Discover the Boise River Water Trail

By Tom Chelstrom

The Boise River Water Trail flows 63 miles from Discovery Park, just below Lucky Peak Dam east of Boise, to its confluence with the Snake River west of Parma. The Boise River has served as a transportation corridor for thousands of years and presents challenges and rewards for modern-day paddlers.

I first paddled the Boise River “town stretch” from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park, after relocating to Boise in 1993. I wondered what was downstream. There were no guidebooks to the Boise River. “A River Runner’s Guide to Idaho,” a 1980 publication of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation briefly mentioned the Boise, but that was all I could find. Over the next three seasons I researched and paddled the river, and in 1996 published “Canoeing the Boise River,” a free, detailed four-page guide. There were four revisions, and more than 6,000 copies distributed by the final 2009 revision.

The 2009 revision was released as a component of the Boise River Trails Plan. This plan was created by the Boise River Trails Coalition, with assistance from the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Program. The plan was signed and supported by the Ada and Canyon county commissions and the mayors of all nine cities along the river on August 12, 2009.

An up-to-date, Google Earth-based guide to the Boise River Water Trail is now available along with an updated PDF file. The Google Earth KMZ Tour project also provides a 3D automated fly over the river.

7_1_15BoiseRiverWaterTrail_3.kmz   (Download and open in Google Earth)

The latest version of Google Earth is available to download on this web page. There are two versions, and both are free. The Pro version has numerous additional production tools that are useful but not needed for viewing all of the interesting location information contained on this 3D Virtual Globe.

In addition, a PDF file with the same information, for printing, has been updated. Look for more minor updates in both the kmz and pdf files in the future.


Rivers are always changing, and so must the guide. One example: I used to enjoy paddling the small reservoir at Discovery Park below Lucky Peak Dam, then portaging around Diversion Dam. The put-in was a few hundred yards down the greenbel, to a faint path below an old cable car. As of June 27, 2015 this put-in is knee deep in a lush field of poison ivy, and there is no reasonable alternative through the heavy brush. Today I recommend you begin your trip at the Idaho 21 bridge, Barber Dam or Barber Park.