I was surfing the Weir near Warm Springs Golf Course earlier this month when I caught the edge of the canoe upstream and went over. Talk about an ice cream headache from your toes to your brain.
Wow! And, I was even wearing neoprene pants, longjohns, a splash top and life vest. I still felt the cold numbing water.
I got to shore and immediately got my fishing thermometer and the water was 41.5 degrees. You don’t last long in water that cold before everything goes numb. The shock of going head first in the water takes your breath away.
The flow in the Boise River was doubled from around 600 to 800 cfs over the last few weeks to 1,400 cfs this week. The increase is to provide higher flows downstream so that they’ll sweep baby salmon to the ocean. Higher flows are also coming down the Snake River and needed to get the salmon downstream quickly. Before the dams on the Snake River and the Columbia River, natural flows did this every spring.
The 1,400 cfs flow in the Boise River is considered in the regular casual canoeing and rafting range. In “normal” (whatever that means) years, the summer flow in the Boise River is around 1,000 cfs. Sometimes it runs as high as 1,500 cfs, which is considered the highest limit for casual canoeing and rafting.
Even though the Boise River is still in “floating range,” canoeists and rafters have to be prepared for a possible dip in very cold water. You’ll notice that kayakers surfing the waves at the Boise River Park are dressed in neoprene, dry suits or tops and life vests. They are prepared for a swim.
As we said in a news story this morning in the Idaho Statesman, the water’s too cold for tubing.
The other thing to realize is that 1,400 cfs is a much more fast and “pushy” flow than 1,000 cfs. That means canoeists and rafters have to be on their toes because the river current is moving them faster toward obstacles like brushy banks and bridge abutments. Going over the diversions at the higher flows also takes intermediate boating skills.
Canoeists and rafters floating the Boise River with current flows need to be experienced in self-rescue and dressed for cold water.
Photo of a kayaker at the Boise River Park by Pete Zimowsky/Idaho Statesman