To me, river tubing is the ultimate summer activity. There’s something so inherently fun about navigating a winding river under a blazing hot sun. It’s also one of the most pleasant (and scenic) ways of experiencing nature. I’m always surprised by the unexplored or otherwise inaccessible riverbanks and forests these waterways steer me through. River floats can be exciting, exhilarating or entirely serene. Whether you prefer a ride with some rapids or a lazy float, you’ll find both experiences represented on our list of 12 tube-able rivers, all located in beautiful British Columbia.
Before you head out...
River tubing is not without risk, and simply put all water sports pose a risk of drowning. Always wear a life jacket and only strong swimmers should attempt this activity. Further, rocks, logs and other underwater obstacles pose hazards.
- Go with someone familiar with the river or has floated it before. Never go alone.
- If your tube capsizes float on your back with your feet pointed in the direction the water is moving. Do not swim head first down a river.
- Be honest about your swimming ability and comfort level.
- Never consume alcohol while tubing or swimming.
- Wear sandals or water shoes that will not fall off.
- Wear sunscreen and a hat, and bring water to stay hydrated.
There are a lot of accessories available for tubing down the river, from your personal flotation device to floating coolers and much more.
- Leave towels, dry clothing and your phone in the vehicle parked at the exit point.
- Short paddles (or half of a kayak paddle) are handy for navigating faster flowing rivers.
- Pack out whatever you bring in. Don't litter and don't bring any glass or styrofoam containers.
Nearest community: Enderby
Launch point: There are several different launch points along the river, including Brandt’s Hand Launch, Cooke Creek Recreation Site, Dale’s Hand Launch, Trinity Bridge, Eby Hand Launch, Belvidere Park, Tuey Park, Grindrod Bridge and Mara Bridge.
End point: Just as there are several places to launch from, there are also several co-ordinating end points, depending on the route you’ve chosen. These include Brandt’s Hand Launch to the Cooke Creek Recreation Site, Cooke Creek Recreation Site to Dale’s Hand Launch, Dale’s Hand Launch to Trinity Bridge, Trinity Bridge to Eby Hand Launch, Eby Hand Launch to Belvidere Park, Belvidere Park to Riverside RV Park, Tuey Park to Grindrod Bridge, Grindrod Bridge to Mara Bridge and Mara Bridge to Mara Lake Park.
Approximate length: The length of time you can spend on the river depends on the route you’ve chosen, and the time of year you take to the water, whether it’s spring or early summer, mid-summer or late summer and the early fall. You can spend as little as half an hour on the water, if you take Trinity Bridge to Eby Hand Launch in the spring, or as much as eight hours if you’re floating from Dale’s Hand Launch to Trinity Bridge in the late summer or fall.
River rating: The river’s depth and speed changes throughout the year, but there are Shuswap River Ambassadors (identified by their green and blue shirts) stationed at the hand-launch sites along the river. They can inform you of the best route to take and the daily conditions.
Okanagan River Channel
Nearest community: Penticton
Launch point: The river channel runs between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. You can enter the water at the Coyote Cruises business site, located at 215 Riverside Dr. There are tubes available for rent if you need them, and the company also offers shuttle services.
End point: Floaters can get off at the Green Mountain Road exit, or float all the way down the river to the Skaha Lake Highway 97 exit.
Approximate length: Depending on the weather, the float from the launch point to the Green Mountain Road exit can take up to two hours; travelling further to the Skaha Lake Highway 97 exit can take as long as four hours.
River rating: Floating down the Okanagan River Channel attracts locals and tourists alike, and is a must-try summer activity for all ages.
Nearest community: Depending on your launch location, the closest towns are Rock Creek, Midway or Grand Forks.
Launch point, end point and length: There are several different entry and exit points along the river. From the town of Rock Cree, you can enter in the Kettle River Provincial Park and exit at the Rock Creek Hotel – this will take about three-and-a-half hours. From the Rock Creek Hotel to Deep Hole, the float will take about three hours. From Deep Hole to the Ingram Bridge, you’ll float for about an hour.
From the town of Midway, you can enter at the Ingram Bridge and float to City Park – this will take about four hours. Floating from the suspension bridge to City Park will take about two hours, and floating from the beach behind the flour mill, down to City Park, will take about one hour.
From the town of Grand Forks, you can float from the Old Carson Bridge Site to City Park, and that will take up to three hours. You can travel from the Spraggett Bridge to City Park, and that will take about two hours. You can also float from City Park to Nursery Bridge, and that will only take about an hour. Or you can float from the Nursery Bridge to Atwood, and experience some beautiful beaches along the way. This route will take about three hours.
