City Government

Ada Parks: “Boise River Never Safe”

Ada County Parks Director Scott Koberg said in an internal e-mail to the County Commissioners Wednesday, “The Boise River is never ‘safe’,” after the commishes questioned news from the Boise Fire Department claiming 14 rescues–including four “life-saving events” in about five hours.

Koberg noted the river float is always a, “float-at-your-own-risk” endeavor.

Common sense prompted the GUARDIAN to question the wisdom of floating the river if it results in such a demand on Boise Fire rescue services. The Ada County commishes had already asked the question of Koberg, prompting the memo he sent them. Koberg noted the Monday opener of the float season was the busiest ever. He also said the opening was conducted after the Boise FD had cleared obstructions and the flow of 1,300 – 1,500 cfs is within the historically appropriate range for floater recreation.

The news from BFD along with Koberg’s comments beg a few questions:
–Should Boise and Ada Parks provide lifeguards like they do at pools?
–Is the BFD claim of 4 life saving events in 5 hours accurate?
–Will the BFD have a crew on the river every day? Is it necessary?
–How much are specialty skill firefighters paid hourly?
–With so many rescues in such a short period should the float be banned?

Here is the Boise Fire Department’s statement to your questions:

The beautiful Boise River bifurcating our city is the jurisdiction of the Idaho Department of Water Resources and therefore the City of Boise does not have any legal authority to regulate float traffic on the river. The Boise Fire Department (BFD) and Boise Parks and Recreation assist with mitigating hazards created by the ever-changing landscape along the river. While the river looks calm and serene, one of the things that makes the river so dangerous is the vegetation density that can entangle rafts and floaters. The Boise Fire Department makes every effort to mitigate these evolving hazards to make it as safe as possible for people to recreate. However, it should be noted that it is never completely safe when floating a wild river. This is why we try to encourage floaters to all wear well-fitting and United States Coast Guard approved life jackets for all floaters, regardless of age.

There can be any number or reasons leading to someone needing rescue. Historically, we have seen a lack of skill, equipment, weather and intoxication all leading to river rescues. During high usage times, like opening day, the Boise Fire Dive Team attempts to have crews on the river. However, this is not something we have the resources to provide daily. The Boise Fire Department Dive Rescue team was organized in 1974 due to the prevalence of water rescues in area canals, ponds, and the Boise River.

Details surrounding the four recent life-threatening/life-saving rescues:

-A raft that had flipped upside down with two kids in it. The young girl was not wearing a life jacket and the young boy was wearing a life jacket that was too big. The dive team pulled the two kids from the water before they went under.
Reminder: kids under 14 are required to wear a life jacket and it’s important they fit properly

-A female floated into low-hanging trees, got trapped, and was clinging to a tree. Bystanders were trying to help but couldn’t get to her. Boise Fire was able to access and rescue her. Reminder: Floaters should pay attention where the current is taking them and paddle to avoid low-hanging tree branches and vegetation.

-Female who was trapped and panicking. She was not able to get to shore. A friend flagged down members from the Boise Fire Dive Team and they were able to rescue her.
Reminder: Boise Fire recommends floaters a life jacket and well-fitting water shoes due to the rocky bottom.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Are you just baiting ?old cranky guys like me? Trolling?

  2. western guy
    Jun 29, 2022, 3:59 pm

    Firefighters need something to do… there aren’t that many structure fires and the union needs to show how critical their members are.

    However, idiots will always do stupid things, especially when water is around.

  3. The Guardian doesn’t offer such critique about police presence.

    Does BPD even enforce the no alcohol on the river law, anymore?

    The cost of BPD to escort BSU coaches.
    Excessive BPD at peaceful rallies.
    BPD used for traffic control at concerts.
    A police motorcycle burning fuel for the Twilight bike ride.
    Overtime hours.

    Ada Cmsh Davidison is okay with fireworks in the foothills. Do you really think he & Beck care about idiots drowning themselves in the river? Laissez Faire.

    That raft has sailed!

  4. Only if done well
    Jun 29, 2022, 8:28 pm

    If they say they’re patrolling and someone dies because they were late they are incompetent. So, they start it up, and the best they offer is standby at a couple of entries. Then it is 911 only.

    Some educational resources at the put in would be good. Like, “If you pass this sign, or the imaginary line of this sign up and down the river bank so that you can float the river, you are taking this risk voluntarily, and the river, the river bed, the river bank, nor the city where the river is will pay you if you make a mistake or are stupid on your float. You are on camera.”

  5. Nothing will stop the Boise River float, so we may as well deal with it. I say let’s use it as a Darwin Award event to clean up the gene pool, and tell the firemen to let it rip with little intervention. Their only job should be unclogging floating corpses from diversion dams, etc. and those can easily be dispatched with flame throwers and explosives.

  6. We often subsidize parts of society because it is either necessary or the right thing to do. Roads are one of the very needed, but they are also one of the biggest subsidized things we do locally. Floating the Boise River is part of a Boise summer and it is not going away, so keeping people safe is the right thing to do.

  7. US Law says NO
    Jun 30, 2022, 8:14 pm

    Having kayaked and rafted the Boise for decades, I had to be able to quote USA law when safety freaks said I couldn’t float the river at high levels.

