Before you even inflate your tubes, it is important that you know the river. Asking a local or someone
that has just floated the river can give you invaluable information that you may not have thought to look
up or check. They often know where the majority of tubers float, are aware of current river levels, and
know if there are any new potential hazards like a downed tree.
Things to consider
Drop in point - Where is a safe place to enter the river that is easily accessible? It's possible to enter
a river from anywhere, but if the river bank is too steep it can be hard to get gear and tubes down to the
water. If the bank is narrow it is hard to organize a large group of people for a float.
Exit point- Are there any landmarks visible from the river to help alert you to the river exit? Bridges
are great for this if they exist, otherwise a boat ramp or building will do.
Parking - Where should you park cars? How are people getting to the drop in point and how are
they getting back to their cars? Is a parking pass required?
Potential hazards - Is there a fork in the river? Is there a downed tree across the river? Some
potential hazards are constant, like a fork in the river, while others change from one trip to the next,
such as fallen trees.
River flow rate - Is the water level safe for floating? If the level is too low, there could be exposed
rocks that would not normally be a problem. The faster the river is flowing the less time you will have to
react to hazards or to paddle for the exit. Flow data for most US rivers can be found on the U.S.
Geological Survey website.
Local laws - Is a life vest required? What are the local alcohol laws?
Being prepared will give you the highest chance of having a fun and safe float. The best way to prepare
is taking the information you gathered while planning to make a float plan and bringing proper gear.
A float plan doesn't need to be too complicated or in depth, but should include enough detail so
everyone in your flotilla has an understanding of what to expect during the float. Be sure to tell
someone, not on the float, where you're going and when to expect you back.
A float plan should include
Where you plan to drop in.
When you plan to start the float.
How you are getting everyone and their stuff on the water.
Any known hazards you might have to avoid.
Know where the exit is and roughly how long it should take to float to that point.
How you're going to get everyone back to their cars.
Local emergency contact number
Proper gear is key to staying safe, a short list of must haves include; sunscreen, drinking water, water
shoes, a life preserver (if the law requires one or you aren't confident in your swimming abilities), and a
helmet if you plan to go down any serious rapids.
3) Be Proactive
Once on the river enjoy your float, but always be aware of your surroundings. It's better to avoid
dangerous situations than to react to them. Observing other flotillas down river and their actions can
give you a preview of what's to come. Being proactive will give you enough time to avoid dead spots in
the flow or give you a chance to go around rapids if they look too big or full of exposed rocks and sharp
edges. Although, you won't know what's around a bend, a group paddling hard to the other side of the
river could signify a fallen tree. It is best to stay near the middle of the river because the edges are likely
to have branches and exposed rocks. Pay attention to what side the current is pushing you towards, by
the end of the float you want to end up on the same side as the exit point.