

You can learn about the medicinal and traditional uses of many plants that grow at the City of Boise’s Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve at the Hyatt Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project Open House on March 7 from 5:30-7:30 at the Boise Watershed, 11818 W Joplin, Boise 83714.

Roger Rosentreter Photo courtesy of Riverside Hotel

Plant ecologist, teacher and author Roger Rosentreter Ph. D will share his ethnobotanical knowledge of Idaho’s native plants. Martha Brabec, City of Boise Open Space Restoration Specialist will talk about invasive plants at the reserve and the ongoing control strategies.  BREN volunteer Conner Jackson will explain why Russian olive trees are being removed. Eric Willadsen of the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley will provide an update on the Hyatt Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project including upcoming opportunities to be part of this cooperative effort. The presentations start at 6:00 pm.

Before and after the presentations, you can visit with representatives from the Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, Idaho Firewise, Community Native Plant Nursery, Boise River Enhancement Network and more. The educational exhibits at the Boise WaterShed will be open for the kids to enjoy during the open house.

Community Members Grow Native Plants for the Reserve

With spring right around the corner, Hyatt Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project partners are preparing to transplant native plant seedlings from germination trays into cones for the summer growing season. Over the past three months, volunteers planted more than 50 germination trays with seeds gathered from the reserve and other Treasure Valley locations. Members of Girl Scout Troop 105 pictured below are growing two trays from seeds they planted in January. Those plants will find a new home in the reserve next fall.


Weeds Warriors Comes to Hyatt Reserve

The battle to control weeds at the reserve begins anew in the spring, and this year Weed Warriors will be trained to tackle the task. Weed Warriors are specially-trained volunteers who adopt specific areas to pull weeds on a regular basis.  According to Martha Brabec, Weed Warriors made a difference in the foothills in 2017, and she’s excited to provide a training specifically for the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve on April 25. Field trips to the reserve for new residents from many nations and others will also be on the project schedule for the spring when migrating birds are at the reserve.

Improving Habitat and Enriching Lives Together

Seedling planted by volunteers at Hyatt Reserve. Photo by Art Robertson.

The Hyatt Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project is 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, and Partners for Clean Water. The goals of the project are to establish bird-friendly, fire-resistant vegetation on hillsides at the reserve and help community members of all backgrounds connect to this unique outdoor space.