Family-Friendly Guide to Floating the Boise River

Everybody who lives in Boise should float the Boise River at least once (if not more). It’s a great way to beat the heat and cool down while also making lasting memories with the family.

Before my mom era, I didn’t really have to plan much. I just found friends to go with, two cars (preferably one pickup truck), and some sort of flotation device. Nowadays with a little one in tow, it’s a little different.

Here is everything you need to know about floating the Boise River with kids.

Family-Friendly Guide to Floating the Boise RiverWhen to Float

Mark your calendars! Every year the Boise River opens on a different day depending on how fast the water is flowing and the water level. This year the Boise River officially opens for floating on Thursday, June 27th. This means you can start planning your trip down the river, enjoying the scenic views, and soaking up the sun.

Family-Friendly Guide to Floating the Boise RiverThe Route

The most popular floating route starts at Barber Park and ends at Ann Morrison Park. This journey typically takes around 2-3 hours, depending on the river’s flow and how often you stop to enjoy the scenery.

Preparing for Your Float

Depending on how old your kiddos are, you can decide which kind of float to use. Using a tube is fun for the older kids and allows them to be fully submerged and stay cooler. The con is you have to work on rallying them back closer to you after every rapid or every time they drift off a little too far. Pro tip: Use a flip flop for a paddle or even bring one paddle for the tube riders. It makes for easier maneuvering.

I’ve also seen a lot of people use a paddleboard for floating down the river. Just make sure to take off your back fins. I am not very coordinated with my paddleboard, so I have personally never braved that, but if that’s your thing, just know people do it.

I personally prefer a raft with kiddos. It keeps my stress level low, and if the little ones need anything, I’m right there with my dry bag of supplies. We also tie a waterproof Bluetooth speaker and bump some tunes.

Family-Friendly Guide to Floating the Boise RiverImportant Things to Know

Bring Your Own Air Pump

Gone are the years when they provided free air pumps at Barber Station. It’s important to bring your own pump to inflate your raft, kayak, or tube. If you don’t have a pump, consider renting a raft which often includes the necessary equipment. I can usually blow up a 4-person raft with a battery-powered pump or a pump that plugs in to the car for power. The battery-operated pumps work especially well for the smaller tubes. #bringbackfreeair

Rent Equipment

If you don’t have your own floating gear, several local shops rent out rafts, tubes, and kayaks. Be sure to reserve your equipment in advance, especially on weekends and holidays. The main shop is at Barber Station.

Safety First
  • Life Jackets: Make sure everyone in your group, especially children, wears a properly fitted life jacket. They are mandatory for 14 and under.
  • Supervision: Always keep an eye on kids and stay close to them to ensure everyone’s safety. The river current can be strong.
  • Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen, wear hats, and bring sunglasses to protect against UV rays. The reflection from the water never fails.
  • Education: Educate the kiddos about the hazards of moving water. If they do become a swimmer, make sure they know to get their head and feet to the surface and point their feet downstream.
What to Bring
  • Waterproof Bag: Keep your valuables and electronics dry. I usually put my phone or my key fob in a ziplog bag in my dry bag to ensure that those things stay dry. Having your cell phone in a dry bag can be useful in case of emergency.
  • Snacks and Water: Stay hydrated and bring along some snacks to keep energy levels up.
  • Footwear: Wear water shoes or sandals that can get wet to protect your feet. When the water gets more shallow, you might have to hop out of the raft and give a little push and the rocks can hurt your feet. When pulling over and taking breaks, it’s good to have shoes to get out and guide the boat to the shore.

Renting Rafts or Tubes

Check out more info here: Boise River Raft & Tube

All equipment is rented on a first-come-first-served basis. They do not accept reservations and a credit card and matching photo ID are required for all rentals. Check their website for pricing information.

A nice thing about renting is that you don’t have to pump up the raft or tube. It’s easiest to just park your car at Ann Morrison and then take the shuttle for $4 to Barber Park. You can pick up your rental and start floating. Then when you finish the float, you can just drop off the raft at Ann Morrison, get in your car, grab some pizza, and go home. Renting removes the hassle of having two cars and needing an air pump.

Family-Friendly Guide to Floating the Boise River

Parking & Shuttle Service

The shuttle service is a very convenient and helpful aspect of floating the Boise River. The shuttle runs from Ann Morrison Park (where you typically end your float) back to Barber Park (the starting point). This service makes it easy to get back to your vehicle without hassle.

Otherwise, people usually drop off one car at Ann Morrison, grab everything they need and get into the other car, and drive down to Barber Park. Then when finishing the float, the car at Ann Morrison can drive back to Barber Park to pick up that car.

Barber Park has a parking fee of $7 and Ann Morrison has free parking wherever you can find a spot.

Shuttle Schedule:

  • Monday to Friday – shuttle departs Ann Morrison Park every hour on the hour
  • Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays – the shuttle departs Ann Morrison Park every 20 minutes

Environmental Responsibility

Help keep the Boise River beautiful for everyone.

  • Pack It In, Pack It Out: Make sure to bring all your trash with you.
  • Respect Wildlife: Keep a safe distance from any animals you encounter.

What our contributors have to say about floating the Boise River with kids:

“Bring SNACKS!!! If the river is slow, it can be a long two hours. Bring sun protection as you’re exposed most of the time. Discuss potential hazards: raft under low branches (duck!) or water safety protocols beforehand. Water shooters are fun to have as well. A dry bag for essentials is great. Make stops along the way where they can play along the river bank. “I spy” games to track different animals you see are fun. If you have older kids, it’s nice if you have an individual tube (with or without mesh bottom) they can float from to be closer to the water rather than being in dryer raft.” – Thy | Social Media Manager

“We like to bring water squirters. Rafts like to squirt water at each other and it keeps the kids entertained! You can also bring a little bucket and the kids’ job is to bail water out of the raft.” – Alana | Site Manager

“Our tip is have a plan if someone falls out. Long story short: my kids freaked out when my husband got hit by a branch (he was preventing the boy from getting hit) and it knocked him out of the raft. It was a pretty funny story afterward, but the kids were not prepared. They assumed falling in the river meant death, poor things. Also be willing to lose any flip flops or sunglasses you wear because sometimes it happens.” – Kassandra | Contributor

Floating the Boise River is a fantastic family activity that combines relaxation, adventure, and natural beauty. By following these tips and being prepared, you can ensure a fun and safe experience for everyone.

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Enjoy your time on the river and create unforgettable family memories!

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Boise Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.

Jaclyn Burns
Meet Jaclyn, a Boise native through and through. She is a SAHM and a Realtor specializing in first time home buyers. After spending 4 years in Europe, Jaclyn married the love of her life, Tom. They have a daughter named Kennedy whom is bravely battling a VSD (small hole in her heart). Jaclyn enjoys exploring Boise's greenbelt, sampling local brews, and spending time outdoors with her family. Being an introverted extrovert, she is the life of the party until it’s time to recharge her batteries. With Jaclyn around you can ensure there are always good vibes and laughter- lots of laughter.


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