Floating the lazy, (mostly) flat river stretches in Southwest Idaho offers a chill alternative to whitewater rafting. Spend half a day with friends or family blissfully adrift without a care in the world.
You won’t find a more relaxing way to take in the beauty of Southwest Idaho than a river float. Bring or rent an inner tube or raft. Drape your limbs in the cool river water while passing under trees and the hot sun.
This is the ultimate recharge.
Here are the basics you’ll need to consider before putting in on the river:
- Your float “vehicle” — inner tube or raft
Some sites offer rentals and air machines for inflating tubes and rafts. Some don’t. Know your destination and plan accordingly.
Rivers only flow one direction. Once you finish your float, you’ll need a plan to get back home. One option: have a non-floating friend drop off your party at the put-in and pick you up at the take-out. Or, use the buddy system to drop off one vehicle at the take-out before the float so that he or she can run the party back to the second vehicle at the put-in afterward.The Boise River float has paid shuttles available most days. For some others, private shuttles can be arranged.
- Safety first!
Children smaller than 50 pounds shouldn’t float Idaho rivers. State law requires kids age 14 and younger to wear flotation devices. Adults should seriously consider doing so, too. At a minimum, always have immediate access to a floating device.Rivers are unpredictable! Even the calm spots can have hidden dangers. While thousands of people float Southwest Idaho rivers safely each year — and have a blast doing it — only you can know what’s safe for you.
- Sun protection
Temperatures of 100+ degrees regularly beat down in the heat of the summer. Layer on a shirt or hat for extra protection. Apply plenty of sunscreen, and wear sunglasses to cut the glare off of the water.
Floating the Boise River
Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park in Boise
The water and atmosphere is friendly on the Boise River. Photo courtesy of Boise CVB.
If you’re looking for a chill float without having to sweat the logistics, look no further than the Boise River.
About 125,000 floaters ride tubes, kayaks or rafts down the six-mile stretch each year. Put-in at Barber Park, located about 6 miles from downtown on Eckert Road between Warm Springs and Boise Avenues. The float meanders through Boise before the take-out at Ann Morrison Park, located just south of Downtown and accessible from Capitol and Americana boulevards.
The river includes spots to pull out and enjoy a picnic lunch, as well as a few remnants of diversion dams that provide a small “whitewater” thrill. This is a quintessential Boise summertime experience — and not to be missed.
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No tube? No problem. Floaters 18+ can buy or rent tubes and use air machines at Barber Park. The six-mile float takes between two and three hours. A shuttle runs from Ann Morrison back to Barber Park every hour until 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday-Sunday. There’s a dam just downriver from Ann Morrison Park, so consider the park, which is easy to spot and has plenty of vehicle access, as your final destination.
Middle Fork of the Payette River
Crouch to Garden Valley
Photo courtesy of Idaho Tourism.
If you want to get farther off the beaten path, head to Boise County on HWY 55 and head to Crouch, located about an hour’s drive north from Boise. The river slows and warms to tubing levels around mid-June. Put in at Crouch Community Church.
The float leads out of the small town and into the beautiful, mountainous views that make the region famous. Seeing wildlife, including hawks and deer, is common. The 2.5-hour float ends at the take-out at Weilmunster Park in Garden Valley, located five miles south of Crouch on S. Middlefork Road.
There’s no shuttle for this float, so arrange your own drop-off and pick-up or leave vehicles at the put-in and take-out.
Directions to Crouch Community Church: From HWY 55, turn east on the Banks-Lowman Road and drive 8.3 miles before reaching Crouch. Turn left onto S. Middlefork Road. After 2.9 miles, turn right onto One Way Lane. The church will be in sight.
Black Canyon to Emmett
Photo courtesy of Boise CVB.
Each chunk of the Middle Fork of the Payette offers a different feel. While it’s most famous for its whitewater, the four-mile float from Black Canyon into Emmett offers a serene trip down the river.
Find the put-in by following HWY 52 north of Emmett, turning east onto N. Plaza Road and taking a hard right into the parking lot after crossing Plaza Bridge.
The scenic, four-mile float takes about two hours. Take out at the bridge at N. Washington Ave. in Emmett, about four miles south of the put-in. There’s no shuttle for this float, either, so plan your transportation in advance.
The bottom line:
Southwest Idaho Rivers may be world-famous among thrill seekers, but wild whitewater is not the only way to enjoy the scenic beauty of these natural wonders.
Not in a do-it-yourself floating mode? Engage any number of Southwest Idaho outfitters to guide you down a calm, no or low whitewater stretch. The options are nearly endless!