These times are approximate and estimated based on the beginning of the floating season in July. As you get towards the end of August, the rides can become longer and there could be areas where you have to get off and walk.
River rating: The river rating could be considered moderate – there are rapids and snags along the way.
Nearest community: Lake Cowichan
Launch point: Tube Shack offers tube rentals and an excellent launch point, located at 109 Shouthshore Rd., Lake Cowichan. The Cowichan River starts at Cowichan Lake.
End point: Little Beach
Approximate length: Various entry and exits but overall a 2-2.5 hour float. Please note Skutz Falls should be avoided, it is not suitable for tubing over. Also, tubers should always avoid submerged trees and logs.
River rating: The Cowichan River is tame and fun for the whole family.
Nearest community: Grand Forks
Launch point: There are two launch locations for this river – the Hummingbird Bridge and Snake Hole, the gravel road after Copper Ridge.
End point: Floaters can take the route from Hummingbird Bridge to the Pines Bible Camp, or the Snake Hole to the Barbara Ann Park.
Approximate length: If you’re looking for a long ride, the route from the Hummingbird Bridge to the Pines Bible Camp can take about six hours. The alternate route will only take about one hour.
River rating: The river rating could be considered moderate – there are rapids and snags along the way.
Nearest community: Maple Ridge
Launch point: Drop your tube into the river at the Upper Maple Ridge Park.
End point: End your float at Davidson’s Pool, a popular swimming hole in the community, located at 23700 128 Cres.
Approximate length: The float down the river is short, but the swimming hole at the end of your ride is well worth it.
River rating: Be prepared to float through rapids on your way to Davidson’s Pool.
Nearest community: Depending on your launch location, there are three communities: Princeton, Keremeos and Cawston.
Launch point, end point and length: You can enter the river at Bromley Rock and float to the Red Bridge. This will take four to five hours. You can also float from the Red Bridge to Keremeos Pine Park, which takes about two hours. Or you can travel from the Red Bridge to Cawston’s Kobau Park, which takes about three-and-a-half hours.
River rating: After the spring run-off dies down, your float along the river will be leisurely and calm. Unfortunately, there are no outfitters for this river, so you will need to arrange your own ride at the end point.
Nearest community: Winlaw
Launch point: Perry’s Bridge.
End point: Exit above the Winlaw Bridge or the Winlaw Nature Park.
Approximate length: up to three hours.
River rating: This is a good stretch of river for a beginner, with calm, moving water and beautiful scenery. This stretch of the river offers a sandy bottom, and later in the season you’ll find several beaches.
Nearest community: Kamloops
Launch point: Start at the Valleyview boat launch in Kamloops. The parking lot is reserved for boat trailers, but you can park along Thompson Drive and unload your gear.
End point: Pioneer Park.
Approximate length: About four hours.
River rating: This is a relatively easy, meandering float.
Nearest community: North Vancouver
Launch point: Drop your tube into the river near the fish hatchery.
End point: Park Royal Mall in West Vancouver.
Approximate length: About two hours.
River rating: This river is for those seeking a thrilling adventure! The river can get rough and is not recommended for beginners.
Nearest community: Creston
Launch point: Take Highway 21 towards the US border and park along the highway by the first bridge. Water access is available at this point.
End point: The Goat River empties into the Kootenay River and you can exit at this meeting.
Approximate length: Unknown.
River rating: This section of the river could be considered moderate. The river is relaxing and easy, but there snags and boulders lurking beneath the surface of the river.
Nearest community: Courtenay
Launch point: Near the fish hatchery at 38 Powerhouse Rd, Courtenay, V9N 9L3
End point: Multiple: Puntledge Park, Condensory Road Bridge or Lewis Park
Approximate length: Depending on your end point it could be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 1.5-2 hours. There are also many riverbanks to take breaks on. Puntledge Park and a small whirlpool just past Condensory Road Bridge are fun to swim at. The last stretch of this float (Condensory to Lewis Park) is fairly slow, taking the longest amount of time to complete.
River rating: Moderate. The first half of the river has areas of strong current and some fast moving bends. Tubers will need to paddle themselves between the alternating river bends so that they float over the deepest part of the river. Depending on water levels, mid-July and August can see very shallow stretches past the fish hatchery but well before Puntledge Park. It is not uncommon to 'bottom out' which can be er...painful. The greatest risk the Puntledge River presents are fallen trees along the bank. Avoid these entirely or risk being caught up.
The Nechako River
Nearest community: Prince George
Launch point: Wilkins Park boat launch in Miworth
End point: Nechako Flats or Cottonwood Island Park
Approximate length: 2-3 hours.
River rating: It is a lazy float as the river is calm, wide and deep.
Which is your favourite river to tube? Did we miss one on the list?
Let us know - comment below!