As the summer kicks off and the snow begins to melt and the green starts poking out from the frozen ground, I start dreaming of warm weather and long lazy days tubing on the Yampa River. I wait patiently as the kayakers begin to throw on their wet suits and bear the icy snow melt. I look to the mountain to see if the bare patches on Storm Peak Face at Steamboat Ski Area have “kissed.” Local folklore says that when the two patches high up on Mount Werner connect, the river is at the height of the season. I wait until the bike path tunnels are dry and the rapids look fun, but not too daunting.
Then the fun begins. The tubes get dusted off, inflated and river ready. The tubing season kicks off with the Rafting Regatta where locals come clad in costume and ready to face the river. Last year, my crew of friends went as the cast of Gilligan’s Island, I was Eunice “Lovey” Wentworth Howell, complete with pearls and all. t was an amazing day, culminating with drinks at the take out at Sunpie’s Bistro, as ‘Charlie’s Hole’ or ‘C Hole’ (one of the many rapids) was only for the brave.
Although the Rafting Regatta is fun, my favorite thing to do is find a friend or two and float the river as it begins to slow later in the summer. I like to take the long route to thoroughly enjoy floating and relaxing on the river. I put in at Walton Pond, and the river winds its way through a snake like trail all the way past Rotary Park. It really feels like nature’s version of the Lazy River at Water World. Rotary Park is a great put in if you want a quicker tubing session.
Things start to pick up just as I pass the Yampa River Botanic Park where the rapids begin. ‘Model T Hole’ gives me a taste of what is to come, as I slosh further down the river, dropping off small rapids, lightly bumping into rocks, spinning circles and trying to not flip (until I feel hot and a dunk in the refreshing water is necessary). By the time I reach ‘Squirt Hole’ I have hit my stride and I pull out just down river to warm up at ‘Hippie Hot Springs.’ At Rich Weiss Park. This natural hot spring, just across the street from the Old Town Hot Springs at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue, spills delightful hot spring water that mixes with the cool river. Children, families, visitors and tubers alike sit on the rocks and small pools to enjoy the natural hot tubs. Some will choose to abandon the river here, but not me. I’m in for the long haul!
I continue to enjoy the float as I pass local restaurants on Yampa Street to the right. I debate on where to pull out for a delicious treat. Yum, what to choose? The Boathouse, Sunpie’s Bistro or Sweetwater Grill? Most are accepting of my damp river attire. After I am sated I continue my float. I charge fearlessly through ‘C Hole,’ and then just past 13th Street Bridge I hit ‘D Hole’ the last rapid before the river slows down again and the number of tubers does as well.
This is when I really relax and take in the vistas, feel appreciation for the beauty of Steamboat and reflect on what an amazing day on the river I have had. It is always a little sad when I see the Transit/Community Center, see my pull out and know that my float is over. Yet, I am thankful for the warm sun as I deflate my tube, hop into my warm awaiting car and make plans to do it all over again.
If you do anything this summer in Steamboat, I implore you to float the river on a tube at least once. A short or long tube simply is a must. Rent a tube from Backdoor Sports, purchase a tube at Christy Sports or Boomerang; just get out there and enjoy the Yampa!
Steamboat Chamber Resort Association