Tubes, kayaks and paddle boards

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Watercraft recreation is among the most popular summertime activity in Steamboat Springs. Many consider their summer incomplete without a lazy float down the Yampa on a tube. With so many people taking to the Yampa on watercraft, it’s important to heed the following to insure a fun and safe day on the water.     

  • Be humble and know your limits. If it’s your first time it’s strongly suggested you use one of Steamboat’s many outfitters or rental agencies. The river tour guides can give you good first time tips.
  • Wear a life jacket. Even if the river is calm and shallow where you put in, the waters downstream have the potential to turn rapid and deep. It is always recommended to wear a life jacket, and small children should always wear one period.
  • Wear shoes that either strap to your foot or are fully enclosed footwear. There could be sharp objects submerged such as sharp rocks, broken glass and fishing hooks/lures. Avoid flip flops, they provide almost no protection from submerged objects and are easily lost. Most tubing outfitters have river shoes to rent.  
  • Paddle board users are advised to use leashes in conjunction with a quick-release belt (inarguable). The leash attaches to a metal O-ring with the belt releasable at the waist in case of emergency. Even in slow current, a leash hung up on a branch or tree can be deadly; the force of water is many times your body weight, making it impossible to reach your ankle if need be.
  • If the temperature feels even a little chilly, wear a wet suit. The weather doesn’t have to be below freezing for you to get hypothermia if you fall in.
  • Rafters, kayaks and paddle boarders are recommended to use a helmet and other protective gear like elbow and knee pads; quick moving currents can easily throw you against rocks or hard objects, wearing protective gear helps prevent cuts and scrapes.
  • Be aware of what you bring with you and make sure to secure it properly. It’s not uncommon for tubes, kayaks and paddle boards to flip. In which case poorly secured gear is easily lost.
  • Tube in a small group around 5 to 10 people and try to maintain visual contact.
  • If you choose to go alone, make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  • The safest and most reliable way to tube, paddle board or kayak the Yampa is to go through one of our local tubing outfitters. Tubing outfitters offer rentals and shuttle rides for the easiest, most enjoyable tubing experience. At the bottom of this page is a list of popular tubing outfitters.
  • Check the river flow to see if it is at a safe level for tubing. Water levels above 700 cubic feet per second are not safe for tubing. Water levels under 700 cubic feet per second may still not be safe for those who are not strong swimmers. Be sure to share with the outfitter your comfort level in water.

There is one last rule specific for tubers only: buy or rent good quality tubes. The cheaper tubes purchased at Walmart or Walgreens are meant for use in a swimming pool, not on the river. These tubes might be appealing for their cheap prices, but are prone to popping and puncturing. It’s not uncommon to see one of these cheap tubes, ripped up and deflated snagged on a rock or piece of drift wood. Once the cheap tube has been punctured, many people just let it drift away, oblivious to the fact that their tube is now a piece of trash in the river.

Popular Rental Outfitters 

Backdoor Sports

Bucking Rainbow Outfitters 

One Stop Ski Shop