Tubers float down the Yampa River in July of last year. This year high water has delayed the start of the tubing season.

File photo

Tubers float down the Yampa River in July of last year. This year high water has delayed the start of the tubing season.

Tubing still restricted on Routt rivers, creeks


— Tubing still is not allowed on any Routt County river or creek, but some people are doing it anyway.

“It’s not the smartest thing to do, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said Tuesday.

Last month, Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins extended regulations on rivers and creeks until July 15.

“We have determined that normal or above-average runoff and/or water levels continue to pose a definite threat of increased incidents of water recreation accidents or injuries within our jurisdiction,” Wiggins wrote in the restriction order.

The partial-use restriction forbids using “single-chambered, air-inflated devices such as the inner tubes and air mattresses typically found on the Yampa River during tubing season.

Officials say they are looking out for the safety of would-be tubers as well as the emergency responders or bystanders who might attempt a rescue should tubers get in trouble.

“You have the potential for a multi-death situation,” Wiggins said Tuesday.

Record snowfall this winter resulted in high levels of runoff and flooding in parts of the county this spring.

“It’s pretty much running bank full, and I can’t imagine how cold it is,” Struble said.

Water levels may have peaked, but rivers and creeks still are running strong.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the Yampa downtown was running at 2,650 cubic feet per second Tuesday afternoon. That is significantly higher than the 559 cfs July 5 average. Commercial tube operators oftentimes are accommodating hundreds of tubers a day by now, but Backdoor Sports owner Peter Van De Carr said the river has to drop to 700 cubic feet per second before he can start inflating tubes. Even at that level, tubing is limited to adults, and they are required to wear a life jacket. Until the rivers drop, Van De Carr and other river operators are staying busy with their rafting operations.

Van De Carr said he has seen people tubing on the Yampa. They had wet suits, helmets and life jackets, he said.

“I applaud them for doing that,” Struble said. “That’s at least some protection.”

Tubing is sort of regulating itself right now because of the cold water, Van De Carr said.

“I’m pretty good in cold water, but I can only stay in for five minutes.”

Van De Carr said he personally has no problem seeing tubers on the river now, but it could create a bad impression.

“My biggest fear is the 12-year-old that sees it and says, ‘That looks like fun. I’m going to do that,’” Van De Carr said.

Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch said deputies this spring have twice contacted groups of people who were going tubing and advised them not to. He said that is the approach the office has taken with enforcing the restriction order.

“Hopefully in the next week or two the water comes down to normal velocities, and we can lift the restrictions,” Wiggins said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email


localboy17 5 years, 9 months ago

I was kayaking about 5 days ago, and saw a family (mom, dad in one raft, two 12 yr old boys in another raft, and two high school aged girls in a third raft) floating from tree house bridge to the library in "single-chambered" rafts with 1 paddle in each raft. About 400 yards down the river the girls were pinned up against a log jam (aka body net) in the middle of the river holding on to the logs and about chest deep in water. I was fully puckered in that situation and I would consider myself an experienced white water kayaker. Luckily we got them off the logs and onto the raft, only to see that they didn't know how to paddle. I towed them back across the river with help from another boater. They could have easily died, as could have their brothers in the other raft (which I found deflated and wrapped around a tree under water about 200 yards upstream from the iron horse train bridge).

Bottom line is that not only is it a smart decision to ban commercial tubing from the river right now, REGARDLESS of what gear they are wearing, but it would be wise to put a reminder in the paper about it, AND make every store that is selling these flimsy rafts and tubes (wal-mart, sports authority, christy sports, etc) put a sign in front of these products reminding people of the high water situation. It is a miracle that no one died this weekend in the river. I know we want to be a "fun" tourist town for people to vacation to, but I would rather have people upset that they didn't get to float the river, than have them fly or drive back home minus one family member.


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