Tubing the Yampa a summer tradition

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A warm spring could have the tubing season starting and ending earlier than usually this year.

The typical start of the tubing season starts around the July 4th Weekend, but Kent Vertress of Steamboat's Blue Sky West said early snow melt might have the river ready to tube by the middle of June. "The outlook is definitely three weeks ahead of schedule," Vertress said.

The tubing season can stretch into fall on heavy moisture years, but last year it lasted until mid-August.

The tubing companies usually wait until the water flow slows to around 300 to 200 cubic feet per second before sending tubers on the river. In May, the Yampa was running at close to 2,000 cfs.

The commercial tubing companies also have restrictions on when the river is too low to tube. They look at a combination of factors to determine when tubing could be detrimental to the river environment.

Tubing operations close down if the river is below 80 cfs, if the water temperature is above 75 degrees or if the dissolved oxygen levels are less than 6 milligrams per liter for 48 hours.

The Yampa River Management Plan, adopted this spring, will cause some changes to the traditional tubing season. The plan permanently enforces a restriction the city put in place two years ago to only allow commercial tubers in the lower part of the Yampa River.

* No glass allowed * No littering * No Styrofoam coolers * Respect other river uses * Respect private property and obey quiet zone signs * No dogs allowed * No nudity * No alcohol * Avoid standing or walking on riverbed

Those restrictions require companies to put in below the Fifth Street Bridge and most take out at the James Brown Bridge.

Those not tubing with commercial companies technically have free range of the river; but Mike Neumann, with the city's open space and river programs, suggest they too follow the guidelines.

The river management plan recommends a voluntary restriction to not tube above Fetcher Park, which is behind the Mid Valley Shopping Center. Fetcher Park has a parking lot, restroom and picnic area and easy access to the river.

In the past, a popular put in point was Rotary Park, near the U.S. Highway 40 overpass, but Neumann said the plan would like to eliminate tubers floating in that area.

"It really doesn't have the character that lends itself to heavy level use. It is a more pastoral stretch of river and more susceptible to users," Neumann said.

Neumann recommends that tubers park at the Stockbridge Multi-Modal Center on the west side of town and just down the river from the 13th Street Bridge. Neumann said there is a well-defined take-out point. If parking at the Stockbridge Center, Neumann then recommends shuttling tubers to leave only one vehicle at the put in point, where parking is more limited.

Following tubing rules and etiquette is critical. That means everything from not littering and standing on the riverbed to leaving the dog at home.

Companies advise tubers to be especially mindful of respecting landowners along the river and staying quiet in the marked quiet zones next to the Brooklyn, Fish Creek and Dream Island residential areas. n

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