Replanting the Boise River

A river is more than a body of water; it’s a complex ecosystem of wetland and riparian vegetation, aquatic vegetation and organisms, and stream channel shape, composition and hydrology. A vibrant river, full of clean water and alive with native birds and wildlife, results when each component is healthy and performing its natural function.

Garden City residents, many of whom live in the Boise River’s floodplain, have an opportunity to enhance the function of the riparian vegetation following this year’s prolonged high flows. While native plants survived the inundation, turf, invasive weeds and non-native plants were killed in many locations leaving open space. By planting native plants adapted to periods of inundation, residents will reduce the reestablishment of invasive weeds, create wildlife habitat and improve water quality. In addition, native plants like rosewood, black cottonwood and willows, anchor the riverbank. Take a walk along Garden City’s nature path and it’s easy to see how soil was eroded from areas without native vegetation.

Garden City has a list of native species suited to the riparian area, many of which are available at local nurseries.  Homeowners should consult with experts to determine the appropriate plants for their location and the ideal time for planting.  Some plants may require watering while the roots get established.

Many native plants, including arguably the most important, the black cottonwood, will colonize the open spaces with a little help from residents. While Garden City ordinance strictly prohibits the removal or alteration of native species along the river, removal of invasive weeds is allowed. Removing weeds will give cottonwood seedlings and other natives a competitive edge. Watering may also be necessary during the hot summer months. The Boise River Enhancement Network,,  can provide training to neighborhood associations interested in learning how to identify and properly remove invasive plants.

This year’s high flows performed a priceless service by killing invasive plants. Now’s the time for Garden City residents to capitalize on the opportunity to enhance riparian vegetation and protect our beloved Boise River.


For a more information on native plants, click on Idaho Native Plant Society

For a list of native plants, click here:  Native Plant Resources