Grab Your Cooler, These Are the Best Rivers to Float in the U.S.
If you’ve never experienced tubing through the cooling waters of a calm, scenic river in the height of summer, this is the year to do it. These aren’t the lazy rivers you’ve seen at resort pools but rather natural waterways with the occasional gentle rapid to propel you downstream. While some of these rivers allow you to bring a cooler packed with food and beverages, some of them have strict rules against it, so be sure to check the local laws before loading your car with eats and drinks. Otherwise, grab a group of friends, rent some inner tubes and prepare for a day of careless floating down one of America’s best lazy rivers.
Russian River, California
Floating this exceptionally lazy river is one of the most popular summer activities in Sonoma County, so go during the week if you want a less crowded experience. The move here is to get in the water at Steelhead Beach and end your trip at Sunset Beach, which is a two-mile journey that takes about four hours to complete.
San Marcos River, Texas
People in Texas love their river tubing, and the San Marcos—located about 30 miles from Austin—is one of the state’s best. For a true lazy river experience, start your trip at Texas State Tubes. The float down this wide, slow stretch of river takes about three hours, and the spring-fed water is always nice and cool.
Toccoa River, Georgia
This tranquil river flows through the North Georgia Mountains, offering some of the best scenery in the state. While most of this two hour float is very still, there are some small rapids to keep things exciting. There are also some deep holes along the route where you can stop for a swim.
Ichetucknee River, Florida
Located in Ichetucknee Springs State Park, floating down this river is like taking a trip through a lush paradise. If you launch or rent tubes from the north end of the park, the float will take about three and a half hours. For a trip that takes half the time, start at the south end of the park at Midpoint launch or Dampier’s Landing.
Brandywine River, Delaware and Pennsylvania
This river (also known as Brandywine Creek) flows southeast between Delaware and Pennsylvania, so you can enjoy its refreshing water from launch points in either state. If you’re departing from Delaware, Wilderness Canoe Trips offers two hour floats from Smith Bridge. On the Penn side, Northbrook Canoe provides two and three hour trips.
Grant River, Wisconsin
Rich woodlands and scenic rock ledges line this Southwest Wisconsin river, which is mostly calm, save for the occasional rapids rush. Because the Grant River is 44 miles long, we suggest planning your lazy day with Y’allbee Tubin or Grant River Tubing Company, which offer options to float for three or five hours.
Shenandoah River, West Virginia and Virginia
This tributary of the Potomac River flows northward through the Great Appalachian Valley and the states of Virginia and West Virginia. But because it’s so close to Maryland and Washington, D.C., you’ll often find residents from the tri-state area tubing as a respite from the summer humidity. Expect areas of calm water and some bumpy but harmless rapids.
Deschutes River, Oregon
Floating down this gorgeous river provides the best of Oregon’s lush scenery along the way. Instead of driving to the entry point at Riverbend Park, head to the Park + Float where you can park your car, rent any needed gear and jump on a shuttle to the river. When you’re finished tubing, a shuttle will pick you up at Drake Park and drive you back to your car.
Current River, Missouri
Anyone making a trip to Missouri’s renowned Ozarks region has to spend an afternoon tubing down the picturesque Current River. Depending on where you’re staying near the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, there are a number of tubing companies that offer trips spanning from three-mile, three hour trips to all-day floats that will carry you eight miles.
Delaware River, New Jersey
Come summertime, this shallow stretch of the Delaware River hits about 80 degrees, which makes for a pleasantly refreshing float. A nearly six-mile trip with Delaware River Tubing will take three to four hours to complete and includes a stop for lunch at the Famous River Hotdog Man.
Niobrara River, Nebraska
The Niobrara is designated a National Scenic River, so you’re in for a day of gorgeous views, waterfalls and diverse wildlife when you float down a stretch of the 76-mile waterway. The nearby campground in Smith Falls State Park is a great home base if you want to spend a few days in nature around your tubing experience.