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Jonathan Stull | 06.30.2017

For the brief and uneverlasting summer, rivers become a sanctuary for the young and the restless. Found in the halcyon afternoons atop their waters, aside from the innumerable inflatable rafts, is an opportunity for all of us to return to a carefree age. To soak in the sun. To be needlessly obstreperous.

River floats are not for the bold or the brave. They rarely require long treks into the wilderness, extensive planning, or logistical challenges. They are simply one of the best ways to gather together in the company of friends or strangers in accessible beauty.

And beauty abounds, as always. In many of the West’s great outdoor towns, rivers crawl at a slow and flat pace, ambling through Douglas fir and the spectacle of volcanoes and mountain ranges. To them we take our rafts, our coolers, and an untroubled attitude. For a few hours, we can let the river carry us from put-in to take-out.

Here are five floats to get you started.

1. McKenzie River: Harvest Landing to Armitage Park

Consider the college student: Young, ambitious, poor and working part-time in the summer, they are, in spite of their excitability, understandably limited in their outdoor recreational opportunities. Enter the float, and the McKenzie River is the summer activity of choice for University of Oregon students. Flat and quiet waters throughout and a young crowd make for an enjoyable two-hour float.

2. The Boise River

In another college town, the Boise River float is described as a rite of passage. Unlike the McKenzie River, a convenient shuttle service allows you to forget about car roulette and head straight to the put-in. There are also rentals available, in case you just found yourself in Boise and decided to hit the river. In the experience of yours truly, this isn’t that outlandish.

3. The Deschutes River

This float, popular as it is with Bend locals, is one of the most scenic. Mount Bachelor is a looming presence throughout, as are the Sisters. Beginning at Riverbend Park, the float is a gentle two hours and passes through Bend’s Old Mill District.

4. Truckee River

Perhaps overlooked in favor of the nearby Tahoe, the float on the Truckee River is two to three hours, features occasional mountain views, and like the Boise River offers a shuttle service, which is recommended because parking is limited.

5. Snoqualmie River

A Seattle ritual, the Snoqualmie River float is the longest of these, spanning as long as four hours. If you so desire, you can do it in the company of thousands of your friends—the river hosts the Annual Snoqualmie Falls River Tubing Adventure, which draws the tubing masses to the river each year.


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