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Waves, whitewater & walkways highlight big park expansion with something for everyone – see the first tour

The City of Boise is about to open a new “park within a park,” and for the first time, it will provide a large direct link and access to the Boise River.

The newly-expanded JA & Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation Boise Whitewater Park will have its formal grand opening a week from today – Thursday, July 25th at 2 p.m. The fences separating the park will come down this coming Monday.

BoiseDev got the first tour and photos of the newly expanded park. It includes extensive new features in the river itself, as well as significant updates to the river bank along the Esther Simplot Park-side.

Boise Whitewater Park
The view of the Boise Whitewater Park from downriver shows many of the new features, including terraced river-side seating. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

A large area between the new park and the river formerly was filled with heavy brush, and didn’t provide access to the river.

“We have this formalized access where you can enjoy the river,” Doug Holloway, director of Boise Parks & Rec said. “This is one of the few areas in the city where you’ve got some really wide, unlimited access to the river. Creating this face to the Whitewater Park is one of the key features I’m excited about. It doesn’t matter if you are a kayaker or a surfer, there’s something to enjoy.”

A new, large wave feature adds to the current amenity that opened upriver in 2012. The latest shaper replaces a diversion dam in the river that sent water to the Farmers Union canal. The new setup still serves that need, but also adds amenities in the water.

Something new for experts, and beginners

Ryan Richard at Boise Whitewater Park
Richard digs in on the wave during testing. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Paul Primus, the City of Boise’s wave tech, said the new feature differs from the first setup.

“It’s a sheet flow style wave, while upstream is a true hydraulic jump where the water only shapes itself. This one has curved rapid blocks under the wave, that gives it that really steep texture,” Primus said.

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There will be a difference in skill level needed.

“(The original) one is softer and friendlier, but still difficult. This one is going to be experts only, with very very swift water and only one way out.”

Ryan Richard spent Thursday morning riding the new expert wave shaper. He works on the whitewater park in Bend, Oregon. He says Boise’s new feature stacks up.

“It’s way more than Bend. I’ve never seen anything like the speed and power of that,” he said – moments after getting out of the river. He said wave-riders increasingly shuttle between Bend and Boise.

“Bend and Boise are like two connected communities,” Richard said. “If one wave is good and the other is not, they are always shooting across. The Bend community is really awaiting this opening.”

Boise whitewater wave
One of two smaller waves that will allow less-experienced surfers and kayakers to enjoy the whitewater park. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Expert kayakers and surfers won’t be the only ones to find things to do in the river.

Two smaller, more natural waves will give something for beginner and intermediate users to try.

“Those are as friendly as they get,” Primus said. “They look fantastic.”

A quiet river spot and more

A new side-channel to the river is calm and designed for water lovers of all ages and abilities to enjoy the water. A section of pathway leads right down into the water, adding an accessible feature for river access.

Boise river access
A new pathway will allow anyone to get into the river without climbing over rocks or uneven terrain. It leads to a quiet side-channel. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The work in the river will actually benefit the parkside – by keeping water out during spring flooding season.

“We created capacity in the river,” Kelly Burrows with Boise Parks and Rec said. “So before where we had flooding at 6,500 (cfs) it flooded into the park. But now we are able to keep that in the river, because we pulled out all that material – and we can drop those gates flat and keep the river in the channel itself. “

New terraced seating areas allow folks to watch the action in the river. In the future, the Boise Whitewater Park could host events.

“There are no boundaries in this area,” Holloway said. “So from Veteran’s (Memorial Park) with a brand new Greenbelt to Esther (Simplot), to Whitewater Phase 1 to Quinn’s, and soon, we’re going to do some development on the other side of Quinn’s pond on the Bob Rice For side. You’ve just got one huge aquatic complex to serve our citizens. We just developed an area that was seriously in need of development and provides an economic boost to this side of Downtown.”

Greenbelt upgrades

Boise River Greenbelt upgrades
The Boise River Greenbelt saw a set of upgrades as well. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The Boise River Greenbelt saw a total rebuild in the area and into Veterans Memorial Park. Crews fixed damage caused by flooding in 2016, and realigned the path. The Greenbelt moved slightly to the north to cut down on conflict between path users and folks getting in and out of the river.

“It’s a really nice new section of the Greenbelt,” Burrows said. “It was an effort to protect the Greenbelt from future flooding and not have future conflict from the Whitewater Park.”

Project investment

Osprey at Boise Whitewater Park
An osprey overhead watches the testing action at the Boise Whitewater Park Thursday morning. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The new expansion and updates to the Farmer’s Union Canal intake cost a total of $10.7 million. The largest share of that – $4 million – came from a donation from the JA & Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. The rest came from public dollars.

“It came from, all but a million dollars came from the general fund or the capital fund, and we put in a million dollars in impact fees as well,” Holloway said.

When you add up the latest addition with the first phase of the Boise Whitewater Park and the improvements the Simplot family privately funded inside Esther Simplot Park, it’s nearly a $25 million investment in public space in just a matter of a few years.

Boise Whitewater Park
Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

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Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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