[This post was updated in August 2022]
Floating the Boise River is one of the most popular things to do in Boise during the summer. The river runs directly through the city, making it super easy to float and spend an afternoon.
The floating season typically starts sometime after Memorial Day or mid-June and ends towards the end of August. Check here for official start dates. I also like to check the Float the Boise River Facebook page for real-time updates on the river conditions and parking situation. If you’re like I was and are going on your first float, read on because these 7 tips for floating are for you!
While we’re at it, let’s be friends on Instagram and Tiktok!
7 Tips for Floating the Boise River
How to get to and from the river float?
You’ll want to put in for your float at Barber Park, about 6 miles from downtown Boise off of Boise Avenue or Warm Springs Avenue depending on which way you come from downtown Boise. The turnoff to Barber Park is on Eckert Road. Once you arrive you’ll see a turn-in for drop-offs or a parking lot at the back. Parking can now get really crowded, so coming earlier will be best. The cost to park for the day is $7. If you do the driving route, I recommend leaving one car at Ann Morisson Park and then taking another car to Barber Park for put-in.
There is also a bus option where you park your car at Barber Park, float the river and then hop on the bus at Ann Morrison Park for $3. There are places to put your tubes on the bus.
(1) Bring a sturdy tube, paddleboard, or raft
There are about three actual rapids you’ll hit during the float, so you won’t want to bring a flimsy tube that you use in the pool. I recommend getting something stronger and similar to this, this or this for floating the river. You’ll find a lot of people doing it on stand-up paddle boards or blow-up kayaks too which is a great idea. If you don’t end up buying, you can always rent at Barber Park.
(2) The river float takes about 2-3 hours
The overall float starts at Barber Park and ends on the left of the river at Ann Morrison Park. The float can be faster or slower depending on if you’re actually paddling or just leisurely floating down. The take-out is located 6 miles downstream from Barber Park. I recommend floating at the hottest time of day because then the water will be less cold! In the summer we’ll sometimes go after work and float from 4 pm – 6 pm!
If you do get too cold on the river, you can pop off the river at any time and walk the rest of the way along the Greenbelt.
(3) You can take the bus and it costs only $3 each way
The best part of floating the river is that there’s a bus that can take you down the river both ways. We parked at Barber Park, floated the river, got out at Ann Morrison Park, and then took the bus from Ann Morrison back to Barber Park. You can also park at Ann Morrison Park and ride the bus to Barber Park if you want to have your car waiting for you at the end of the float. The bus costs $3 per person, each way, and you’ll find the bus comes about every 20-mins near the rental drop off at Ann Morrison Park.
NOTE: I know a few people who have taken the bus from Ann Morrison to Barber Park and the bus driver makes them deflate their tubes on the bus. The biggest thing here would be to bring your own pump to blow up your tube once you get to Barber Park.
(4) You can rent gear from Boise River Raft in Barber Park
You can rent rafts and tubes, kayaks and paddles, and even life jackets from Boise River Raft in Barber Park. We had two rafts and decided to rent paddles for the rafts at the park. It’s fairly inexpensive and you can drop them off at the end of the float at Ann Morrison. If you don’t want to wait in a line, I’d try and bring your own float gear and pump!
(5) Make sure to bring the following:
- A raft pump! This is because they got rid of the free pumps and now you need to bring your own or pump up your rafts before you arrive. One of my biggest annoyances ever, but if you have something that’s tough to pump up, you can bring an air mattress pump or even a blower and use your car for electricity to pump up your raft.tubes.
- Snacks or picnic
- Sunscreen – my fave brand
- River shoes to protect your feet – I use Chacos
- Paddles – In case you start heading for the bushes
- Personal flotation device – I love this one, and this one
- Floating cooler – if you want to bring your booze
- Life vest – These are a smart idea in case your raft pops or you aren’t a great swimmer. They are required to be word by children age 14 and under and every vessel must be equipped with a personal flotation device.
Note: Boise doesn’t condone drinking on the river, but pretty much everyone brings booze anyway. My friends and I fill up water bottles with whatever we want to drink (usually White Claws or beer) and bring those in our rafts.
(6) Be prepped for a few rapids and be careful
There are a few mini-rapids to be aware of, but nothing too wild! Not to scare you, but people have died floating the river. There are branches and dangerous bushes that you can get caught in that can flip you over or pop your tube. I recommend the buddy system while floating and just in case you get stuck. Also, it’s important to beware of kids jumping off one of the bridges you pass underneath. Be careful with your drinking as I’ve seen drunk people get in hairy situations that you don’t want to experience!
(7) Leave the river cleaner than you found it
Nothing irks me more than the time I saw a bunch of drunk kids throwing can into the river. Please, please, please respect the river. It’s something for all of us to enjoy and up to all of us to keep clean! Haul out what you bring it and leave it as you found it. Also, remember to not take glass containers on the river or in the parks.
Most of all, have fun floating the Boise River! It’s a great day out on the river and such a great afternoon activity to do in the hot summer heat! Look out for bald eagles along the river and just beware that the water is pretty cold in the earlier summer months, so be prepped to have a refreshing float.
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