Another item finally ticked off the bucket list! I could never imagine grabbing a rubber swim ring and floating down a British river, I just always associate them with being a bit grubby and full of rats and shopping trolleys (carts)! But when you’re in America, 1000 miles away from the nearest ocean, beggars can’t be choosers!
You may have seen pictures of river tubing in places like South East Asia…they are like bar crawls, surely the 2 don’t really mix?! It’s a similar story in America, but not quite so extreme. You grab a swim ring…complete with a built in cup hole and a back rest and then tie yourself to a ‘cooler carrier’ which looks like a mini blow up boat!
I visited Riverview Ridge Campgrounds and Recreation just outside of Cascade in East Iowa. This location is along the North Fork Maquoketa River. Tube hire was $15 or $5 if you took your own and the cooler carriers were $7.
The trip started at the top of the campground and lasted for around 2 hours. The journey is calm and relaxing so don’t expect white water rafting!! The night before my trip, it rained quite heavily, this churned up the river, making it a bit brown and muddy but without the rain I think we would have struggled, we bottomed out several times on the river bed as it was never more than around knee deep! You can check out my video footage below to get a feeling of the speed…
Other than ‘running aground’, the only other challenge we faced was the odd rogue tree, but me being me found it hilarious every time the big group of tied together tubes headed straight for the twigs!
Being overcast, the weather was pretty perfect. On a hot, sunny day I think you would get completely fried alive! The others in the group thought the water was quite chilly, but being used to the FREEZING UK coast line I found the water temperature quite comfortable! I’m glad I wore my rash guard just to protect myself in case the sun did come out.
Along the route, we stopped at 2 sand bars, the first one nearest the camp had a porta potty…this was the only one though so if you need to go further along in the trip you’ll be squatting in the bushes! Not only did we take along coolers full of drink cans, but we packed them with snacks too (I got to try Puppy Chow!). I would suggest water shoes for these stops, I took flip flops but I found that they sunk in the mud. For those that had water shoes, they found that when they wore them in the river, they’d fill up with stones, but then they were more comfortable when it came to the rest stops! I usually just stayed on my ring during these stops…I found that the cooler carrier was heavy enough to act as a good enough anchor on the sand bar to stop me from floating away!
The end of the route is marked by an orange and white post where the river narrows. Here we were picked up 5 at a time by a Kubota that took us along the trail through the woods, where we could then load onto a bigger trailer towed by a tractor to go back to the campground! The staff at the campground loaded all the hired tubes into a separate trailer but this does mean that any ‘personal’ tubes and all the coolers had to be taken with you on the Kubota. Essentially you just pay for the ride back to camp!
I was a little disappointed when the trip was over, I could have easily spent another couple of hours floating along! There’s another longer route in Iowa so I’ve got my eye on that one next! There were also kayakers along the same stretch of river, unfortunately us being such a big group, we literally took up the whole width of the river so they had to squeeze around us as we didn’t exactly have much control without a paddle!
Have you been river tubing before? Is it something you’d like to try?