Adventures of Mom Family Guide to Tubing in the Southeast (Part 1)
Summer is almost upon us, and as our Florida temperatures soar into the 90’s, the family talks turn to water and a summer break. Water fun and summer go hand and hand, whether it is wading through roadside creeks in the Tennessee mountains or jumping into rivers, snorkeling springs, canoeing dark and twisted waterways, or just trying to catch the perfect bass (Check out our On the River debut YouTube video here.) Another family watersport that we all enjoy is shooting the rapids of the Chattahoochee River in Helen, Georgia in tubes. But the Chattahoochee River is not the only place to take the kids tubing, in fact, there is an array of tubing adventures in the southeast for the family to enjoy.
Tubing Adventures in the Southeastern United States
Tubing? Okay, for those of you in the know, all you really need for a tubing adventure is a river and a tube, right? However, if you are on vacation (or live in the area), sometimes it’s nice to put your adventure worries and the long way back to your car, in professional outfitter hands. Also, choosing a tube trip as opposed to going solo is great if you don’t know the area or river. (There are no affiliate links in the list below.) Whether you choose an outfitter trip, rent a tube and go or bring your own tube (BYOT?), be safe and have a great adventure!
Family Tips on Tubing with Children
Before you begin a family tubing adventure (or any family river adventure for that matter), know your child’s limits before hand.
- Younger children do not do well on a 3 or more hour trip – most adults don’t either, unless they are in good company! Consider the trip length first.
- Once you are on the river, the current is your master and there is no going back- or stopping for a number two! Consider your child’s bladder abilities or swim diapers for youngsters if needed.
- Choose a short trip to start, or even acclimatize your child for a wild river tube trip by making use of those lazy rivers in the water parks. LEGOLAND in Lakeland (formerly Cypress Gardens), was where our three year old got her first tubing taste. I have not listed any man made lazy rivers, or water parks in this guide, only nature’s finest. But there are plenty around.
- For younger children, they do make tubes with solid bottoms. These are good for adult too! Make use of these.
- Most tube companies will rent you a strap to lash your tubes together. Great for families with small kids. Unfortunately, on the smaller rivers, it causes congestion and you get stuck a lot. (Like on the Chattahoochee).
- PDF (Personal Flotation Device AKA lifejackets, are a must, and in a lot of places are required, some rivers by law for everyone, and others as per age. If you doubt your swimming abilities in anyway, wear one. It may look cool not to, but it’s not cool to drown either!
- Children are lightweight and will float faster than us heavier adults. Remember that before you untether your 5 year old’s tube!
- Water shoes! (I heard my kids groan!) Rocks are slippery, as we learned the hard way and flip flops float away. Buy your water shoes before your trip or you will end up paying triple the amount they are worth once you discover you need them!
- You will get wet! Everyone will get wet! Even with those solid tube bottoms. I’ve gotten stuck on waterfalls and taken a tumble, and sometimes we’ve all just stopped for a swim en route. Wear swim suits and bring a change of clothes in the car, along with dry towels and a plastic bags to hold the wet clothes after your adventure.
River Tubing is a way to unwind, enjoy nature and your fellow tubers, and as always, with kids, bring a bucketful of patience and a shovelful of humor.
Family Tubing Trips in Florida
- Blue Spring State Park, Orange City. only 1/8 mile run, this is a shorter tube run. Great for impatient kids. Being a state park, you can run back to the beginning and put in again as many times as your heart desires. Bring your own or rent tubes from the park’s concessionaire. Park fills up fast. Get there early. Camping permitted (with reservation- see their website). 2100 W. French Avenue, Orange City, FL 32763
- Kelly Park/Rock Springs Run: This county park in Apopka (near Orlando) is notorious for filling up FAST! Get there early. Tube rentals are outside the park (or bring your own) on this short run, again, go around as many times as you want. $5 per vehicle. Tube rentals extra (outside park). 400 E Kelly Park Rd, Apopka, FL 32712
- Rainbow Springs State Park. The tubing entrance to the river is actually on the high school road, not in the State Park headsprings. Go figure. But May 30th to September 5th, tubing is open all week, with shuttle back to your car. Parking $5. Tram and tube trip $15. $2 key hold. Trip costs the same if you bring your own tube. 2 hour run. NatureQuest runs the tube trip. Official site here. 10830 180th Ave Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432.
- KP Hole. Another Dunnellon entrance to the Rainbow River, it’s a four hour float from their site on the river, with a shuttle to bring you back from the exit at Blue Run Park. April 1st-Sept. 30th. Last tube rented by 12:45 and no kids under 3. Park fee: $5 per person. Tube & shuttle back: $20 per person. Bring your own tube and shuttle only is $7 per person. Camping at Rainbow Springs State Park. 9435 SW 190th Ave Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432
- Ginnie Springs. A privately owned park in High Springs, the short tube run from Devils Spring to Twin Springs is a bring your own tube trip and 10 minute walk back. Day park use: 8am – 1/2 before sunset. Adults $13.09, Kids $3. (Camping available, call ahead.) 5000 NE 60th Ave, High Springs, FL 32643
- Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Like Kelly Park/Rock Springs, you have to rent tubes outside the park. Put ins range from 1 & 1/2 hour at the mid-point launch or 35-40 minute float from the Dampier’s Landing launch point. Check out their details here. Rentals $5. Parking $6 per vehicle. 12087 SW U.S. Highway 27
Fort White, FL 32038. Check website prices before you go! < 6/16 Update> Be aware that the park is now charging an additional $5 +tax per person to use the tube shuttle to get back!
- Blackwater River in the Florida Panhandle. Take the 3.5 hour float down Cold Water Creek. $20 per person with Outdoor Adventures Outfitters 8974 Tomahawk Landing Road, Milton FL, 32570
Part Two of the Adventures of Mom Guide to Tubing in the Southeast available here.