Lake Tahoe has an endless supply of water sports options, from high-octane speed-boating to mellow kayaking. The surrounding rivers, however, provide another fun summer option that is often overlooked: tubing! Tubing is cheap, relaxing and so very easy to do with a big group. Here is the run down on the best river sections to float:
Truckee River out of Tahoe City:
This is Lake Tahoe’s only outlet! It is regulated by a dam, providing great “lazy river” style floating from the put-in in Tahoe City all the way down to the River Ranch at Alpine Meadows, with a few easy rapids at the very end. Park your car at 64 Acres near the Transit Center, and you will see the put-in ramp down to the river. If you don’t have your own gear, rental companies like Truckee River Rafting can provide all the essentials, as well as a shuttle back to your car. This float covers 3.5 miles and can take anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on your paddle to sun-bathing ratio. “Party Island” also serves as a perfect midway dance party, where locals often set up a sound system to get the vibe just right. The float finishes up at the River Ranch where you can enjoy a giant piña colada on the patio and watch other tubers make landfall. If you are planning to indulge in a frosty adult beverage, be sure to set up a shuttle or drop bikes at the River Ranch pre-float.
Upper Truckee River in South Lake Tahoe:
Park your car on Elks Club Drive off of Emerald Bay Road / Route 89 where the flea market is held on the weekends. It will take about three hours to float to the Route 50 bridge, where you can leave a shuttle car, or six hours to get all the way to Lake Tahoe, where you can park near Regan Beach. If you do make it to the Lake, fill your belly at the Fresh Ketch and find a table with a built in backgammon board for some friendly competition. If you want to tube this area later in the summer, stick to the stretch of river that goes from Route 50 to Lake Tahoe, since the upper portion will be too low.
Other Tubing Tips:
-Classic River Rat tubes are available for purchase at nearly every gas station and sporting goods store in Tahoe. The double version has a cooler compartment in the middle for your favorite beverages, perfect for you and your honey. Bring or buy some extra cord so you can lash tubes together to make a legendary flotilla.
-Most gas stations will allow you to fill your tube with compressed air for free, so that you don’t kill all your brain cells huffing and puffing before you even get on the river. Portable pumps are relatively inexpensive as well, depending on what type you spring for.
-Keep it clean: pack out what you pack in. You’re floating the river, so this should be easy, just put your trash in a plastic bag and secure it to the inside of your tube. Don’t bring any glass. Cans can be crushed to save space aboard your vessel.
-When nature calls, don’t go in the river. There are port-a-potties along the Truckee River, and where there aren’t, walk at least 100 feet from the river to keep our water supply clean.
-Don’t be a lobster! Wear a hat and sunscreen, and be sure to reapply. Don’t forget your feet, hands and ears.
-Most tubes come with a patch kit. Bring it with you! Don’t let your day go flat just because of a stick or a sharp rock.
-Invest in a dry bag for your valuables or leave them behind in a secure spot.