Californians have been blessed to live in one of the most geographically diverse states in the country. From deserts to wetlands, mountains to prairies, seaside bluffs and over a million forested acres, the Golden State has something to satisfy every adventurer’s heart.
Year after year tourists flock to the coasts of SoCal, but northern residents know the state’s true beauty originates in the ice cold melts that trickle down the crags and crevices of the Sierra Nevada range.
To be more precise, it’s the rivers. Rivers that sustained the native tribes, rivers that guided European settlers, and rivers that continue to carry recreational opportunities across the central valley.
Those within Yuba, Sutter, and Colusa counties may be some of the luckiest when it comes to accessing these mighty flows. Marysville lies nestled in the fork of both the Yuba and Feather rivers, while Colusa borders the Sacramento River.
In the summer, a drive over the 10th Street bridge gives a view to Feather River Parkway where hordes of people can be seen cooling themselves along the banks. Boats and jet skis whizz up and down the stream while kayakers wave to the kids on shore.
A day spent picnicing on the river is always a blast, but some might want to seek a little more adventure than their beach-bound buds. If you are one of those people who would like a unique river experience without breaking the bank, then river tubing may be a hobby for you.
River tubing does take a bit of thought and planning, but the memories and photo-ops are well worth the effort. The tri-county area offers several local routes, just make sure you know your put-in and take-out points and arrange transportation accordingly. It helps to have at least two vehicles.
What you’ll need
1. River tube
River tubes are more durable than regular pool floats. They’re reinforced bottoms and tethering systems are vital to staying safe when encountering rocks, tree branches and other debris.
Walmart, Amazon, DICK’S Sporting Goods, and Big 5 Sporting Goods are all excellent places to purchase outdoor equipment at a decent price. A quick Google search will show which stores are carrying each item at the lowest cost.
River Run and Hog Wild are some of the more popular brands, but any tube or raft will do as long as it’s designated for river use and has a netted bottom with attachments for rope or other “interlocking” systems.
On average, a one person river tube will cost between $20-$30. Double occupancy or “dual riders” will be in the $35-$55 range. Some models even include room for four at an increased price point.
Once a watercraft has been selected, the next thing to worry about is steering. This is most easily done with a set of paddles or oars. Intex French Oars come in handy because of their ability to telescope in size, becoming smaller or larger as needed. A set of oars, from the same stores mentioned earlier, should run between $12-$20.
One oar per tube is plenty, and some tubers may not require an oar if they are tethered to at least one primary paddler.
3. Water shoes
Those who have traversed the rivers know things tend to get a bit rocky. To counteract this, and help ensure a strong foothold, a sturdy pair of river or water shoes is a must. Unfortunately, this purchase isn’t something to cut corners on. A solid pair of water, sometimes referred to as surfing or fishing shoes, will run around $30. While this might seem a bit steep, it’s well worth the investment and will come in handy when exploring many of the off-shore adventuring sites.
4. Sun protection
Of course sunscreen is a must, but a long sleeve sun or fishing shirt will help combat the chill and decrease the need for reapplication. Baseball caps and sunglasses are also great, just make sure to use items you don’t mind losing in case of a tip over.
5. Dry bags
Inevitably there will be items you need to bring along that can’t get wet. This is where dry bags come in handy. A good dry bag will run between $10-$20 depending on its size. Ziplock baggies are also good to use as an extra layer of protection for cell phones and key fobs.
What to pack
Traveling light is a must. An experienced floater can usually get away with one compact towel (turkish or camping towels are preferable), a water bottle, bug spray, and a few snacks.
Additional items could include a water proof camera to document the journey and bluetooth speakers keep the good vibes flowing.
An electric air pump is the easiest way to fill tubes prior to launching. These pumps come with a variety of attachments and can be powered through the cigarette lighter or auxiliary power outlet found in most cars.
Once on the river, it can be handy to bring along a hand pump for any top-offs that might be needed. Also make sure to bring some vinyl patches, UV repair adhesive, or duct tape for emergency repair of any holes or tears.
