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Frequently asked Questions about Tubing Trips
Your help is needed. Please carpool as much as possible. We have very limited parking, especially on weekends. Besides, it's good for the environment.
How long does the trip take?
Do we need to wear shoes?
Can we bring a cooler?
How many coolers can we bring?
Can we bring alcohol?
Can we bring glass or Styrofoam?
What size cooler fits in the "cooler tube"?
What is the difference between a "cooler tube" and a "Cool Float"?
How do we get to River Riders?
Can we stop on the trip?
What happens if I fall out?
What happens if I lose my tube?
What happens if I pop my tube?
What kinds of animals are in the water?
What happens if there is a storm?
How do I know where to get out?
What happens if I miss the place to get out?
How often does the bus come?
Can we go more than once?
Can we tie our tubes together?
What is the difference between the upgraded PVC (vinyl) and basic rubber inner tubes?
Other Frequently Asked General Questions
Your trip is 1.5 miles longer. River Riders has acquired a personal private river access just above Harpers Ferry. This access is only 2 miles and less than 5 minutes from our base. This means less bus time and more tubing time for you. Your new trip has 30% more whitewater fun!
River Riders is the ORIGINAL Harpers Ferry tubing company. We started tubing by renting them on the side of the road from a truck. People would walk to the beginning and tube back down to the truck. Things have changed considerably over the years. Tubing is now one of the most popular activities here at River Riders. We serve thousands of guests over the year and take several hundred people per day on weekends. Although you may experience some wait time on weekends, we are committed to providing you with a quality experience. We began offering Upgraded vinyl tubes in 1999 for a more comfortable and durable option. They are now considered the standard. New for 2013 - We are the only outfitter to offer Tube Tracker Pro's with a paddle!
Whitewater and guided tubing trips go on the Potomac River from our private Bakerton Rd River Access above Harpers Ferry to *Potoma Wayside floating by Harpers Ferry, a total of 5 miles which is 1.5 miles longer than others trip.
Potoma Wayside takeout is just above the historic district of Harpers Ferry along the right side of the river before the Green Potomac River Bridge. You will pass "Bass Rock". This local hangout can seem like the place to start moving over to the right side of the river for take out. However, the take out is beyond Bass Rock but before the Green Bridge.
Click for larger map
Flat water trips vary depending on the water levels, but the standard trip is from the Millville Dam down to the River Riders rafting put-in about 1.5 miles. The flat water trip does not pass Harpers Ferry.
The rapids on the whitewater trip and guided trip are class I-III at normal water levels. American Whitewater terms class I-III as beginner to intermediate level rapids. Here is some information taken from the International Scale of River Difficulty.
class I: fast moving water with riffles and small waves. few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.
class II: novice. straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed.
class III: intermediate. rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid. strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.
The trips are successfully completed by thousands of people each year, but they are not without danger or difficulty. If you are unsure of your ability, the guided or flat water trip options may be a better choice for you.
The flat water trip generally contains moving current, but no rapids. It is suitable for most guests including children ages 4 and up. This is a relaxing float trip, not an excitement trip. Please be aware however, that as with all water and outdoor activities, this trip is not without risk.
Water levels locally can fluctuate and change the look of the river and your trip with us. Water levels are typically higher in the Spring than later in the summer season depending on local rainfall.
Check out the water levels:
Shenandoah River at Millville - Flatwater Tubing trips
Potomac River at Point Of Rocks - White Water Tubing trips
Our recommendation is 10 - 12 years and about 5 feet tall for whitewater tubing; 10 to 12 years guided tubing; and 4 years and 30 lbs for flat water tubing. These are just recommendations, and decisions will have to be made by the participants as to individual suitability.
We always reserve the right to change these ages if river conditions warrant it.
Trip times vary depending on water levels, trip length, and participant behaviors. For the guided trip, we can tell you it normally takes around 2 to 2.5 hours because our guides regularly participate and chose routes that generally make the trip as ideal as possible.
That being said, when you go on the river on your own, people take considerably different amounts of time to do the same trip. On average, the whitewater trip takes 2 hours to float straight from the put-in to the take-out without paddling yourself down the river. The flat water trip takes about 1.5 hours without paddling yourself down.
Known variables that can affect your trip time include paddling yourself down the river other than to avoid obstacles, stopping on rocks, losing your tube, sitting on the shore, and waiting for your friends.
Yes, we always require suitable footwear, including old tennis shoes, sports sandals or aqua socks. Flip-flops are not suitable footwear as they can easily come off your feet. Footwear needs to be worn because of the rocks and other unseen sharp objects that can potentially be stepped on or floated into.
Yes, at normal water levels coolers can be brought on the non-guided trips. We do not allow them on the guided trips.
We allow one cooler per five people on flat water and one per ten people on whitewater. We reserve the right to limit this further because of water levels or any other factors.
