Stalking the River, Part Two

Dams and Wilderness along the Boise River

Story and Photos by Mike Medberry

In the first part of this series, published in our January 2015 issue, the author hiked the Boise River from its confluence with the Snake River northwest of Parma to Caldwell Canyon. In this concluding part, he continues from Boise north along the river’s middle fork to its headwaters at Spangle Lake.

Along the Boise River Greenbelt near Eagle, a man and his daughter had caught three little crayfish in a big ol’ bucket, but there was promise for more, and they ran from hole to hot spot in search of the tasty, miniature lobsters. Two other fishers were clearly in love as they showed off their puny catch, and a couple celebrating their sixteenth anniversary posed for a picture along the Bethine Church River Trail. A woman surfed with grace at the well-known recreational wave. All of them seemed to be enjoying the present.

The twenty-mile greenbelt from Eagle Island State Park to Lucky Peak Reservoir includes six parks, wildlife sanctuaries, a municipal golf course, land “donated” as a consequence of bridges built across the river, the Idaho Fish and Game Nature Center, and a stretch along Boise State University, among other acreages. There’s also the 36,000-acre Boise River Wildlife Management Area, which skirts Lucky Peak Reservoir, to support deer and elk wintering range. This seems entirely the “people’s stretch” of the river, although it also supports a wide variety of wildlife.

As I continued my upstream walk, I noticed Boise City’s diversion of water from the river, and then a bit upstream, the Diversion Dam allowed the New York Canal to take a sizeable portion of the river’s flow (the canal’s capacity is about 2,800 cubic feet per second) forty miles west to Lake Lowell Reservoir and Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge.

As I walked along the canal, a nice enough man in a stout pickup truck confronted me.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m hiking up the river.”

“You can’t go this way.”

“Oh, I see,” I said. We stared at each other blankly for about ten seconds.

“You’ll have to go back.”

I questioned him about whether the canal was funded by the U.S. government, suggesting that this allowed me to walk beside it, but received no answer. When he asked if I had seen the no trespassing signs, he received silence from me. It was nice to understand each other like that, but neither of us made a believer of the other.

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