River Tubing: Ultimate Summer Fun on the Spokane and Wenatchee Rivers

Rivers beckon when the dry heat of summer begins to drain your energy. Tubing a river is the quintessential relaxing activity – simply sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Play it safe, though. A well-fitting, properly-adjusted Coast Guard-approved Type III-V personal flotation device (PFD) should be worn by everyone tubing on moving water, regardless of age. While not a Washington State law, it is one in Spokane County – the county’s Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol Unit issues citations to violators.

Spokane River: Peaceful Valley to TJ Meenach

During the low flow season, a few flat-water and Class I rapid sections of the Spokane River can be found between established put-in and take-out locations. When providing your own equipment and shuttle transportation, one of the more popular tube-worthy stretches is from near the Sandifur Bridge in the Peaceful Valley neighborhood – downriver of the Monroe Street Dam – to the TJ Meenach Bridge. A tranquil, two-hour float here offers some of the most scenic views from the river as well as the opportunity for wildlife sightings.

For a truly carefree float on this river stretch, let FLOW Adventures do the work for you. For $20, this Spokane-based outfitter provides you with a rental tube and PFD as well as shuttle service from the TJ Meenach Bridge to the put-in spot at the Sandifur Bridge. Starting daily from July 6 through September (as conditions permit), a shuttle departs hourly from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 pm. For more information, visit www.flow-adventures.com. Tubing reservations are required on weekends by calling 509-242-8699.

Photo courtesy of Flow Adventures
Photo courtesy of Flow Adventures

Upper Spokane River

Closer to Idaho, do-it-yourself tubers can find Class I rapids during the summer from Stateline to Harvard Road (a 3.5 mile stretch). In Spokane Valley, Mirabeau to Plante’s Ferry (1 mile) and Plante’s Ferry to Boulder Beach (4.5 miles) provide flat-water sections with a few minor rapids.

For more specific descriptions of these and other sections of the Spokane River, including precautions to be aware of, visit www.spokaneriver.net/watertrail/category/rafting-sections.

You can check the river’s current discharge level (water flow) conditions before you set out. Calculated by cubic feet per second (cfs), this information is found online at waterdata.usgs.gov – use the search tools to search by state and find the Spokane River.

Wenatchee River

Another popular tubing river is the Wenatchee River on the east slope of the Washington Cascades, with Class I sections near the tourist town of Leavenworth.

Local outfitters provide rental equipment and tubing shuttle services during July and August; however, this summer, it’s expected that tubing services will begin June 26.

Leavenworth Outdoor Center’s tubing launch point is upriver from its downtown office; they even rent tubes for dogs. Excursions with River Rider takes about two hours to float the 1.5 miles between Leavenworth and Peshastin. Another outfitter is Osprey Rafting, which provides shuttle service from its take-out point on Blackbird Island.

If you want to do-it-yourself with your own gear, you can float the route that many locals do. Put in at Blackbird Island – following trails accessible only by foot or bike – or start even further upriver at Enchantment Park, which connects to the island by bridge. Take out at Waterfront Park, and walk the paved and dirt trails back to the beginning for another round if you want. For more information about river tubing near Leavenworth, visit leavenworth.org/experience/river-tubing.

River Tubing Safety

Pay attention to these safety precautions from King County’s river safety webpage when planning your float trip: always tell someone your route and when and where you expect to put in and take out; have a back-up plan for emergency contact if your trip is cut short; never float a river alone; bring along at least one paddle for your group, in case a rescue is needed; and bring along a dry bag with food, water and warm clothes. Wear a PFD. Washington rivers are cold, and adults wearing a PFD can more safely assist a child in distress. It’s generally recommended that only children age five and older go river tubing, depending on the river conditions and a child’s abilities. A parent should always remain within arm’s length of a child. Take plenty of drinking water with you. Stay hydrated and wear sunblock – tubing is slow, and you’ll be parched and sunburned if you don’t plan ahead. //

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