Choosing the Right Water for River Tubing

This is part of a series on River Tubing:

  • The danger of snakes and river tubing
  • Things you need to take river tubing
  • Choosing the right water for river tubing

The Goal of River Tubing


The Joy of River Tubing!

The Joy of River Tubing!


The goal of river tubing, as practiced by most Americans,  is to hop on a tube and float down a meandering river, enjoying the scenery.

Unfortunately, some consider this too tame a pursuit — and search for whitewater adventures. River tubing and whitewater don’t mix well.

The Grim Story

Tubers watch groups of folks in canoes and kayaks having fun in rivers and think they can too.  There are a couple of problems with this idea.

First, the folks in canoes and kayaks work the river together. They watch out for each other and assist, as needed.

Tubers, in contrast, cannot usually come to another person’s assistance because they have absolutely no control over their tube!  If they have a paddle, it usually only causes the tube to spin around. Often the tube tips over.

The body of the watercraft protects the adventurers inside. You only have to see the mangled body of a tuber that has been separated from his tube or raft — to understand the difference.

When a river tubist is thrown from his tube, there is nothing between his body and the hard rocks that he’s likely to “meet” on the way down the rapids — or over a waterfall!  Finding a person alive after such a beating in whitewater is the exception, not the rule!

Protecting Yourself

Verne  Huser, author of River Running (Henry Regnery Co., Chicago, 1977), urges all tubers to use a personal flotation device in any waters.

“Many river drownings occur because someone in the water … catches a foot or leg in an underwater crack or beneath a … log or something that holds the person down while the river continues to play against the person. It may be impossible for the person to hold his head above water against the force of the water.”

Another protection can be a wet suit. Many rivers have deep pools or are fed by springs.  The water temperature can range between 45 and 50 degrees.

The body loses heat so rapidly that hypothermia takes over and a person can die.  Cold rivers call for a wet suit for each tuber!

Water           Loss of Ability to                    Loss of                       Expect to

Temp          Perform Useful Work          Consciousness__Survive___

50 degr. *under 15 mins.                   under 60 mins.           1-3 hours

40 degr.         under 7.5 mins.                   under 30 mins.           30-90 mins

32 degr.          under 5 mins.                       under 5 mins.             15-45 mins.

This graph was adapted from p. 13, Tubing, by Whit Perry (Greatlakes Living Press, Matteson, Il., 1977).


This blog is a companion to my website:


One Comment

  1. […] 3) Choosing the Right Water for River Tubing […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: