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Kayakers and Surfers Play at River Recreation Park

New park makes waves in the Boise River

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High water and a new diversion dam replacement have created a natural wave at the new Boise River Recreation Park.

"It's actually making one of the better play spots around as far as places to go kayaking," said Stan Kolby, co-owner of Idaho River Sports. Current levels have made for a great wave from about 3,000 cfs to 6,500 cfs, Kolby said. Four or five people can play on the wave at a time. Both kayakers and surfers have been down at the park. Although he described the wave as "forgiving," Kolby, who has been kayaking since 1980, said the current conditions require more advanced skills.

"I would not recommend that if you're a beginner paddler and there's a chance that you might go for a swim and you might not be able to roll your kayak," he said. "But if you have a good solid roll and can roll every time, then sure, go have fun out there. But the consequences right now, at this water level, if you do go for a swim, you're gonna end up a quarter mile down the river."

The two wave shapers that are at the heart of the new river park's design won't be turned on until water levels go down. Once they are, the manmade waves will be accessible for all boating levels, said Tom Governale, superintendent of parks for the City of Boise. The wave shapers were designed to function at water levels between 250 cfs to 3,500 cfs.

"The idea behind the River Park is to create a wave that's user-friendly for a variety of experience levels," Governale said. "We are not trying to create a wave for the experienced boaters. We are creating a wave the beginner can learn on and the experienced boater can have fun on."

The two wave shapers can be adjusted to create heavier, more advanced waves but that will only happen on special occasions.

"We have the capability of doing that and there may be times when that occurs, when there's a special event or program," he said. "However, that's going to be the exception to the rule. The norm's going to be having a wave out there that multiple levels of boaters can use."

Officials and boaters tested the shapers in late February and early March at various levels and conditions.

"We are trying to collect a lot of data so we'll be doing more testing," Governale said. "It's not as simple as pressing a button; the river is dynamic."

Kolby said boaters who were participated in the late-winter tests were "pretty happy" with the results.

"Because [the wave shapers are] so complex, you only have to move one of the flaps four inches for it to change the whole shape of the waves on both sides of the river," said Kolby.

"When the river was running at the 250-flow level, they were still able to create a play wave that the boaters had fun on," he said. "The [wave shapers have] such a wide range of adjustments, I believe it's gonna take us at least two years to figure out everything that can be done with [them]."

The river park site--west of downtown Boise between Main Street and Veteran's Memorial Park--is part of a larger planned River Park Complex. The rest of the complex, the Esther Simplot Park and Bernardine Quinns Park, is expected to take another two years. Pending final design, engineering and permits, construction of the Esther Simplot Park could begin in the next year. That work includes parking, roadways, restrooms/change rooms and additional path access for the River Park.

--Lisa Huynh Eller

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