The Wood! The Wood!

Linda Burton posting from Boise, Idaho – Is that a streaker? I blinked as what appeared to be a naked man went running past, just across the hedge. Against a backdrop thick with trees, his chest was bare, but then I saw that he was wearing shorts, it was a jogging path. Next two discreetly burkhaed women came in view, purses slung on shoulders, chatting as they strolled along. And then a bike went whizzing by, the biker’s helmet iridescent blue, a flash. “Is that the river over there?” I asked, as my server set the seafood quiche in front of me. “Oh yes, right there, I can see it through the trees.” I stood myself, and sure enough, it was not a hundred feet away, and moving fast. Well I’ll be darned, the famous Boise River, and the famous trees. The cottonwoods.

I brushed the drifting cotton wisps from off my quiche, they clung like clouds on the umbrella tops. Over there a little girl was dancing on the stone, pretending ballet-in-the-snow while mom and grandma ate dessert, relaxed. I’m sitting on the patio of the Cottonwood Grille, an accidental stop, I simply needed lunch. Little did I know I would be riverside, underneath the cottonwoods. I’m pleased.

“Les Bois! Les Bois!” Everything you read about the history of Boise, Idaho begins with the story of the French Canadian fur trappers in the early 1800’s and their ecstatic cry when (reputedly) they came over the mountains and saw the lush green valley down below. Perhaps their joy can be explained by the notion in their head that fresh water lay ahead, or shelter, (or maybe it signaled the possibility of animals with fur that they could trap). What they thought is not where the story leads however. Translation comes next. “The wood! The wood!” Therein lie the bragging rights today, the point of pride in this City of Trees; it’s how the river got its name (eventually), the city too. The river supports the trees, the trees enhance the city, a joint effort for a really good way of life. Les Bois! The Wood! 

The Boise River is a fast-moving stretch of water beginning in the Sawtooths and headed for the Snake, 102 miles in length. The watershed encompasses about 4,100 square miles of diverse habitat – alpine canyons, forest, rangeland, farm land, and urban area. I’m looking at that urban stretch, the Boise Greenbelt; I’m sitting beside its 25-mile bike and pedestrian path. You might see great blue heron when you are riverside, you might see Canada geese; for sure you will see people, as I see today. Along the Greenbelt, often called the “river of jewels,” are over 850 acres of parks and natural areas. Some of the most frequently used are Ann Morrison Park (153 acres), Julia Davis Park (89 acres), Kathryn Albertson Park (41 acres), and Municipal Park (28 acres); all offering different types of recreation.

But back to The Wood. The black cottonwood is the largest tree native to the valley, and most likely the tree that prompted that happy cry so long ago. Alders are native too, but in recent times city planners have been handpicking trees for the benefits they provide, such as cleaner air, in a valley prone to temperature inversions that trap pollutants in. There are (approximately) 23,262 publicly managed street trees in Boise; maple, locust, ash, sycamore, pear, sweetgum, and crabapple. Boise’s greenscape is one of its highest priorities, but trees along the Greenbelt are allowed to grow as they would grow. Undisturbed, they provide shade for fish, homes for wildlife, pleasure for city life, and a perfect backdrop on an ordinary day for an extraordinary lunch.

City of Boise Park Information

The Cottonwood Grille