10/2/17: Bethine Church River Trail reopened. Learn more here.
The 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt is one of Boise's most beloved parks. The tree-lined pathway follows the river through the heart of the city and provides scenic views, wildlife habitat and pedestrian access to many of the city's popular riverside parks. The Greenbelt also serves as an alternative transportation route for commuters.
As you walk along the Boise River Greenbelt with its towering trees, lush riparian areas and abundant wildlife, you may get a sense that this beautiful setting has always been here for us to enjoy. However, until the 1960s, the river and its banks served as a convenient dumping ground for trash, industrial waste and raw sewage. The riverbank was severely degraded by years of neglect.
In 1964, the city hired a consultant to write a comprehensive plan and update Boise's zoning ordinance. The consultant suggested that the city acquire land along the Boise River to create a continuous "green belt" of public lands stretching the entire length of the community. Soon, a local grassroots effort to clean up the waterway and create public access to the river corridor began to take hold. This vision caught on and in 1966 and 1967 three small parcels of land were donated to the city to launch a "green belt."
With public interest and support growing, the first Greenbelt Plan and Guidelines were adopted in 1968 by the Board of Parks Commissioners. A Greenbelt and Pathways Committee was appointed in 1969 to guide the city of Boise as it worked to develop the Greenbelt. In 1971, the first Greenbelt ordinance was adopted requiring a minimum setback of 70 feet for all structures and parking areas. The city of Boise continued to slowly piece together a patchwork of land along the corridor using several methods of acquisition, including purchase, exchange, leasing and receiving donations of property by individuals, civic groups and corporations.
In 2001, a new directional and site location system was put in place on the Greenbelt within Boise City limits to help Greenbelt users know exactly where they are in case they need to call for help. The Distance and Orientation Trail System (DOTS) is a series of 20-inch white spots painted onto the Greenbelt pavement every tenth of a mile. Inside the white spots are black numbers and letters that describe the user's location on the Greenbelt.
The numbers represent how far that spot is from zero -- the 8th Street pedestrian bridge. The letters inside the spot indicate what sector of the Greenbelt it is on, such as the northwest quadrant,or the southeast quadrant.
The Greenbelt is maintained by the Boise Parks & Recreation Department working in conjunction with local land owners and public agencies to expand and improve the existing pathway.
Have fun and improve your health on a self-directed 10-mile bike ride or hike while looking for clues on a historic scavenger hunt! This list of clues and a map will help you learn more about the history of our community.
Tips for Greenbelt Use
The Greenbelt is a safe, fun and beautiful place to visit. Users can enhance their enjoyment of the Greenbelt and guard against mishaps by following these simple, common sense suggestions:
- Greenbelt is open from sunrise to sunset. Use of the Greenbelt as transit through may be permitted outside these hours.
- Segways are allowed by permit to people with disabilities. Read the Other Power Driven Mobility Devices policy.
- Stay alert and tuned into your surroundings. Take off headphones and be aware of what's going on around you.
- Walk confidently. Send the message that you're calm and you know where you're going.
- Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or leave the area.
- Stick to well-lighted, well-traveled areas. Avoid shortcuts through wooded areas, parking lots, isolated pathways or alleys.
- Carry your cell phone. Always know your exact location in case you need to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
- If you think someone is following you, switch directions. If you are scared, don't be embarrassed to yell for help. Go immediately to an area where other people are.
- Report every unwanted contact by a stranger to the police. Be able to describe the person accurately -- height, weight, clothing and other distinguishing features.
- If you walk on a regular basis, vary your timing and route.
- Walk with a companion. You may feel safe with your dog, but unless it is a trained attack dog it won't be much help in a threatening situation.
- Be observant around buildings, bridges, trees and shrubbery anywhere someone might hide.
If you have concerns about Greenbelt safety please call Boise Parks & Recreation at 208-608-7600. To report suspicious activity on the Greenbelt or another park facility, call Boise Police dispatch at 208-377-6790. If it is an emergency, dial 911 immediately.
To insure that all users' rights are protected and to guard against accidents, the Boise Parks & Recreation Department has established the following courtesies and safety guidelines for pedestrians, in-line skaters and cyclists to obey.
