Floating down the River

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Getting to relax on the water is possibly the best part of owning a riverfront property. There are so many great ways to enjoy the river in your backyard. From simply sitting on the bank and enjoying the sights and sounds to finding a swimming hole, going fishing or birdwatching, the opportunities are endless. My favorite, however, has to be floating. This can be done in tubes, kayaks, canoes, or even inflatable novelty rafts depending on the length of the trip and river conditions. It can be a full day trip, just a couple of hours, or overnight with camping involved. Here are some pointers for making your river float low-stress and high-fun! 

Planning the Route

Before setting out it is important to get to know the stretch of water you will be traveling. Map out your course and keep the following in mind:


Unless you are both putting in and getting out of the water on or within walking distance from your property you’ll need to plan for transportation. Having someone drop you off and/or pick you up is very convenient but also requires that someone to miss out on all the fun of being in the water. Often you’ll need two vehicles so that everyone can join in, one parked at each end of the run. 

River conditions

Things you’ll want know about include:

  • Water flow – including typical water speed (which will directly impact how long your trip will take), slow spots, rapids, etc. Nothing beats firsthand experience here, so it may make sense to do a trial run with only experienced adults before taking kids out for the first time. Alternatively, you could do short sections of a longer run leading up to the full trip.
  • Current water level – recent rainy or dry spells will raise or lower the water level in the river and will affect the flow of the float. Higher water means faster currents (and in extreme cases making rapids more dangerous). Low water may mean having to walk portions to avoid bottoming out.
  • Weather – it definitely pays off to be aware of the most up to date weather report before setting out, including checking the UV index to be informed about sunscreen spf choice and time between reapplying.

Meal/Snack Break

Picking an island or suitable stretch of river bank to stop for a picnic makes things easy when people start to get hungry. There are certainly plenty of snacks that can be eaten while still floating but it’s nice to pull up on a beach and take a break for a while. People can get out and stretch their legs, fuel up, and be refreshed for the next leg of the journey. It should be noted that this is also the perfect time for an impromptu rock-skipping competition. If you have a spot in mind with a swimming hole that makes it all the more enticing!


Making a list ahead of time and having everything you need is key to keeping stress low. Throwing in some extras just for fun keeps everyone entertained and can make the expedition more memorable.

Bare Essentials

While it’s certainly possible to be very minimalist in what to bring, you should always keep safety in mind and have at least:

  • Swimsuits – no brainer
  • Plenty of water – it’s easy to get dehydrated
  • Life jackets or other PFD’s – at least for kids or anyone not a strong swimmer
  • River shoes – can be water shoes, old sneakers, or strapped sandals (flip flops won’t cut it). Sharp rocks or worse, broken glass, can wreak havoc on unprotected feet
  • Sunscreen and First Aid – accessible either with you or nearby in the car or house if on a shorter trip. Better safe than sorry

The Rest

  • Phone/ID waterproof bag – There are plenty of great purpose built bags for this but a few nested ziplock bags can also work fine. Just make sure whatever bag you use is secured to something so you don’t end up watching it float away if a boat/cooler tips over! I’ve definitely been laughed at by the folks in the phone store after sheepishly confessing I’d lost mine during a short trip in a kayak. 
  • Rope, pocket knife and carabiners – everything you need to tie vessels together and easily unhook. Carabiner bungees are really nice
  • Snack/drink cooler – a lightweight cooler is key here but don’t use styrofoam; it will break up and spread trash everywhere. Tie the cooler into its own tube secured to another vessel. Pro tip: if the cooler is tied to your raft or you get first access to the best snacks and drinks. Put a trash bag in the cooler too for wrappers and empty drink containers. Remember, no glass!
  • Cheap Sunglasses and hats – don’t lose your favorites, strap them on if you can
  • Towels and change of clothes – having dry clothes in the car can feel luxurious
  • Waterproof camera/binoculars – enjoy the wildlife and scenery
  • Water guns and popsicles – fun for kids and adults