Thursday, February 21, 2013

Take a 4-mile nature walk with your sweetheart or your family along the Boise River in E. Boise

Here's the map for the nature trail loop. Start at either Bown Crossing
or the East ParkCenter Bridge or by Barber Park in East Boise. (Click map to enlarge)
The scene on the nature trail just east of the E. ParkCenter Bridge. 
The new natural trail. 
Hi all,

Well, it's a little past Valentine's Day, but I wanted to share a cool new walking loop that I've been enjoying with my sweetheart, Wendy, and our dog, Huck, as the weather begins to slowly warm up in the Boise Valley. It's a lovely place for an easy-going stroll (no hills) and a great place to see wildlife.

It's supposed to snow Friday night, so if you're inclined to go skiing, snowshoeing or whatever, by all means, head for the mountains and enjoy some fresh powder.

But you have to check out this new hiking opportunity that's been made possible by the construction of the new Marianne Williams Park near Bown Crossing in E. Boise and property donations by the Harris family.

Many people have been aware of the nice gravel natural trail on the south side of the river that runs from Barber Park to the ParkCenter Greenbelt (three miles total one-way). The trail is a great place for wildlife-watching in general and eagle-watching in the winter, and it's a quiet place to go walking or running because the trail is not paved, and no bikes are allowed.

With the creation of the new Marianne Williams Park in East Boise, there is now a nature trail on the north side of the river as well. It also is lined by cottonwood trees the whole way, and the trail passes by a series of wetlands that will be chock full of bird life in a couple of months. About a mile from Eckert Road, the natural trail in Marianne Williams Park merges with a new section of paved Greenbelt and continues west to the East ParkCenter Bridge and continues west.

The nature trail loop on both sides of the river is a little less than 4 miles total. It takes at least an hour and a half at a casual pace. If you're watching for birds, it might take more like 2 hours. After you're finished, you can head over to Bown Crossing and have lunch, dinner or a beverage of choice at several different establishments including Flatbread Pizza and the Tavern. You're also close to Lucky 13 if you park at Barber Park off of Eckert Road.

If you want to go farther, keep going west under the East ParkCenter Bridge and continue another 2 miles or so to the big orange ParkCenter pedestrian bridge. Longer-distance runners may prefer to take the longer route.

Great blue heron 
While you're walking or running, watch for the following wildlife species. Bring your camera and binoculars. Teach your kids how to identify these species:
  • Great blue herons. There's a large heron rookery on the south side of the river, just east of Bown Crossing. There must be about 15-20 nests in the rookery. The birds are beginning to move into the nests right now. You are virtually assured of seeing herons on your walk. Herons are fish-eaters.  
  • Kingfishers. You'll hear the tell-tale rat-tat-tat call of kingfishers as they dart across the Boise River. 
  • Red-winged blackbirds. You'll see the blackbirds moving into the wetland areas in the coming weeks. They love the cat-tail wetlands. 
  • Kestrels. I have seen many kestrels on the nature trail in recent weeks. They are pairing up, mating and establishing a cavity nest. See my video about our backyard kestrel nest box. Kestrels are the smallest member of the raptor family. Also known as "sparrow hawks." 
  • Red-tailed hawks frequent the area. They are a very common hawk in the Boise Foothills and the Boise Valley. They like to eat mice. I think there are several red-tailed hawk nests in the vicinity of the nature trail loop. 
  • Great-horned owls. There are several owl nests in the nature trail area on the south side of the river. These birds are very predatory in nature.
  • Wood ducks. The males are very showy in coloration. Watch for them on the river.  
Wood duck 
In case you missed it last fall, here's a GoPro video of the new Greenbelt pathways in Marianne Williams Park. It'll give you a feel for the size of the park. It's big! 
The Boise Bike Swap is happening on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a great opportunity to pick up a quality used road bike or mountain bike, bike wheels or parts It's being held at the Westgate Shopping Mall, 7670 W. Fairview. It costs $3 to get in. Get there early! The event is free for kids under 10. Sellers show up at 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Saturday to sell their used bike stuff.
In case you haven't heard any of the ads, this is the magic week when you need to renew your Bogus Basin season pass for the best price available. The passes are $229 plus tax for the 2013-2014 season. It's a great deal, and it's important to support your local community ski area. Act quick because the offer expires on Feb. 24. 
Idaho Fish and Game needs volunteers to plant bitterbrush beginning on Saturday, March 2. More planting will occur on subsequent Saturdays through March. Transportation and tools are provided. Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes, bring gloves and dress for the weather. 

To sign up, contact IDFG volunteer coordinator Michael Young, or 327-7095.  For more information go to:

Have fun!
- SS