- Stay only on designated trails.
- Pedestrians have the right of way at all times. Cyclists and in-line skaters must be aware of pedestrians.
- All Greenbelt users should stay to the right and use caution under bridges and at blind corners where vision could be impaired.
- Pedestrians should not walk more than two abreast.
- Motorized vehicles and hoofed animals are prohibited. (Maintenance, patrol and handicap vehicles are the exception.)
- All non-paved sections are restricted to foot traffic only.
- Dogs are allowed only if on a leash - leash not to exceed eight (8) feet.
- Dog owners are responsible for sanitary disposal of dog feces.
- Bicyclists and in-line skaters are encouraged not to conduct serious training or to maintain fast speeds. Competitive events for in-line skaters and bicyclists are not allowed because of safety issues and potential accidents.
- Bicyclists and skaters who wish to pass other users along the Greenbelt must notify others that they are passing, either verbally (example: "passing on your left") or by other audible means (bell, horn, etc.). The person wishing to pass is responsible for passing freely and clearly around others, and not hindering approaching users.
- Don't harass or encroach upon the wildlife. Disturbing or collecting any vegetation or natural habitat along the Greenbelt is prohibited.
- Glass beverage containers are not permitted.
- Alcohol is prohibited within 250 feet of the Boise River. Beer/wine is allowed in the following restricted areas by permit only in conjunction with a facility reservation or scheduled BPR activity. Ann Morrison Old Timers Shelter, Julia Davis Shelters #1 & #2, Municipal picnic sites #4 & #6.
Bethine Church River Trail
A 1.6-mile section of Greenbelt located in a 24-acre natural area on the south side of Boise River was named in honor of the late Bethine Church to commemorate her efforts to preserve and conserve public lands. The unpaved pathway, which extends from the Cottonwood Apartments off ParkCenter Boulevard to the East ParkCenter Bridge near Bown Crossing, is known as the Bethine Church River Trail.
Idaho Birding Trail
Greenbelt users can learn about Idaho's native birds and their habitats thanks to three signs provided by the Coeur d'Alene-based WREN Foundation.
The signs are part of the Idaho Birding Trail, a program initiated by Idaho Department of Fish & Game employees and Idaho birders seeking to identify the best places to observe birds. There are 175 Idaho Birding Trail locations throughout the state. Twenty-nine sites feature interpretive signs, which provide a glimpse into the lives of the birds you can find there. More information about the Idaho Birding Trail can be found at www.idahobirdingtrail.org
The Coeur d'Alene-based WREN Foundation produced the signs with generous grants from the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation and Inland Northwest Community Foundation. Thirteen other partners also donated time and/or materials to the sign project.
Illustrated with original artwork by Boise graphic artist Grady Myers and large color photos, Idaho Birding Trail signs will help you and your family identify our state's birds and learn about birds' habitats and behavior. Find out how they raise their young, what they eat, and what we must do to conserve them for future generations.
The Greenbelt signs are located along the Bethine Church River Trail.
This location provides opportunities to see birds and other wildlife.
The Idaho Birding Trail (IBT) is a network of sites and side-trips that provides the best viewing opportunities to see birds in Idaho. With 175 sites and about 2,000 miles of trail separated into four distinct regions the IBT represents a collection of bird watching hotspots, diverse habitats, and a glimpse of Idaho's rich natural heritage.
If you are interested in learning more about birding in Idaho and the Idaho Birding Trail, see http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/ifwis/ibt/
Wondering about where to fish in Boise ponds? The Idaho Department of Fish & Game stocks several ponds in city parks maintained by the Boise Parks and Recreation. For the stocking schedule, see Idaho Fish & Game Stocking Information.
Park is open from sunrise to sunset.
Smoking is prohibited in all public parks, including within 20 feet of the Boise Greenbelt, except in designated areas within Ann Morrison and Julia Davis parks and city-owned golf courses.
NOTE: E-cigarettes are not prohibited under the ordinances.
Unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owner's risk and expense. Boise Valley Towing at (208) 389-9707.