Yampa River expected to open for tubing on Friday

The 2022 commercial tubing season is expected to open on Friday, June 24, 2022. The river officially opens for commercial tubing once the flow dips below 700 cubic feet per second, which it did on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Yampa River flow at Steamboat Springs dipped below 700 cubic feet per second at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22, putting it within the parameters to open for commercial tubing. Backdoor Sports is opting to let the water get a little lower before offering commercial tubing for the first time this summer on Friday, June 24. 

“Really, at 650 (cfs), people are still flipping,” said Willy Cutler, manager at Backdoor Sports. “There’s a 90% flip rate.”

The other tubing outfitters, Blue Sky West and Switchback Sports, are following Backdoor Sports’ lead, according to Cutler, and will likely open with a similar timeline. 

While the water is still high, only those ages 18 or older can rent tubes from Backdoor. Cutler said once water levels decrease to 500 cfs, people 16 and older may rent tubes. Typically, younger children aren’t allowed to use commercial tubes until the levels are around 300 cfs or so. 

In 2021, the river opened to tubing on June 9, closing just one month later on July 8 due to warm waters. 

The water is still quite cold though, rising to 57.38 degrees on Tuesday, June 21. 

In 2020, the river opened on June 21, while tubing started on July 17 in 2019 following a first-day-of-summer snow storm. In 2018, tubing commenced on June 11. 

Tubing the Yampa
  • 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

Cutler said it’s hard to say what a “typical” tubing season even looks like now. 

“The more years it happens, the harder it is to gauge,” Cutler said. “This year has been great. We got the storms in May, so we were able to keep rafting until (Tuesday). … There’s still a little bit of snow on the mountain so there’s still runoff coming down.”

Cutler said it’s nearly impossible to guess how long the season will last, as it depends on the temperatures and rain, although he’s an exceptional guesser, as he’s won the competition in which people guess when the river will peak the last five years.  

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Best-case scenario, the season could last through late July or even August, but there’s really no way to know. 

Closures will be enacted when the river drops below 85 cfs, exceeds 75 degrees for two or more consecutive days, or if dissolved oxygen levels average less than six milligrams per liter. 

According to the city’s website, commercial tubing is permitted between Fifth Street to the James Brown Bridge. Private tubing is recommended from Fetcher Park to the James Brown Bridge. 

Each outfitter has a limited amount of tubes they can rent each day, so the earlier one gets on the water, the better.

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