Summer in the Great Outdoors: Tubing
by Casey | Posted on June 20th, 2012
Author’s Note: This blog was updated August 2, 2013 to reflect rate changes and include a couple new outfitters.
Back in May we highlighted awesome waterways for kayaking and canoeing. Tubing isn’t a far stretch from those two water-loving pastimes, other than the pace is quite a bit more relaxed and you probably don’t want the big rapids to throw you off your game.
James River Reeling and Rafting departs from Scottsville, just 25 minutes south of Charlottesville. Trips are self-guided and cooler tubes are available for rental as well. Kick back and enjoy the slow float. Reservations are required. Shuttles leave on the hour during the week and on the half-hour Saturday and Sunday. Tube, shuttle and rope is $23/person. Groups of 25 or more are $21/person. No children under six and no pets.
James River Float Company, we noted, is a leader in SUP (stand up paddleboarding) on the river, but as their name implies, they’re a source for a nice float, too. The “local float” is $22/person and basically keeps you in the Lynchburg vicinity. Pull your friends together for a party float – even your cooler can go downstream with you.
River City Rafting is centered in Virginia’s urban whitewater hub of Richmond. A whitewater guide will accompany you and five or more of your friends aged 9 and older as you leisurely while away the day. $30/person. If you’re brave enough to go it alone, ask about The Half Shuttle at $25/person.
If you choose to float with Outdoor Adventure Experiences out of Dayton, you choose an awesome family day out on the water. Not only do you get your own tube, but you also get a giant tube made for group play in the deeper, slower spots on the river. Trips with OAE include (and require the use of) a safety helmet and life vest. If you’re looking for a freer, more casual float, this one might not be for you. Half-day trip $35/person; full-day trip $45/person with a trip minimum of $120 and $180, respectively.
The Shenandoah River is one of Virginia’s top picks for a relaxing float, meaning more nearby outfitters are ready to rent you a tube.
- Shenandoah River Adventures, Shenandoah – $17/tube
- Shenandoah River Outfitters, Luray – $22/tube; $6/cooler tube
The headwaters of the James River are pretty tame compared to the whitewater you’ll find near the fall line downriver in Richmond. For that reason, exploring the Upper James River Water Trail might be advantageous to tubing lovers.
Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan is eager to serve your Upper James River needs at an affordable rate. You can take a tube down one trip (about a 90-minute float) for $15, or you can spend the day floating the route time and again for $20. The fee includes tube, life vest, safety orientation and shuttles from the shop up to the put-in point. Want a quick run at the end of the day? “Last call” floats depart at 4 PM and only cost $10!
The New River is the second oldest river in the world, geologically speaking, and it’s pretty unspoiled and pristine. Sounds like a peaceful, serene float, huh? Put in at Bisset Park in Radford with Tangent Outfitters. The 2-mile float (which can vary from 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on water levels) is $15/tube on weekdays or $20/tube Saturday and Sunday.
Check the real-time water levels through the National Weather Service prior to getting on the river. Tubing with a guide is the safest option to enjoy your river experience.