POCATELLO — A city official has organized a public celebration to demonstrate the untapped recreational resource locals have within their own community in the Portneuf River.
The inaugural Poky Portneuf Float is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. July 18 at Centennial Park and will include live music, food trucks, float contests, prizes and booths.
Organizer Hannah Sanger, the city’s science and environment division manager, also expects the river to be bustling with people in float tubes, kayaks and paddle boards.
City shuttles, pulling trailers to haul watercraft, will be provided from the start of the event through 9 p.m., transporting participants for a half-mile float from Taysom Rotary Park to Centennial Park or a 2.5-mile float beginning at Edson Fichter Nature Area.
For comparison, a half-mile is the same length as the popular Portneuf float through Lava Hot Springs, though the Pocatello stretch will be much more placid.
“We were wondering why people weren’t using (the river), and we heard it’s a lovely float,” Sanger said. “We thought the best way to get the community down to the river would be to have an event.”
The city will develop three rudimentary access points for the occasion, where the public will carry watercraft to the bank via safe pathways and will launch or put out from a mowed area with stable footing. Sanger said sites were chosen based on availability of parking, the speed of passing traffic and the ease of access to the river.
Sanger anticipates watercraft will become a common sight in the Portneuf reach throughout the summer, after residents discover the new access points.
“There’s not a lot of public property along the Portneuf River,” Sanger said. “We wanted to define those spots where you can access the river.”
Sanger said promoting the river for floating also furthers a requirement of the city’s stormwater permits to educate the public about the importance of maintaining water quality and conduct outreach efforts. Recent testing by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality at Edson Fichter confirmed the Portneuf remains safe for swimming and recreation, she added.
Planning of the event started three months ago. Members of a Poky Portneuf Float Committee — which includes river enthusiasts with the Portneuf Watershed partnership and officials with the DEQ, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — have helped evaluate potential access points.
This fall and next summer, Sanger said the city plans to use grant money to make the access points permanent, which may include firming up banks to prevent erosion and installing handrails. A third access point is planned on BLM ground south of Fort Hall Mine Road, which would provide the public access to a 7.5-mile float to Centennial Park. A parking lot will be built for that access point.
Sanger said the upcoming event should provide validate whether or not the access points are in the ideal locations before they’re made permanent. The city allocated $1,000 in funds to cover shuttles and park reservation fees, and Sanger and her group of volunteers have been soliciting additional prize and monetary donations.
She anticipates Poky Portneuf Float will become an annual civic event. The 7.5-mile float area passes through the reach of river protected by earthen levees, before the river enters concrete channels. It’s generally open and exposed, with views of Scout Mountain and willows and shrubs along the banks.
“It is awesome to be on the water in the summer, and this is right here in our own backyard,” Sanger said.
The water level should be a couple of feet deep on the day of the public float.