Alcohol Policy -It is illegal to operate a vessel (Tube) while under the influence of alcohol (BAC 0.08) or a controlled substance. The Maryland and West Virginia DNR are responsible for patroling and can issue citations much like a DUI. The maximum penalty for an offense is $500 and two months in jail. The white water tubing take out is National Park property and open alcoholic containers are prohibited. You will be tubing in a natural environment. On the whitewater trip, you will have to navigate through rapids. You need to have your sense about you. Being intoxicated greatly increases the chances of drowning or having another incident with on the river. Be responsible.
No, please bring only canned or plastic items on the trip to avoid the possibility of the item breaking. We do not allow Styrofoam coolers on the trips because they tend not to hold up to the rigors of floating down the river. We rent floating coolers if you need one.
*New Cooler Tubes*
These large vinyl cooler tubes hold larger coolers or several smaller items.
A "cooler tube" is a large yellow, vinyl, square, tube for your larger cooler. For smaller coolers we have a black rubber tube with an attached hard plastic bottom. It has an 18" diameter hole in the middle. They both rent for $14 + $1 Green Fee for a mesh trash sack.
A "cool float" is an inflatable, round, vinyl cooler. It is similar in size to a 16 quart "Playmate" cooler. They rent or can be purchased for $18.97 + $1 Green Fee for a mesh trash sack.
Cool Floats hold up to 18 cans inside and 4 cans outside plus ice.
Yes, you are welcome to stop on any rocks or islands in the river. On the whitewater trip you may also stop on the shores as the left bank is the C&O Canal National Park and the right bank is the Harpers Ferry National Park.
On the flat water trip, you may also stop at the public picnic area at the beginning of the trip. The right bank is all private property and may not be used.
*Be mindful of the day's last pick up times
You will be provided with a type III Personal Floatation Device or PFD similar to a water skiing PFD. Without a doubt the best thing you can do to help assure your safety if you fall out of your tube is to wear your PFD. Grab onto your tube as soon as possible and try to get back onto it. If you can not get back onto your tube while in the water find a large rock or the shore to stop and get back on. If you are floating through rapids lay on your back with your feet downstream of you until you reach calmer water. Do not try to stand up if you are in moving current that is deep enough to float in; you can bang your legs into rocks or get caught in a foot entrapment.
It is important to keep your tube with you the entire trip. If you do end up losing it, try to get it back as quickly as possible. If you are with a group you should always try to stay together so that you can help each other out. If you are separated somehow, find a good spot to get out of the river. Generally, float on your back feet first through any immediate rapids, and then swim to shore. Once on shore, walk downstream and try to locate your tube. If it has stopped on a rock or is sitting near the shore and not in a rapid you can try to swim out to retrieve it. Do not take any chances if the tube is in a rapid or if you are not sure that you can get to it. Although you are responsible for bringing your tube back, it isn't worth risking yourself to get a tube that is in a potentially dangerous location. The best way to avoid all of this is if you flip off your tube, grab it as soon as you come up to the surface. It will almost always be right beside you. The longer you wait to grab your tube, the more likely you are to lose it.
In the unfortunate event that you pop your tube, you have several different options.
Depending upon the trip you are on and your location on that trip, your options vary. One popular method is to climb on a friends tube and go down together. This is successful for some and not so successful for others. This generally works best for people who are small and flexible.
Other good options include getting out on the side of the river and flagging down one of our drivers to get another tube. Remember to think about your location before you do this. It is very important that you get out on the side of the river where the road is, and that the section of the river you are on has a road next to it. Fortunately there is road access along most sections of the tubing trip. If you aren't sure, climb out on the shore and survey the situation. You may have to walk a ways to find the road, but never leave the river very far. Walk along the shore until you find the road. Keep in mind that you should not walk in the middle of the road. The roads in this area are windy and visibility is often limited. Other drivers may not be prepared for a person or group of people walking in the road. Stay on the side and be aware of cars, trucks, etc. If you are on a section that has train tracks, they are in use. Be very aware of trains as they don't always make much noise and are often traveling fast. Find the end point or a good spot to meet a driver. You can also call us at 800 326 7238.
The final option is to swim/hike your way to the take-out. Do not swim unnecessarily through rapids. Get on rocks or the shore and walk around them. Whenever you are in calm pools or flat section, you can float with your PFD downstream. Just be aware on the whitewater trips that more rapids lay ahead, and you'll have to get back out to walk around them. Use this method only as a last resort.
Please don't leave any deflated tubes in the river. Bring them with you to your pickup point. If you do this, you most likely will not be held responsible for damaging it.
The rivers are a natural environment and home to many animals. In the water you could see fish, turtles, frogs, and rarely a non-poisonous water snake. We have never had a single person have any type of bad interaction with an animal on the trip. They are more scared of you than you are of them. Just use caution if you see one and slowly back away. They will continue about their business as if you weren't there.