Those with floating coolers who prefer to bring beverages and other food may be able to skip out on ice as the water itself is quite cool.
For comfort purposes, keep a change of clothes and flip flops in the car to change into when you’re done.
1. Parks Bar Quarry to Hammon Grove (1.5 to 2 hours)
Team members of the Appeal-Democrat recently floated this scenic trip which offers some of the best views of the “Yuba Goldfields” along the Yuba River. This area is also known as the Hammonton dredge field, the largest gold dredge field in California.
Mounds of cobble hills can be seen along the journey, remnants of California’s intense period of hydraulic mining. Hydraulic mining started in 1853, and within 15 years entire mountains were washed into the Yuba River, changing its landscape and the lives of residents forever. Debris built up and became so bad that the practice was outlawed in 1884. After that, the river was dredged and scoured for gold until 1964. Since then, nature has been reclaiming its territory and restoration projects have taken place to help sustain river flows and encourage salmon repopulation. The rocks and coble have created fun sprints of rapids and their deposits are commonly used in landscaping projects.
This short ride starts about 30 minutes outside of Maryville and is a great trip for history buffs. About halfway through the journey you’ll encounter the ruins of what locals refer to as the Yuba River Inversion Dam, which is now covered in graffiti art. The dam was originally built to withhold the debris of hydraulic mining. This is a great spot to stretch your legs, eat some snacks, and snap some photos.
Keep your eyes open for the blue sign that announces your arrival at Hammon Grove. There will be some easy pull outs shortly after the sign.
2. Hallwood to Shadpad Park (2 to 3 hours)
This trip, also along the Yuba River, is slightly longer than the first and avoids the dangers of the submerged diversion dam at Daguerra Point. Floaters put in at Hallwood, off the south end of Hallwood Boulevard in Marysville, and mozy on through to Shad Pad Park, a beach in West Linda near MMX Racing. This route is reported to be the safest for beginners.
3. Mosquito Beach to Boyd’s Pump (3+ hours)
This run starts in Yuba City and covers a stretch of the Feather River. This route is quite popular among boaters and river enthusiasts with many opportunities to stop and swim along the way. Put in at Mosquito Beach Boat Ramp, located across the levee from 2nd Street, just south of Garden Highway near the Sutter County Airport.
The easiest take out spot is Boyd Pump, another public boat ramp off Garden Highway south of Yuba City between Barry Road and Oswald Road. The most dangerous portion of this float comes near the end at Shanghai Bend, a clay formation in rapid transition and very variable depending on water height. It’s quite beautiful, but it’s recommended that someone scout this area a day or so prior to the trip to ensure passable rapid conditions.
It may be possible to extend this run as far as Star Bend Park just west of Plumas Lake, but be prepared for a slightly longer walk back to the car or pick-up vehicle.
– Never float alone. Always stay with your group and make sure to tether stragglers or those who don’t have a paddle.
– Life jackets are always recommended, especially for children or inexperienced swimmers.
– When approaching rapids, try to aim for the center and go into them backwards to help balance the weight of the tube.
– Bring extra rope to tie down all your belongings and connect tubes together. Keep one safety rope coiled on deck to throw in an emergency to any capsized companions.
– Carry a safety whistle, lighter, flash light, and a small first aid kit in your dry bag.
– If you fall into heavy rapids or swift water, float on your back with the toes of your feet pointed toward the sky. One of the most common causes of drowning in white water happens when someone tries to stand and gets their foot or leg caught on a rock underneath. Water then rushes over the person, pushing their face into the water.
We hope our readers find this information useful and that it inspires them to get out and explore the many outdoor options available throughout the region.
Please float responsibly and pack all trash in and out with you.
We would love to hear from our community of local adventures and learn more about the other options that are available. Those with tips and info can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Jared Slack, Perry Leslie, and “Floating the Yuba River” Facebook group for their recommendations.