Tubing season starts 3 weeks earlier than last year
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With snow melt subsiding, the Yampa River flow has slowed down enough to allow for the start of tubing season. The first day the river flow dropped below 700 cubic feet per second was on Sunday, June 21, which prompted Backdoor Sports in downtown Steamboat Springs to open its commercial tubing operations the next day.
As of Tuesday morning, the river had dropped to 500 cfs but is still high enough to warrant an age requirement for tube rentals. In order to enjoy the rapids, which warmed to 61 degrees Monday evening, tube renters must be 18 or older. As the flow rate drops, so will the age minimum.
With health orders still in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other requirements for tubers. The shuttle, which runs from the takeout point at the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge back to Backdoor Sports, is operating at half capacity. While on the shuttle and at the window at Backdoor Sports, customers must wear a mask; however, a mask isn’t required on the water.
With the river still moving swiftly, there are plenty of spots that may get a little hairy for the first-time tuber.
“We always tell people to lean into the rocks and lean into the rapids,” Ruthie Gorrell, an employee at Backdoor Sports, said. “Otherwise, they’ll flip over. A lot of people come back telling us that they flipped.”
Tubers should bring a fanny pack or waterproof container to carry their masks and belongings. Water shoes are also required by Backdoor Sports, while flip flops are not allowed. The river will quickly carry any dropped belongings, such as sunglasses, far out of reach.
Backdoor Sports recommends getting on the river before noon to avoid afternoon storms and ensure tubes have not been sold out. Every outfitter in Steamboat Springs has a limit on the number of tubes they can put in the river each day.
- Dogs are allowed on the river, as long as they are on a leash.
- Life jackets, flotation devices and footwear that will not come off in water are the recommended.
- No alcohol and no glass allowed.
- No bathing or diapers allowed in the river.
- Follow Leave No Trace guidelines.
- No styrofoam coolers allowed.
- Respect other river users such as anglers, kayakers and waders.
- Respect private property.
Source: City of Steamboat Springs
This time last year, the Yampa was ripping along at around 3,400 cfs due to a snowstorm on the first day of summer. Commercial tubing wasn’t available until mid-July in 2019, but the year before, the first tubes were seen June 11.
Having tubing season start earlier is a blessing for tubing outfitters after a spring that saw little to no business.
“This time last year, I think we were still doing raft trips,” Gorrell said. “Tubing definitely brings in a lot more business than anything else.”
A summer snowstorm or heavy rainfall could push the flow rate over 700 again, but as soon as it dips into the 600s, tubing will return. The river will close to all activities when it drops below 85 cfs.
Other things that could temporarily halt tubing would be a water temperature above 75 degrees or a low dissolved oxygen level. These restrictions are in place to maintain the environmental integrity of the river.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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