7 Tube Trips You Must Take
It’s summertime, and the living is easy—especially if you’re floating down a scenic river, dipping your toes in the water while the sun warms your face. Check out some of our favorite places to get your tubing on.
Ichetucknee River, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida
The upper part of the crystal-clear Ichetucknee flows for about six miles through Florida's Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Bring your tubes, or rent from nearby vendors. Just make sure they're not more than five feet in diameter, so you won’t get stuck in narrow spots. It takes roughly 90 minutes to navigate this stretch of the river. The spring-fed Ichetucknee has been called Florida’s best tubing river, but there other great choices; find some here. The park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, so keep your eyes on the skies to see woodpeckers, American Kestrels, and more.
Yakima River, Eastern Washington state
The cold Yakima cuts through a scenic canyon between Yakima and Ellensburg, in eastern Washington. A float can last from 90 minutes up to five hours, depending on where you put in and take out. Popular sites to put in include Umtanum and Bighorn. Brave souls will find places to go cliff jumping between Umtanum and Roza; some of the ledges are 30 to 40 feet above the water. Obviously, look before you leap, to be sure the river isn’t too low to jump safely, and that there aren't any logs, rocks or anything else—including people— below you. Since the Yakima winds through a canyon, stay in the middle to avoid overhanging trees and treacherous currents or eddies around the cliffs. In the spring, you’ll see wildflowers and sagebrush in bloom when the canyon widens into a stretch of farmland. Look for deer, bighorn sheep, ospreys and other wildlife.
Middle Loup River, Sandhills region, Nebraska
Ready for something different? Skip the floats and inner tubes, and go “tankin’” down the Middle Loup. Glidden Canoe Rental, in Mullen, rents stock tanks, containers traditionally used to hold drinking water for horses and cattle. Although they're made of steel, the tanks are lightweight enough to float (of course), and they’re impermeable, so water can’t get in and make you sink. Elkhorn River Floats, in Waterloo, rents plastic tanks customized with picnic tables that can seat several people. You can also rent plastic tanks from Get Tanked, an outfitter in Ericson, Nebraska, and float the Cedar River.
Lower Platte River, Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI
Enjoy a lazy float down the Lower Platte River, located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This spot, with its sandy, white beaches, was voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America” in 2011 by viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America. The waters of the Lower Platte are clear and generally shallow (3 feet deep or less), and there are several good places for pulling over to swim or enjoy a picnic. The Upper Platte is more for paddlers than floaters, as the currents there are faster, the turns are tighter, and there are lots of underwater obstructions and overhanging tree branches.
Spokane River, Spokane, WA
Toss your tubes in the water in beautiful, Bavarian-themed Leavenworth for a leisurely, flat-water float. Families bring their kids and even their water-loving dogs to this stretch of the Spokane. You'll pass beaches that invite you to stop for a snack or a swim as you drift for a couple of hours. One important note: tubing season is usually short here. The water has to drop to safe levels, and warm up from the snowmelt, so you probably won't be able to float until late July or August. Then the season usually ends around the end of August, although it could go as late as Labor Day, if the weather permits.
Antietam Creek, MD
History buffs, this one’s for you. Start your float below Burnside Bridge, a Civil War landmark near Sharpsburg, and let Antietam Creek carry you past parts of the Antietam National Battlefield. That's where Confederate forces were defeated in the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. As you continue down river, you’ll bob under stone-arch bridges and a canopy of shady trees. Watch for turtles, blue herons, ducks and other wildlife. Antietam Creek is generally considered a whitewater stream for beginners.
Oconoluftee and Tuckasegee Rivers, Cherokee, NC
Dip your feet in the cold waters coming out of the Great Smoky Mountains when you tube the Oconoluftee or Tuckasegee Rivers. If you put in at Big Cove, on the Oconoluftee, you'll tube past swimming holes and a rope swing at a sandy-bottomed area known as “The Beach.” The river runs through downtown Cherokee and offers a combination of fun rapids and relaxing ripples. It’s known as one of the cleanest, clearest rivers in the Southeast. The Tuckasegee, sometimes called the Tuck, is family-friendly, too, although you’ll find Class I and II rapids in certain sections. Look for outfitters that offer guided float trips, if you need a little help.
From seasoned road tripper Mike Shubic to founder and CEO of RoadTrippers.com James Fisher, meet the panel of advisors behind Travel’s Best Road Trips 2015.