Lightning Saftey from NOAA During the summertime it is common to have afternoon thunderstorms. The odds of being struck by lightning are very low. No one has ever been struck by lightning while tubing with us, but you should be cautious as it isn't impossible for it to happen. Lightning strikes can be deadly. Storms tend to last 10-15 minutes and subside. We recommend getting out of the water and waiting a storm out. After the storm passes continue your trip as planned.
Once you get out of the water look around you. You should not stand near the highest object in the area and try not to stand immediately next to any large trees. Find a clearing. If you are near a road do not get out in the middle of the road with your tubes. You run the risk of being hit by a car. If neccessary we will send out vehicles for assistance.
The driver will show and/or explain the take-out to you on the way to the put-in. If you have any questions at all about where you are getting out, be sure to ask your driver. It is your responsibility to understand where you are getting out.
You will have to go back and find it. Mainly be sure you understand what the driver has explained about landmarks indicating the ending point. Then trust that they have told you the right place. We have heard from people over the years, "Well I thought that was the spot, but ... my friend said it wasn't, or it didn't seem like the right amount of time, or I thought there would be another bridge, etc."
If you miss the end point, you will have to hike back along the shore until you get to it. We don't have the ability to pick you up in road-less areas that occur beyond the take-out points.
Timing varies. Good communication with your driver is very important. On weekdays or non-peak weekends we would prefer to set up a specific pickup time with you based on your desires while on the river. Please bring a waterproof watch along. On weekends, we have buses that drivers loop between the shop and the put-in's and take-outs. We strive to be at the pickup points between every 1/2-hour to an hour. Be aware that especially on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays from mid-June through mid September there may be a wait. Please be patient.
Good times to be at the end point for whitewater tubing on weekends are 1 pm, and 3:30 pm to 5 pm. The most common wait time for whitewater tubing is between 1:30 and 3 pm because of shuttle timing.
Good times to be at the end point for flat water tubing on weekends are 2 pm to 3 pm and 4:30 pm to 5 pm. The most common wait times for flat water tubing are between 1:00 and 2 pm and 3:15 to 4:30 pm because of shuttle timing.
Our service is similar to Amusement Parks on weekends, and we do experience wait times. Be assured that we are not sitting around. All buses are on the road non-stop during busy times and will pick you up as soon as possible. Keeping your group organized, like having them all together, and stacking tubes neatly on the side will help the drivers to keep moving during busy times.
If you have to wait please help the driver load up quickly and talk with someone at the office when you get back. The drivers are working hard to provide you with the best possible service and do not control pick-up times.
Yes and no. Guided trip timing is regulated by the guide to ensure an optimal experience and only goes down the river once.
Whitewater trips get only one shuttle. You are welcome to walk back up and run rapids more than once, but you only get one ride. You only need to be sure that you are at the pick up points on time - *The last shuttle pick up of the day is 5:30 pm on Weekends, 5pm on Weekdays.
Flat water trips that are run on the regular flat water section can be run more than once if you come early. The last shuttle to the top is at 4:00 pm, and you must be at the end by that point to catch the last shuttle to the put-in. If we run the trip on a different section due to water levels or any other reason, we may not allow multiple runs. As on the whitewater trip you may stop along the way, etc., but we may only provide one shuttle to the top. You may ask your driver what trip we are running on the day of your trip. It is normally decided that morning depending upon water levels and other factors. You only need to be sure that you are at the pick up points on time - *The last shuttle pick up of the day is 5:30 pm, 5pm Weekdays.
No, and we do not provide string or ropes even for coolers or "Cool Floats". Having a rope in moving water is a safety hazard. Even on the flat water trip, if your rope were to get tangled in something you could get caught in it, and be pulled under water or trapped. If you need to stay close together just periodically put your hands on each other's tubes. If you have small children we have a limited supply of double tubes that can be reserved in advance. They are only suitable for an adult and a small child or 2 smaller children. They are not large enough for 2 adults.
The Standard vinyl tube is made out of a heavy gauge vinyl fabric specifically made for river use. It is a heavier fabric than a vinyl "swimming pool" tube and therefore stands up to more use. It is more comfortable and durable than the basic tube and has handles.
The Deluxe vinyl tube is made out of a heavy gauge vinyl fabric specifically made for river use. It is a heavier fabric than a vinyl "swimming pool" tube and therefore stands up to more use. It is more comfortable and durable than the basic tube. It too has handles but also a seat bottom, cup holder, and back rest. The Deluxe tube is $5 more to rent than the standard vinyl tube.
The Tube Tracker is made out of a heavy gauge vinyl fabric specifically made for river use. It is more comfortable than the standard tube and comes with a light duty paddle. It too has handles but also a seat bottom, cup holder, and back rest. The Tube Tracker is $5 more to rent than the deluxe vinyl tube.j