Boise, Idaho is a terrific town. It provides easy access to outdoor activities like river rafting, as well as sophisticated attractions usually only found in big cities.

 

There’s a large Hewlett-Packard campus on the outskirts of town. And many HP executives who spent a couple of years there, return when they retire, drawn by the great weather and laid-back lifestyle.

It’s especially attractive to people who love the outdoors. It’s easy to enjoy a day of skiing, snowboarding, river rafting, fly-fishing, or hiking, and then spend the evening enjoying drinks and dinner downtown. Or heading south of town for a rollicking performance at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
Seeing Boise from the river.

In the summer, temperatures in Boise can reach 100 degrees or more, and locals and visitors alike cool off by heading for the Boise River, which runs right through the center of town. Floating the Boise River is a great way to see the city, and it only takes a couple of hours. It’s not the most memorable river rafting trip you’ll ever take, but it is fun.

Park at Ann Morrison Park, and then take a second car to Barber Park. Or take the $3 shuttle that goes from Ann Morrison Park to Barber Park every hour on the hour.

You can rent a raft, a tube, or a kayak in Barber Park from Epley’s. It opens at 11AM on the weekend and at noon on weekdays. And it closes at 9PM on weekends and at 8PM on weekdays. A tube rents for $12 and a six-person raft is $55 for three hours. Labor day weekend usually signals the end of the season.

There are four rest stops en route. And if you can’t float the river, you should at least walk the greenbelt on either side. You may even see a beaver along the way.

River rafting on the Payette.

 

If you want more excitement, the Main Payette River is fun and easy to get to. The base for rafting trips on the Main Payette River is Banks, which is only about an hour north of Boise. During the eight-mile trip, you’ll experience some Class II rapids, including a bumpy ride through Mike’s Hole. The trip takes about three hours and it’s a good choice for first timers.

The water is not too cold. And there are actually some sandy beaches along the river, so if your guide is so inclined, you may take a break on the riverside.

The South Fork of the Payette is even more exciting. During the spring, the water level is higher, and the highlight is the Staircase, a Class IV, thrill ride. Full and half-day trips are available and you can be back in Boise in time for dinner.

River rafting trips on the Salmon River.

If you have the time and the inclination, you can take a 5- or 6-day rafting trip through the River of No Return Wilderness on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. With over 100 sets of rapids, the Middle Fork is one of the most exciting and beautiful stretches of water in the Northwest.

 

Trips start at 6,000 feet above sea level and descend down to 3,000. Along the way, you’ll hike to waterfalls and hot springs, and see plenty of wildlife. Meals, camping accommodations, and transportation are included. And there are even wine-tasting trips featuring Northwest wines. These 6-night river rafting trips cost about $2,000 per person and operate from June until Labor day.

The Main Fork of the Salmon drops 1,200 feet in 89 miles. The blue-green water of the river is flanked by sandy beaches and cool pine forests. These trips are usually 5 nights.

Salmon River Outfitters and Western River are two of the best outfitters.

River rafting trips on the Snake River.

The Snake River carves its way through Hell’s Canyon — the deepest gorge in America — and forms the Idaho/Oregon border. Four, five, and six-day trips are available and you’ll experience some big Class IV rapids on the very first day.

With cliffs towering nearly 8,000 above, this is one of the most scenic river rafting trips in the country. And there’s great fishing for smallmouth bass and sturgeon.

Western River and ROW Adventures both offer top-quality trips on the Snake River.

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