A group of tubers heads to the Yampa River from the parking lot near Rotary Park at U.S. Highway 40 and Mount Werner Circle. The city of Steamboat Springs is asking tubers to enter the water downriver from Fetcher Park. The Yampa River Management Plan reserved the portion of the river upstream of Fetcher Park for other uses including fishing, paddling and wildlife viewing.

Photo by John F. Russell

A group of tubers heads to the Yampa River from the parking lot near Rotary Park at U.S. Highway 40 and Mount Werner Circle. The city of Steamboat Springs is asking tubers to enter the water downriver from Fetcher Park. The Yampa River Management Plan reserved the portion of the river upstream of Fetcher Park for other uses including fishing, paddling and wildlife viewing.

Tubers inundate wildlife area

Colorado Division of Wildlife refrains from issuing tickets


— The public's enthusiasm for floating the Yampa River on innertubes caught the Colorado Division of Wildlife by surprise during the holiday weekend.

"It was a circus out there," DOW area manager Jim Haskins said. "Our parking lots at the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area were overflowing. I was discouraged this weekend. I think we need to take a more aggressive posture to this."

The wildlife area is about two miles upstream from city limits. Haskins and his district wildlife managers never had seen it full of people with brightly colored tubes launching for a float all the way into downtown Steamboat Springs.

Most of the tubers arriving at the wildlife area parking lots were unaware that they were required to have a $10 habitat stamp to park there. There also is a requirement that all watercraft launched there be used for fishing only, Haskins said. Some of the tubers listened to explanations from his officers and launched anyway as soon as the officers left one lot for another.

Haskins said the officers did not issues tickets because the numbers would have been overwhelming. However, they tentatively plan to be in place at the parking lots this weekend in time to turn people away if they don't conform to the rules.

Flows in the Yampa River need to drop about 12 percent from the 811 cubic feet per second recorded Monday afternoon before Steamboat's commercial tubing fleet launches its 2008 season. But that didn't stop a wave of holiday vacationers and area residents from floating the Yampa during the long July 4 holiday weekend.

The median streamflow for July 7 is 300 cfs, and the commercial tubing outfitters are mindful of the inherent danger right now.

"It's irresponsible for me to let people go down above 700 cfs," said Pete Van De Carr, owner of Backdoors Sports in downtown Steamboat said. "It was too high for us to even consider it."

Sean Battiste at One Stop Ski Shop said the business owned by John Kole is following Van De Carr's lead on the safety threshold.

The city of Steamboat Springs regulates the volume of commercial tubing in the town stretch of the Yampa by permit. However, Craig Robinson of the Department of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services said the city does not dictate a streamflow level where commercial tubing can begin.

Although One Stop would not rent tubes during the weekend, the shop was selling them at retail.

One Stop sold about 40 tubes during the weekend, Battiste estimated, with the $22 Ameri-Sport model being the most popular. It has handles and a covered bottom. One Stop rents personal flotation devices for $2 a day.

"We recommend that everyone have them, but some just won't have it," Battiste said.

Tubers also purchased tubes and other flotation devices from discount and sporting goods stores.

The city used a portion of its weekly advertisement, The City Page, in the Steamboat Today newspaper Monday to ask for the public's cooperation in refraining from tubing anywhere upstream from Fetcher Park. Robinson said the Yampa River Management Plan adopted by City Council has recommended reserving the upstream stretch for less impactful recreation including wildlife viewing, paddling (kayaks and rafts) and fishing. However, he acknowledged the city does not have the regulatory authority to prevent people from tubing upstream.

Haskins said he was under the impression that a mutual agreement with the city would preclude tubing above the Fifth Street Bridge. The city imposes that restriction on commercial tubing. Haskins said the Division of Wildlife has a fishing easement in place just downstream from Fetcher Park and the Fish Creek confluence.

"Close to $1 million has been invested in habitat improvement in this fishery," Haskins said. "We wish they'd give us a stretch of the river where we can invest in these improvements without the threat of being overwhelmed by other uses."

The City Page suggests tubers take advantage of abundant parking at Howelsen Park in order to access the river. Tubers could, for example, park at the Howelsen Ice Arena or Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, cross the Fifth Street Bridge and launch at Lions' Club Park.

The streamflow in the Yampa has dropped by 100 cfs each of the last three days, and Van De Carr hopes to be renting tubes for the coming Rainbow Weekend (July 12 and 13). However, he said the past weekend presented a dilemma.

As a member of the citizen's advisory committee that helped put the Yampa River Management Plan together, he said he's mindful of the need to protect the resource. However, when people came into his shop last weekend and inquired about the safest place to go tubing, it was hard for him to send them through the kayak play holes in downtown.

"The downstream stretch was thumping them," Van De Carr said.


bluesage 8 years, 9 months ago

Floating the river was a joke last weekend. Why is the river promoted as an amusement ride not to be missed when visiting Steamboat. I was appalled when a drunk group of teenagers asked to trade a paddle for a beer as they had none, nor life jackets neither. One could walk from one side of the river to the other and not get wet on the sheer number of tubes. The trash in the river from this activity is another story the Pilot needs to investigate.


justbecause 8 years, 9 months ago

i was embarassed and appalled by the local teenagers hanging out at C hole after their float on friday. obviously drunk, they argued and yelled at eachother in a display of complete disrespect for the rest of the people enjoying the area. if you get out and are having some problems because your girlfriend left you and your deflated innertube to find your own ride home, then ask one of you buddies for a ride! don't sit there and yell and whine and drop F-bombs for anyone within 50 yards to hear. it's not our problem!!


BoatMaster 8 years, 9 months ago

I don't want to sound like a fud but the actions of the drunk participants is getting a little out of hand.

I listened to a drunk kid yell at a few Lady Tourists in their 45 plus age range propositioning them as a younger man. The ladies of course left disgusted and I was also. These kids could barely walk they were so hammered.

Lets have fun out there, but the rampent drunkeness should be a little milder or law enforcement will take over.


aristocat 8 years, 9 months ago

If LE is getting called for the out of control ducks, raccoons, bears and (the always popular), dog, why are they not getting calls on the drunken teens at large?


raver 8 years, 9 months ago

TWI-tubing while intoxicated.TCTWI-triple crowners tubing while intoxicated.TTWI-tourists tubing while intoxicated.same old year after year!


SilverSpoon 8 years, 9 months ago

Sounds like a new job for ACET. We should fill the new courthouse with intoxicated tubers.

I don't know what the jokers are thinking: coming to this town and floating the river. Not to mention the confused locals who don't own a raft or a kayak? How can they float the river too. The city needs to keep on working with the chamber on how to UN-discover steamboat. I really think that when construction ends, and people can't afford gas, steamboat will go back to the good ol' days. Just another ranching town located next to a coal mine.


raver 8 years, 9 months ago

LTLTWI-long time local tubing while intoxicated.


wissbecklarry 8 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the picture. When I read the headline I expected to read about some idiot planting potatos in the wildlife area. OGSFDTMNYTCWP (Old Guy Suffering from doing too many New York Times Crossword Puzzles.)


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