When I was a kid, my dad and I had the same routine every weekend: make a pile of plastic paddles, bags of chips, bottles of vanilla Coke and a bright yellow Challenger raft--limp and deflated--at Ann Morrison Park.
We'd awkwardly move our pile from the grass to a sweaty leather seat on the shuttle bus, shoving crinkled dollar bills at the driver. The bus would take us to the Barber Park tuber put-in, where we'd inflate our craft and float down the Boise River. Then repeat.
On a recent afternoon, I tried the Boise River again, this time trading the leaky raft for an inflatable 10-foot stand-up paddleboard. I tagged along with the crew from Corridor Surf Shop, and we didn't put in all the way up at Barber Park; rather, we entered the river at a quiet little eddy off of Warm Springs Avenue just upstream of the golf course.
Well, we thought it was quiet.
Out of nowhere charged a black swan with wings spread, feathers ruffled and flashing a bright red, menacing-looking beak. I turned into a frantic and wobbly mess trying to outrun the beast, and only at a swing of a paddle did it retreat.
Once the wildlife had been avoided, we came out into the river's current, flowing at almost
15,000 1,500 cubic feet per second--twice it's usual height--and a shocking 46 degrees. Right in front of us: our first rapid. The weir rapid makes an easy tongue and is popular with kayakers, but it's also very shallow.
Those in our group who tried to stand up through it had little success and fell in. Another got her board wedged inside the rapid and could do nothing but stand there as bottom-fed reservoir water (read: cold water) poured over her lower half. I opted for a lifejacket, and hit the rapid while kneeling on my board. Made it!
While a little shaky at first, it didn't take long to get comfortable. I've had hardly any experience on a SUP, but it's not hard to pick up. Whenever the water got wavy, I'd drop to my knees and wait it out. That method kept me dry the whole float.
We skipped the Ann Morrison take-out, made an easy portage around the dam by Americana Boulevard, and floated all the way down to the whitewater park. Standing in the middle of the river, eye-level with the banks and trees, is a truly awesome way to experience the city--and a huge reminder of why we live here.
As my fellow SUP-er said, "Very few people get to see places this way. Everyone should, though."
Corridor Surf Shop is a meeting place every Tuesday and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. for anyone wanting to SUP the Boise River. Board rentals run $25 and Corridor will help arrange a shuttle, but they don't guide down the river.