    Federal Law prevents anyone from impeding navigable waterways in the United States.

    That’s why the authorities can’t do anything when you want to go have fun in conditions that might be deadly for unskilled people.

    So, the answer is a definitive NO.

    EDITOR NOTE–Does anyone have to rescue those who take on the personal risk?

    Nobody can ban anyone from floating the Boise River, based on their personal fears, or risk / benefit analysis, no matter the flow level.

  8. US Law says NO
    Jun 30, 2022, 9:54 pm

    I’ve never heard of any requirement by anyone to rescue any recreational climber, mountaineer, kayaker, rafter, runner, skateboarder, etc.

    Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue is a group mostly composed of outdoor enthusiasts who wanted a solution for people getting lost or trapped in difficult situations, but it’s just a courtesy.

    Governments are supposed to protect citizens, but mostly seem much more interested in stealing from us.

    If some would propose a ban on dangerous activities, let’s solve the biggest problem first by outlawing fast / junk food and sugar drinks. Next, we could ban cars. Those 2 things cause most of the monetary damage.

  9. We must keep the Boise Fire Department ready for any emergency on the river…. A few of us remember when the firefighters had to be rescued after a training accident on the river.

  10. Oh and Mr. Guardian.. Have you seen the Boise Fire Departments new Electric Motor bikes…. impressive with all of the gear they pack on it. Good to be green when you rescue someone in distress.

  11. US Law says NO
    Jul 1, 2022, 10:42 am

    Here’s the best source I could find on the topic of the Supreme Court law on freedom of navigation on USA waterways…

    “… 8. State and local restrictions on use of navigable rivers have to be legitimately related to enhancing public trust value, not reducing it. Rivers cannot be closed or partially closed to appease adjacent landowners, or to appease people who want to dedicate the river to fishing only, or to make life easier for local law enforcement agencies.

    9. State governments (through state courts and legislatures) cannot reduce public rights to navigate and visit navigable rivers within their borders, but they can expand those rights, and some states have done so…”

  12. For the:
    EDITOR NOTE–Does anyone have to rescue those who take on the personal risk?

    Editor, does an ambulance have to show up for heart-attack person who ate 1,001 BigMacs?
    When the dumas puts hot coals in the garbage can and burns down his house, does Boise Fire have to save that house for the person who took the risk the coals were not too hot?

    Terrible question! Bad attitude.
    Now get off my lawn!

  13. Official Declaration: “The beautiful Boise River bifurcating our city is the jurisdiction of the Idaho Department of Water Resources and therefore the City of Boise does not have any legal authority to regulate float traffic on the river.”

    So either the State requires life jackets on the kiddos, or it’s more of a “suggestion” than a “requirement.”

    Has the City ALWAYS provided rescue services? I’ve been floating the Boise River for at least 60 years; to the best of my knowledge, BFD river rescues are a fairly recent development.

    It would be interesting to know how much public money is spent rescuing individuals who aren’t prepared for “use-at-your-own-risk”:
    – hiking the back country
    – floating the river
    – skiiing outside the bounds of the resort
    – mountain climbing, caving, hiking in slot canyons, etc.
    Perhaps the bureaucracy is interfering with the Law of Natural Selection… ?

  14. @US Internet Lawyer…. while you have full legal right to be on the river there is the requisite put-in and take out. For the Boise River, above high water mark, those are either on private property or city/county property. Now what?

  15. US Law says NO
    Jul 1, 2022, 6:26 pm

    PD – River runners are encouraged to be very respectful of land that is being crossed to access a river. Contacting the land owner and asking is often done.

    If there is a few feet of travel on a property to the high water mark, as is the case at the put in on the Boise, with a well traveled trail, most just use that route.

    If you are crossing private property and a land owner is unfriendly to the idea, and the river is closer than the public road, there’s nothing preventing you from leaving via the river.

    If city/ county property, well, that is mine and yours. It was set aside for public use, and we paid/pay for it, so having some self-important jerk telling you that you can’t be on your land to run a river that the US Supreme Court says you can run is just ridiculous and unenforceable.

  16. The Guardian doesn’t offer such critique about police presence.

    Yesterday, for Independence Day, BPD posted an official BPD SUV and officer on Eckert Rd to monitor the parking on Eckert Rd- a favorite since Ada County does not have adequate parking at Barber. It was there when I arrived and when I left. So it was not there for an incident.

    Let’s apply Guardian method to Boise Police on the river.
    –Should BPD provide parking security to the Harris Ranch neighborhood, like they do NOWHERE ELSE?
    –Is the Harris Ranch complaint legit since they ALL knew about the river parking when it was developed?
    –Will the BPD have a crew on the river every day? Is it necessary?
    –How much are regular BPD officers paid hourly? To be a meter maid?
    –With so many illegal parking every weekend should the float be banned?

    Extra points- sitting in Harris Ranch to be a METER MAID for the neighborhood! Where is that post?

    EDITOR NOTE–Doubtful most BPD would agree with getting a “pass” from GUARDIAN. As for the Eckert Rd. parking issue, you just got it posted!!

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: