Staying Safe While Floating on the Boise River: “Equipment Selection Is Key”

Boise River Raft and Tube Rental and Boise Fire encourage people to use tubes made of thick layers and chambers to avoid being punctured.

BOISE, Idaho – Those who live in Treasure Valley know that a summer staple floats along the waters of the Boise River.

“People have asked me about advertising and what we spend on advertising and we don’t spend anything on advertising, because, you know, everyone does it for us, right?” Connie Zeller, said Connie Zeller, raft and tube rental consultant in Boise River.

Zeller previously owned the rental company for 14 years. She said that around this time, the Treasure Valley had grown, and so had the number of people using the river.

“In June, we get a lot of emails and phone calls from people wanting to get out and enjoy it and wondering when we’re going to open,” Zeller said.

The rental company said it makes thousands of transactions each week, making some of its highest profits and footfall on weekends. Zeller said last Saturday that the rental company had completed more than 1,100 transactions.

However, as more people flock to the river, the Boise Fire Department is seeing an increase in water rescues. They have received 67 calls as of Thursday. Boise Fire Division Special Operations Chief Paul Roberts said that number doesn’t even account for undocumented calls for assistance to help crews.

“We’re a bit particular over there on the weekends,” Roberts said. “We are there almost all day.”

There are a number of different reasons Boise Fire is responding to rescues and helpers, such as people tying tubes together and getting stuck on a bridge pillar, which they’re asking people not to do. They will also help people whose tubes have punctured and burst, which often ends someone’s experience on the river.

Roberts explained that a rescue call is an emergency situation and lives are at risk, while an assistance call is more of a situation that could turn into an emergency, such as people stuck on branches or on an island in the river.

Rescue teams and the rafting company say that when it comes to river safety, it starts with knowing the surroundings and using the right equipment.

“I would advise the public against using inflatable rafts at discount stores and the Boise River. It may seem okay, but the Boise River is not a pool,” Roberts said.

“Equipment selection is key. I would say items that are made of thinner materials, you’re definitely at risk,” Zeller said.

She added that people should consider using tubes that have different thicknesses and chambers.

“There are chambers in these where if you take a little hit or have a problem, you’re always going to make it because it’s not all contained in one chamber.”

Another problem that Zeller said staff are seeing growing is people leaving their punctured and damaged tubes, along with other trash, on the river.

“I’ve traveled enough to know that most cities don’t have something like this available,” Zeller said. “It’s so beautiful and an incredible resource that we can take advantage of.”

She reminds people that it is their duty to clean up after them.

“Just like when camping or hiking, pack your bags. [It’s the] same concept,” Zeller said.

The City of Boise has put portable dumpsters at the end of the river in Ann Morrison Park for people to throw away their damaged tubes.

Zeller and Roberts both say that using an inner tube made of thick material is key to staying safe, another gear she encourages is wearing a life jacket.

“The current is fast, the water is cold and you never know,” Zeller said.

Roberts said Boise Fire crews on the river were doing their best to clear any hazards such as hanging tree branches, but couldn’t mitigate everything. This is why environmental awareness is very important on the river.

“It’s a wild river, it’s not a pool,” Roberts said. “They have to be careful. Watch the river and watch other floaters and watch people jumping off the bridge into the river.”

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