Story by Brittany Sailors, Amanda Antilla
Watershed |wa-ter-shed| noun
1.An area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers
2.An event or period marking a turning point in a course of action
The Boise River is an iconic landmark in the Treasure Valley–a welcome deviation from the desert landscape, and a feature that makes possible the very trees for which the city owes its name.
In the spring, the mountain snowpack begins melting, and the resulting watershed embarks on a lengthy journey through reservoirs, rivers and countless divergences as it passes through our valley. It provides our community with a multitude of recreational opportunities, produces a fertile valley in an otherwise desert environment and draws us in with its contradictory behaviors. Each spring, it unleashes unyielding power before reducing to the peaceful current we see in the latter days of summer.
When last winter’s record snowfall required a sustained release of water from the reservoirs feeding the Boise River, Treasure Valley residents became increasingly aware of the watershed process. With summer’s arrival and triple-digit forecasts, the river clambers with activity as residents appear in droves, searching for a reprieve from the unrelenting heat. While nearly every Boisean finds their way to the banks of the Boise River this time of year, I encourage you to venture off the beaten path to a place known as the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center.
Earlier this summer, I met with Cindy Busche, Watershed Program Manager, to explore the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center and the adjoining River Campus. I discovered I’d inadvertently happened upon a goldmine for parents, teens or anyone looking to broaden their understanding of water resources, while having fun in the process. Free, beautifully designed and entertaining, it should be an absolute must for your summer bucket list.
“We’re all about sharing the Boise River as a resource and teaching kids how to protect and conserve water so that we’ll always have the clean Boise River we know today,” said Cindy. As she escorted me around the facility, it was clear she took water stewardship seriously and enjoyed educating the public. The program is funded by private donors, the City of Boise Public Works and City of Boise Percent for Art. Young and old will appreciate the innovative exhibits placed throughout the campus.
Prior to visiting the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center, I’d more closely associated the term watershed with a popular country music festival. After touring the facility, I now understand the proper definition of the word, in every sense. Cindy explained, “We all have this connection to water where we live, because our actions on land all affect the water quality.” Cindy also shared with me information I was learning for the first time. “All the storm drains in town go to the Boise River,” she continued. In all my years as a Boise resident, this fact slipped my notice. The center educated 22,900 citizens in 2016 and aims to increase that number each year.
Find Your House on the Digital Map
Built in 2008, the center was established to teach water stewardship through interactive exhibits designed to encourage natural resource conservation. The facility contains both indoor and outdoor elements, making it the perfect place to explore any time of year.
In the heat of summer, the River Campus will cool you off while educating you on our valley’s waterways. The two-acre outdoor exhibit features some of Boise’s most intriguing art features, each one representing a component in the watershed process. The interactive experience allows you to control water-flow from a makeshift reservoir, divert streams, build rock dams, water crops and irrigate fields.
Step inside the exhibit hall for an air-conditioned learning opportunity the whole family will enjoy. Dig into a hands-on activity with the augmented reality sandbox, or find your house on a digital map and discover the route your pipes take to the water treatment facility.
Boise WaterShed • BoiseEnvironmentalEducation.org
11818 W Joplin Rd • Boise • 208.608.7300
Hours: Mon – Fri 9:30am – 4pm
Saturdays 10 – 3 through August 19th.
Registration for educational classes and an events calendar can be found on their website above. This summer, keep cool while learning how to conserve and preserve.