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:

River Tubing Safety & Tips **

Can there be anything more fun than floating down a river in a tube? I don’t think so …..

This is part of a series on Tubing:

The danger of snakes
Things you need to take
Choosing the right water for tubing
Repairing a Tube — ‘on-the-fly’

Goin’ Tubin’

Tubing is a wonderful way to spend time; however, it requires some planning 

One of Summer's Great Joys: Riding Down a River on a Tube!


& preparation.   Here are a few safety tips to help get you on the water in record time!


An ideal tubing locale is a shallow, warm body of water with no obstructions.  The idea is for the water to be  moving quickly enough to offer a “moving experience,” but slow enough to keep the tuber safe.

That combination is a difficult one to achieve. First, a tuber has no control over the tube. Using a paddle usually only causes the tube to spin around.

Second, most rivers have parts that are not navigable.  It is important for tubers to know where those places are. Contact the state’s “fish & game” office for a map.

Must Haves

A pair of tennis shoes – to protect feet from sharp rocks, etc.

Sunburn protection – plan to reapply it often

Sunglasses and/or eyeglasses – to be strapped or tied on

Jeans – cut-offs to full length – for sun protection and to protect your backside  from obstructions poking up from the river bed

Rope – 5′ to 8′ long for emergencies, plus knowledge of some quick-release knots

A Hat – Some use a crash helmet (bike riders’ helmets, for example) or at least a baseball cap (for sunburn protection for the head)

Tubing items: a knife, duct tape (temporary tube repairs), patch kit, a small air pump, a valve core remover, extra valve cores and stem caps.

Personal items: set of dry clothes, waterproof matches, a first-aid/snake-bite kit, food and drinks, extra water (Don’t plan on drinking river water; most waterways have some pollution), personal flotation device (also known as a  “Mae West”) and insect repellent.

Possibles: If the water is below 60 degrees, you may want to have a diver’s wet suit ready to protect you from hypothermia (a potentially lethal condition, when the cold water chills the body below a tolerable temperature).

** Added ‘head gear’ info


This blog is a companion to my website:

Published in: on July 17, 2009 at 11:40 pm  Comments (3)  
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Snake Dangers & River Tubing

Is Every Snake Poisonous?

If you see every snake in the US as a potential killer, you’d best confine your tubing adventures to a swimming pool!

Snakes tend to hang out in warm waters; however, they tend to be mostly non-poisonous.*

Suggestions to limit your meeting these “fanged foe.”

  • Don’t bother or tease snakes,
  • Go around snakes, avoiding them where possible.
  • Stay out of shallow water as much as possible
  • Stay away from banks in thick, wooded areas

4 Poisonous Snakes in America

Cottonmouth Water Moccasin Snake — This is the only poisonous American water snake; usually found in southeast parts of the US.

According to Wikipedia, Cottonmouths are ” the world’s only semi-aquatic viper, usually found in or near water, particularly in slow-moving and shallow lakes and streams.”


Cottonmouth - olive, black, brown skin with fangs he's eager to show off!

Cottonmouth - olive, black, brown skin with fangs he's eager to show off!


Most snakes are as afraid of you as you are of them. Not so with the cottonmouth!  He usually stands his ground and even likes to show the white lining of his mouth — just so you know who should run first!

Being bitten by a cottonmouth is going to ruin your day, believe me.   You can avoid this meanie by staying in the middle of rivers and by avoiding banks with shallow water.


Diamond-backed with an Evil Eye!

Diamond-backed with an Evil Eye!

Rattlesnakes — These snakes are available from Canada to Mexico.  They provide more trips to the hospital and unplanned deaths than any other American snake!

Fortunately, they give an intruder advanced warning of their strike — with the rattling sound.

The Eastern Diamondback has more venom in a single bite than any other snake. Caution!


Copperheads have no sense of humor!

Copperheads have no sense of humor!


Copperheads – This snakes venom is potentially lethal. Need I say more?  Oddly enough, he is copper colored!


Coral Snake – Absolutely lethal! Remember the rhyme, “Red and yellow kill a fellow …..”  Watch for the banded yellow, black and red snake.  Others, with similar bands (but not in this order) are non-lethal.


'Red and Yellow Kill a Fellow ...'

'Red and Yellow Kill a Fellow ...'

The good news is that this snake is not looking to cause trouble.


  • Become familiar with the 4 poisonous snakes,
  • Take a snake-bite kit
  • Use it — if needed and
  • Get the victim to a hospital ASAP.

* I used to think that non-poisonous snakes did not bite and poisonous snakes would. That is incorrect; any snake can — and will — bite, if provoked. The venom in non-poisonous snakes just won’t kill you!


All snake photos are courtesy of Wikipedia!


This blog is a companion to my website: