Commercial inner-tubing companies have just begun getting their feet wet.
A year ago on this date, they were immersed in one of the most popular summer activities in Steamboat Springs.
But although Steamboat's tubing companies were putting clients on the river beginning June 17 last year, higher-than-average streamflows pushed that date back this year. And still, several operators here are being cautious about renting tubes.
"We've been making sure people know they're going to get worked a little bit," said Pete Dawson of One Stop Ski Shop.
His shop didn't rent any tubes until Monday, when it sent out a few athletic adults. Dawson said clients need to be prepared to cope with the rapids in the kayak play holes between the Fifth Street and James Brown Soul Center of the Universe bridges.
Pete van de Carr at Back Door Sports agreed with Daw--son's approach. His staff is interviewing potential renters to ensure they are fit enough for the Yampa River.
"We're definitely concerned about high water," van de Carr said. "But everyone's had a good time, so far."
Streamflows in the town stretch are dropping daily, and the tubing situation is fluid. Van de Carr is optimistic that by the upcoming Rainbow Weekend, he'll feel comfortable renting to youngsters 10 and older who are accompanied by parents.
Backdoor rented tubes to 50 people Monday, but the numbers dwindled to four Tuesday and a half-dozen Wednesday.
Van de Carr said he was renting only to adults 18 and older Monday, but since has revised his age limit to 16. Everyone is issued a life jacket and urged to look after one another.
"The buddy system is strongly encouraged," van de Carr said.
Jarett Duty at Bucking Rain--bow Outfitters said his company would wait for lower river levels before renting tubes against its allocation of 25 daily trips.
"It's tube-able now, but we're going to hold off," to avoid the need to manage age limits, Duty said.
The city of Steamboat Springs regulates commercial tubing by ordinance, and different shops are allowed different numbers of trips based on historic usage.
One Stop Ski Shop can send out 28 tubers on weekdays and 60 on weekends. Back Door Sports controls 600 trips on weekends when van de Carr's contract to manage the allocation of Lockhart Tube Rentals is taken into account.
The Yampa was flowing at about 450 cubic feet per second near the Fifth Street Bridge at midday Wednesday. The trend shows a steady decline from almost 900 cfs June 30.
Streamflows mean the float to the James Brown Bridge is full of excitement, but it goes more quickly than it will later in the month, van de Carr said. The brisk current speeds some tubers to the take-out on the city's west side in 30 minutes.
Wednesday's streamflow was about 50 cfs greater than the historic average for the date.