Tubing the Yampa River

A great way to spend a summer afternoon



The Yampa River continues to attract those people filling the river to help with cool down, wading, tubing, sunning and just playing Monday near the 13th Street Bridge.

Tubing rules

Tubing Rules and Etiquette

- No glass allowed

- No littering

- No Styrofoam coolers

- Respect other river users

- Respect private property and obey quiet zone signs

- No dogs allowed

- No nudity

- No alcohol

- Avoid standing or walking on riverbed

Steamboat Springs Community Service Officers will enforce these rules and may cite individuals or companies whose customers are found in violation.

— Inner tubes dot the Yampa River nearly all summer, and if you have never jumped in to try tubing, now is your chance.

Although the activity looks next to effortless, there are some important rules and guidelines to follow while taking a relaxing float through downtown Steamboat Springs.

Tubers need to pay attention to the city's established rules, which include no glass, littering, alcohol or dogs. Steamboat has community service officers who enforce these rules and may cite individuals or companies whose customers are found in violation.

Peter Van De Carr, owner of Backdoor Sports at Ninth Street and Yampa Avenue - an outdoor store that rents floatable tubes - has friendly advice about when people should start tubing.

"The biggest thing for people to know is that the earlier in the day, the better chance you are going to have a great time," he said.

He recommends that people go before noon, which would allow them to avoid any afternoon thunderstorms or crowds.

Recently, the city has been working with river users to create a Yampa River Management Plan. Adopted in 2004, 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.

Those restrictions require four commercial companies that rent tubes to customers to put in tubers below the Fifth Street Bridge and take them out at the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge.

Tubers can rent tubes from commercial companies, who then provide a shuttle back from the James Brown Bridge. Van De Carr rents tubes for $15. The float is about 45 minutes to an hour, he said. The trip takes tubers through kayaking holes and other river features the city has put in place.

"It's a good family length, especially for the little guys," he said.

Tubers can purchase their inner tubes and rafts at area retail and auto stores, but supplies can run out during busy weekends.

Those not tubing with commercial companies technically have free range of the river; but the city suggests they too follow 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.

Vehicles parked in the parking areas of Fetcher, Rotary or Lions parks or in the Bud Werner Memorial Library and community center parking lots cannot be left unattended for more than two hours between 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The city recommends that tubers use the Howelsen Hill parking lots.

The city also has recommended that tubers park at the Stock Bridge Transit Center on the west side of town and just down the river from the 13th Street Bridge. The area has a well-defined take-out point. If parking at the Stock Bridge center, tubers can easily shuttle by bus to the take-in points, where parking is more limited.

Following tubing rules and etiquette is critical. That means not littering and leaving the dog at home.

Companies advise tubers to respect landowners along the river and to stay quiet in the marked quiet zones next to the Brooklyn, Fish Creek and Dream Island residential areas.

The tubing companies usually wait until the water flow lowers to about 300 to 200 cubic feet per second before sending tubers on the river. 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.

Van De Carr warns that although the river looks lazy and meandering, it is a natural river with an unpredictable flow.

"It's an active, moving river. It has hazards. People ask me: 'Is it safe?' Well, no. It isn't safe. It isn't a Disneyland ride. There are no guarantees," he said.

For that reason Van De Carr suggests people wear life jackets or helmets, especially children or those who are not good swimmers.

If tubing is good in Steamboat, then tubing is likely good farther west on the Yampa, too.

There is no store that rents tubes in Craig, but Ned Miller, with the Sportman's Information Center in Craig, said that's no reason not to jump in.

Miller said tubing on the Yampa River is popular in Moffat County as well as Routt.

The best places to access the river in Craig are near the Loudy-Simpson Park or off the old and new golf course roads, he said.

Craig is also surrounded by a slew of lakes, ponds and reservoirs that can make for perfect places to float around in a tube.

Miller warned that the Elkhead River and its reservoir are closed this season because officials are working to raise the river's level by 21 feet. People will not be able to access Elkhead waters until the project is complete this year.


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