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The Boise River is a tributary of the Snake River, approximately long, in the northwestern United Statesmarker. It drains a rugged portion of the Sawtooth Range in southwestern Idahomarker northeast of Boisemarker, as well as part of the western Snake River Plain. The watershed encompasses approximately of highly diverse habitats, including alpine canyons, forest, rangeland, agricultural lands, and urban areas.


The Boise River rises in three separate forks in the Sawtooth Range at elevations exceeding 10,000 feet (3048 m), and is formed by the confluence of its North and Middle forks. The North Fork, 50 miles (80 km) long, rises in the Sawtooth Wilderness Areamarker, along the Boise-Elmoremarker county line, 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Boise. It flows generally southeast through the remote mountains in the Boise National Forestmarker. The Middle Fork, approximately 70 miles (110 km) in length rises, within 20 miles (32 km) of the North Fork in the southern Sawtooth Wildernessmarker Area in northeastern Elmore County. It flows WSW near the town of Atlantamarker, joining the North Fork to form the Boise River, approximately 15 miles (25 km) southeast of Idaho Citymarker. The main stream flows southwest into Arrowrock Reservoirmarker joining the South Fork from the Anderson Ranch Dammarker.

The South Fork (100 miles, 160 km) rises in northern Camas Countymarker in the Smoky Mountains of the Sawtooth National Forestmarker north of Fairfieldmarker, 60 miles (100 km) east of Boise. It flows generally southwest, descending through a basalt canyon to fill the Anderson Ranch Reservoirmarker, then turns northwest in central Elmore County. It joins the main stream as the southern arm of Arrowrock Reservoir, 20 miles (32 km) east of Boise.

Downstream from its confluence with the South Fork, the river flows generally west, and adds the major tributary of Mores Creek along Highway 21, and passes through Lucky Peak Reservoirmarker to emerge from the foothills, southeast of Boise. It passes over several irrigation diversion dams above the city, the first and largest is the century-old Boise River Diversion Dam for the concrete New York Canal, which terminates at Lake Lowell (a.k.a. Deer Flat Reservoir) southwest of Nampamarker in Canyon Countymarker. As the river passes through downtown Boise, it is lined by an extensive recreational greenbelt. The Boise River then flows west across the western end of the Snake River Plain, it becomes a braided stream with a wide floodplain as it crosses northern Canyon Countymarker to the Snake River. It enters the Snake River, the Idaho-Oregonmarker border, west of Parmamarker and three miles (5 km) south of Nyssamarker, Oregonmarker.

Boise Irrigation Project, 1910


The river was called "Reed's River" in the early 19th century, explored during 1811 Astorian Expedition. The river is used for irrigation on the plain west of Boise. The dams that form the mountain reservoirs were constructed as part of the Bureau of Reclamation's "Boise Project" to provide agricultural irrigation, hydroelectricity, drinking water, and flood control to Boise and the Treasure Valley.

The major projects' initial completion dates were:


The river is a popular destination for floating, specifically on the urban tree-lined run through Boise during hot, dry summer afternoons. Tubers and floaters launch at Barber Park and land at Ann Morrison Park, between major irrigation diversion dams. Several minor diversion weirs are passed as well as several bridges on the 5 mile (8 km) trip. Water skiing is popular above the dam at the Lucky Peak Reservoir.

On the lower (warmwater) course of the river, low summer flows and poorer water quality from agricultural runoff limit fishery production. This section of river supports a fair fishery for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and channel catfish. Upstream from Starmarker, the river is a coldwater stream and supports a greater variety of fish. The most prevalent species on this section is mountain whitefish, as well as hatchery-reared rainbow trout, wild rainbow trout, and fingerling brown trout. Upstream from Lucky Peak and Arrowrock reservoirs, the river and its tributaries contain excellent populations of wild rainbow trout, mountain whitefish, and bull trout. This is especially true immediately downstream from the outflow of Anderson Ranch reservoir, where the South Fork takes on the characteristics of a classic "tailwater" for over five miles from the put-in below the dam to Cow Creek Bridge.


The Boise river is also used for fishing, mostly for rainbow trout and, in the winter, steelhead. Spinfishermen use roostertail spinners and bait such as worms and powerbait while fly fishermen use a variety of nymphs, streamers, and dry flies.


  1. USBR - Boise River diversion dam
  2. USBR - Boise Project

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