Everything's Going for the Boise River Greenbelt
By Pete Zimowsky
bald eagle is perched in a tree along the Boise River Greenbelt, overlooking the river near the Main Street Bridge, one of the busiest thoroughfares in town. It's neat to see such an incredible bird up close and personal. I'm amazed each day I commute to work on my bicycle along this wildland hideaway in the middle of Idaho's largest city of more than 205,000.
Each bend along the riparian pathway yields surprises. A fox might dart out from the underbrush. Look closely at the riverbank and you might spot a mink popping its head up over a rock, inquisitively checking you out. Mule deer often cross the Greenbelt, heading down to the river for a drink or to browse in the cottonwood thickets. One morning I was greeted by a great blue heron wading in the river, fishing for its next meal...
Read the rest of Pete Zimowsky's feature from the Fall 2012 issue of Rails to Trails magazine, and check out the Travel Facts below to help plan your trip to and through Boise on the Greenbelt!
The Boise River Greenbelt is accessible from major streets in Boise, Garden City and Eagle up to Lucky Peak Reservoir. Boise is accessible by plane from major cities and on Interstate Highway 84. It is about halfway between Portland, Ore., and Salt Lake City.
Download a trail map and other information from www.cityofboise.org. You'll also find an interactive GIS map at www.TrailLink.com, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's free trail-finder website. The Greenbelt is a mixture of asphalt and gravel. Parts, especially in areas where there is a lot of bird nesting, are designed for walking but are off-limits for bicycling.
A Good Starter Route
A great way to see the core of the Boise Greenbelt is a six-mile outing starting in Ann Morrison Park near Americana Boulevard on the south side of the river. (There's parking at the park.) Cross the Pioneer Footbridge and head east on the north side of the river about three miles to the Baybrook Court Footbridge at ParkCenter. Then, cross the river and come back on the south side of the river. Along the way you can visit the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial near the historic South Eighth Street Bridge (also called the Ninth Street Bridge) built in 1907.
If you get hungry, you can stop for a burger and microbrew at the Ram Restaurant and Brewery, on the Greenbelt just east of the Broadway Bridge on the north side of the river. Just upstream from the Ram is the MK Nature Center, maintained by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The center has an underwater stream display where trout swim by, and a pond is stocked with sturgeon. In late summer and early fall, you'll find Chinook and kokanee salmon at the center. The displays of salmon coincide with the natural seasonal migration of the fish. The center has displays on other wildlife that can be seen along the river.
Road cyclists love the wide-open route from Municipal Park in Boise to Discovery Park, just below Lucky Peak Dam. The trip is roughly 20 miles round trip. Discovery Park is an excellent place for a picnic, and nearby Sandy Point beach is a good place to take a swim in the summer. Municipal Park is on Walnut Avenue near the headquarters of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, easily accessible off ParkCenter Boulevard's West ParkCenter Bridge.
The Greenbelt in this area is getting a facelift, with part of the path going around ponds in the newly built Marianne Williams Park. While on your way back to the city, choose between two popular restaurants—Ben's Crow Inn and Lucky 13—both located between Eckert Road and the Idaho 21 bridge.
A Natural Route
The Bethine Church River Trail, a 1.6-mile route along the south side of the river, is an excellent nature trail for walkers only. It goes through a 24-acre natural area frequented by many waterfowl and other birds. It is accessible near Bown Crossing, a major commercial area between Boise Avenue and ParkCenter Boulevard that includes a variety of restaurants and shops.
Lots of Options
At Americana Boulevard, visit Kathryn Albertson Park, a natural area with lots of trees, wildlife and bird habitat. It is designed for walking and is located across Americana Boulevard from Ann Morrison Park on the south side of the river. If you want a lunch stop, The Pantry restaurant near the Americana Bridge boasts "bodacious burgers."
Continue west on the north side of the river along the Greenbelt and take a small detour across the classic old Boise River railroad bridge. Head west on the Greenbelt downriver past Main Street. Garden City's Greenbelt is on the south side of the river there, while Boise's Greenbelt continues on the north side. From Glenwood Bridge on the Boise River in Garden City, the pathway continues another 4 miles to South Eagle Road in Eagle. The section in Garden City on the north side of the river doesn't allow bicycle riding.
Float the Greenbelt
Visitors also can take in a river's-eye view of the Greenbelt in tubes, rafts and canoes. Every summer, some 300,000 people float the river from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park, a non-motorized section of the river. Tube rentals and bus shuttle service are available at Barber Park by a private concessionaire. The float takes two to three hours; check out Epley's Boise River Rentals.
Where to Stay
Between Boise State University and the Greenbelt's location through the heart of the city, options abound for lodging right along the corridor. The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce (208.472.5200), which happens to be a couple blocks from the trail near Julia Davis Park, is a good place to start.
McU Sports (208.342.7734) has two locations in Boise, including a downtown shop less than a mile from the trail. Cruisers are $25 for a full day, $15 for a half. Mountain or road bikes rent for $30 for a full day or $20 for a half. All rentals come with helmet and lock.