How to tube like a pro in Steamboat Springs |

How to tube like a pro in Steamboat Springs

Scott Franz

A group of tubers and a stand-up paddleboarder float the Yampa River south of downtown Steamboat Springs Friday.

A giant pyramid of inflatable tube boxes stacked almost to the ceiling of the local Walmart is an unmistakable sign tubing season is fast approaching on the Yampa River.

The season, which begins for some tubers when the river dips below 700 cubic feet per second, could start as soon as Saturday but may not kick off until later in the weekend or next week.

The river was flowing around 760 cfs on Friday afternoon. Some companies will start to rent out tubes when the river drops below 700 cfs.

But even when the river hovers below that flow, it can still be dangerous, and some outfitters will only rent to adults until the flow decreases more.

Tubers who do decide to get in the river this early in the summer should exercise caution, as there will be more rapids and the water will be colder than it is in late summer.

As thousands of people prepare to lay back and enjoy the ride down the river, local river advocates are again sharing tips that will help keep the river clean, and enjoyable, for all users.

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And with a staff of new city river rangers patrolling the put-ins this summer, it will be more likely than ever rule breakers will be noticed.

Here's our guide on how to tube like a pro in Steamboat.

Get a better tube

You get what you pay for, Friends of the Yampa President Charlie Preston-Townsend said Thursday.

If you buy that $11 tube at a local store, chances are it will ride like an $11 tube, and it could end up not making the entire journey and becoming unwanted trash.

Townsend highly recommends that visitors use one of the three commercial tubing operators in downtown Steamboat to get outfitted.

A ride with any of them costs $20, and the companies also make sure tubers are briefed so that they have a safe, and responsible, time on the river.

Other bonuses include transportation and assurances that you won't have to fight for parking at popular river put-ins.
If you do decide to go on your own, consider spending a little more on a tube that has a better prospect of lasting more than just one trip.

Townsend said some local stores also sell tube covers that will decrease the chances of a tube popping.

Know where to put in

The city's Yampa River Management Plan suggests private tubers should put in at Fetcher Pond near Walgreens and get out at the Steamboat Springs Community Center downstream of downtown.

Commercial tubing operations start downtown and end at the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge. Many tubers take the bus back to their cars after their adventure. Deflate your tubes before you get to the bus stop, and give yourself some time to dry off before riding as a courtesy to other riders.

Keep the glass at home

Perhaps one of the greatest sins on the Yampa is bringing a glass bottle on a float.

Thousands of people will be using the river this summer, and do you really want to be the jerk responsible for sharp shards of glass in the river that could hurt fisherman, fellow tubers and children playing in the water?

City rules also prohibit alcohol on the river.

Don't tether

It's tempting to tether a bunch of tubes together for a big "party float" with friends. But Preston-Townsend says this is a rookie mistake.

"That always results in tragedy and chaos," he said. "It seems like a great idea, but it's not. Respect other users. Don't be belligerent. Don't be loud when you pass the fisherman.

Don't be a litterbug

Tubers and other river users have for years been a source of litter in the river.

On volunteer cleanup days, dozens of flip-flops, beer cans, hats, shirts and other random items are plucked from the water.

You can avoid being a litterbug by not wearing flip-flops and loose clothing in the river. And any hats, sunglasses, cans or other items can easily become lost in rapids.

Check the weather

Afternoon thunderstorms are common on summer days in the Yampa Valley. Check the forecast ahead of time and don't plan on starting if storms and lightning threaten.

It's hard to outrun any weather on a tube.

Be respectful

The Yampa River is a local treasure that is used by many people.

If you decide to hop on a tube, keep a good distance from fly-fisherman and respect other river users.

"Don't be belligerent, and don't be loud when you pass the fisherman," Preston-Townsend said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.