Find out everything you will need to float the river with kids, plus a list of fun rivers to float across the United States.
Almost every single one of our favorite activities as a family is something outdoors. I refuse to let allergies slow us down. Like many people, all of us experience seasonal allergies, especially my daughter Eden and I. We both take Claritin for relief from seasonal allergies, so when we want an outdoor adventure we are ready!
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How to Float a River with Kids
One of our favorite outdoor activities to do as a family is float the river. It’s relaxing and fun. We typically float for half a day so somewhere between 3 – 5 hours. If you’ve never floated a river, it can be a little intimidating even though there’s no skill needed. There are a few designated areas that I call out below where you can float.
There are some things you need to know before you float. For example, what to wear and how to chill your drinks. Use your judgment and make sure conditions are safe before heading out.
What to wear while floating the river:
- Clothes and shoes that can get wet like your swimsuit
- Shoes that stay on your feet, like river sandals, aqua socks, or even tennis shoes you don’t mind getting wet. Do not wear flip flops.
- If you wear glasses, straps to keep them secure are a good idea.
- Wearable Drybag
We have a pouch just like this to keep our stuff dry and it works well. I keep a cell phone in there and my keys.
Other Items to Bring
- Raft or tubes: In Texas, tubes are ideal, because it’s so hot and the water is warm. In Oregon and Idaho, rafts are better because the water is so cold.
- Life jackets: Laws vary by state, but everyone should always have a life jacket. Never take a child into a river without a life jacket.
- Paddles: You may not need them, but on the off chance you do, you will be happy to have them with you.
- Snacks: Pack snacks with minimal packaging.
- Non-alcoholic beverages
- Water: It’s important that everyone stays well hydrated while out in the sun.
- Mesh laundry bag: I use a mesh laundry bag and fill it with drinks and tie it to our raft. Typically the water is so cold it will keep the drinks super cold.
- Waterproof camera: Nowadays there are lots of waterproof cameras on the market.
What else to bring, but leave in the car until the end:
- A change of dry clothes
- Pump: To air up your raft and tubes before you begin your float.
What Not to Bring
- Glass bottles or containers
- Styrofoam coolers or cups
Where to Float a River with Kids
Fort White offers the most popular place to float in Florida at Ichetcucknee Springs State Park and is open May – September.
- Visitors bringing tubes into the park: Enter park at the north park entrance located at 8294 SW Elim Church Road.
- Drivers will leave tubes and passengers at the tube drop off location in the upper parking lot area.
- Drivers will proceed to the South main entrance parking area located at 12087 SW U.S. Highway 27.
- Drivers will purchase a shuttle bracelet for transportation to North main entrance tube drop off from the general store. (The driver can also purchase tram bracelets for everyone in their party)
- Visitors renting tubes from within the park will need to enter the park at South main entrance instead, located at 12087 SW U.S. Highway 27.
Between Jacksonville and Tallahassee is Madison Blue Spring State Park, where you can float on weekends from May to September.
In Apopka, you can float Rock Springs Run in Kelly Park. Bring your own, or rent tubes for $5 – $7 from private outfitters located just outside the park. The float trip is short, it only takes about 25 minutes. When you are done, it is a 5-minute walk on a paved sidewalk back to the start. The deepest part is about 5 feet and is much shallower in many places.
In High Springs you can do a short float down the Santa Fe River at Ginnie Springs. Put in at Devil’s Spring and float for an hour. You will exit at Twin Spring and walk back to where you parked. It takes around 15 minutes to walk back on the tubing trail. There are free air stations located in the park.
In Holt in the Florida panhandle is Blackwater River State Park. Blackwater River offers a four-mile stretch of water that will take you 3-5 hours to float.
Spring Creek in Marianna near Tallahassee offers a four-hour tubing experience. Start at Merrit’s Mill Pond where Spring Creek opens up to the Chipola River.
Near Atlanta, in Roswell, you can float the Chattahoochee River. You will only want to float here if it is over 80 degrees outside because the water is cold.
In Blue Ridge, the Toccoa River offers smooth rides through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In Boise, you can float the Boise River. (Some people even surf it, but we just float!) You can park your car at Ann Morrison Park and catch a bus. For a few dollars, the bus will take you up the river and drop you off at Barber Park. Last time we paid $2 per adult and they didn’t charge me for the kids. At the drop off point, there’s air available and you can inflate your raft or tube. You can also rent a raft or tube where they drop you off. I recommend using a raft because this river is extremely cold. It takes about two hours to float back down to the park. There are two small drops so you will have to hang on to your kids a few times.
There are several rivers that you can float in Oregon, but we tend to stick to the same one. We float the Sandy River near Troutdale, Oregon. Start at Dabny State Park and pull out at Lewis and Clark state park. You do have to pay to leave your car in both of the parks. The last time we went it was $5 and they took credit cards.
For the most part, there are shuttles available along popular Texas rivers. In Texas, the only legal access points are where bridges cross a navigable river. Keep this in mind if you’re doing it yourself and not using a shuttle service. The tube rental/shuttle companies are fairly cheap and make the whole thing super easy.
In San Antonio, you can float the Comal or Guadalupe River. Near San Antonio in Bandera is also the Medina River that can be floated
In San Marcos, you can float the San Marcos River.
In Austin, you can float the Barton Creek Greenbelt. There are no shuttles or tube rental outfits here.
In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you can float the Trinity River.
Most people float the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah Valley. Virginia has a no drinking in public law, so leave the booze at home.
Yakima River Canyon is a popular place to float near Yakima, Washington. – Start at Umtanum for a three-hour float to Roza. Leave one car at Roza, this is where you will pull out of the river. It will likely cost $5 per car to park.
Claritin’s Partnership with Boys & Girls Club of America
The 20 Minutes of Spring Project is a part of year two of a three-year partnership between Claritin and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, where Claritin has committed up to $500,000 to fund programs and create resources to help get kids outside.
In the first year, Claritin and Boys & Girls Clubs of America developed the Play Breaks Guide, an outdoor activity resource, to help support staff at 4,300 Clubs in getting their local youth outside and keeping them active.
So now it’s time to get outside and share your 20 Minutes of Spring activities!
Thanks for the tips. For Oregon we just did Canby on the Mollala River from the Canby Community park behind Safeway to Knight’s Bridge. Very fun and kid friendly. Maybe a little bit low of water level for the older kids but very safe.
That’s great to know. We have not done that one yet!