Boise Sports and Outdoors

Paddle Boats in Julia Davis Park - You Won't Get Sold Down the River

Everyone knows about the big-ticket items in Julia Davis Park: Zoo Boise, the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho Historical Museum, and the Rose Garden. Often overlooked, however, is one recreational activity that takes advantage of the pond and canals that grace the park. If you're not content to admire the water and the resident waterfowl from the shore, and if you don't mind getting a little exercise, you can rent yourself a paddle boat and take a human-fueled cruise.

It's a verifiable fact that all ladies love paddle boats. Wikipedia says so, and Wikipedia never lies. But if you're a dude who thinks that paddle boats are lame, consider this. Taking a date or significant other out on the water has the same chemical effect as Spanish fly, horny goat weed, and every other aphrodisiac known to man, especially if you do all the peddle work and act like you adore the cute little ducks. Or if you have small children, taking them out in a paddle boat is guaranteed to get you a half hour of silence, which is about 29 more minutes than you get in an average day. Besides, if they misbehave, you can push them off the boat and make them swim back to shore.

The shack that rents paddle boats is in the north-central part of the park. The easiest way to find it is to take Myrtle to the park's 3rd Street entrance. After you enter the park, you'll see the idle paddle boats lined up at a dock and the accompanying rental shack. Although Julia Davis Park is a city park, this is not a city operation. A private company has a contract to run the paddle boats, and it's probably better that way. If the government can't run a brothel profitably, I'd hate to see what they'd do to a quaint little boat rental business.

It's $10 to rent a boat for 30 minutes, and $15 to rent one for an hour. Life jackets are provided free for kids or anyone who sinks like a rock when placed in water. These days the standard three-person pontoon-style boat is all they've got, which is really sad because they used to have some two-person swan and pelican boats that could fulfill the fantasies of kids young and old. Oh well. The pontoon-style boats are powered by foot peddles that are reminiscent of riding a bike. They've got a shade canopy and are easy to peddle, although I still pine for the harder-to-pedal swans and pelicans because they always made me feel like a real dapper and debonaire fellow. So it goes.

Although the amount of water you can play on is not all that expansive, you'll quickly realize something when you start pedaling the boat around. They're slow, and it doesn't matter how fast you pedal. In fact, the faster you pedal the slower you seem to go. Because of this, it'll take you a full half hour to putter your way from the dock to the pond and then back. If you're looking to have enough time to relax and enjoy the ride, go for the one-hour rental. That'll also give you enough time to drag race the ducks and geese, who've figured out that if they stick close to the boats they'll get some bread or other treats eventually.

It would be really cool if you could go down the canal that leads to the zoo, but sadly they have the entryway blocked with metal bars. The ride would probably be worth at least $50 if you could cruise by and taunt a zebra or a wildebeest, but alas you'll have to be content with badmouthing the panhandling waterfowl.

The paddle boat season runs from April to October, so if it's warm outside and you're too old, too smart, or too short on time to float the river, this is probably the next best thing.

Activity: Paddle Boats
Where: Julia Davis Park
When: Weekends April-May, 11-5:30
Daily June-Aug, 11-6:30
Weekends Sept-Oct 11-5:30
Cost: $10 per boat for a half hour
$15 per boat for an hour
Maximum of three people in a boat.
Website: None
Fun fact: One of the paddle boats is affectionately named the "Cleveland Steamer" in honor of one of the first steamships that chugged down the Snake River.
Why I love it: If the geese annoy you, you can try to run over them.