PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Clackamas River has been a summertime destination for innertube floating for years. But like any body of water, it can be dangerous.
Earlier this summer, Clackamas County issued a list of “6 Things you Need to Know Before Floating the Clackamas River” to help keep floaters safe, ensure they have fun, and protect the river from garbage.
Below are those six tips, plus additional information from Tom Riggs, manager of Clackamas County Parks and Forestry.
1. Remember your keys
Floating the river often requires one vehicle parked at the start of a float trip and one vehicle at the end. A fun day on the water can take a negative turn if floaters get to the end of their ride, only to realize they don’t have keys to the vehicle parked at the end.
Bonus tip: Riggs says there are some shuttle services that can provide rides to tubers and some people have been using rideshare or taxi services to avoid parking a car at the end of their float.
2. Take note of float times
The trick to requesting a ride to pick you up at the end is knowing your float times. The strategy can work great as long as people know how long it will take to get from point A to point B. Riggs said as the water grows shallower later in the summer, floats take longer, and that’s important to keep in mind.
“A float that may have taken a certain amount of time one week might be different the next week,” he said. “So, you need to plan ahead and make sure that you can get off the river in time.”
Typically, a float from the lower ramp at Milo McIver State Park to Barton Park takes 4-5 hours. A float from Barton Park to Carver Park takes 3-4 hours.
3. Don’t get towed
Riggs recommends people begin their float no later than 4 p.m. Barton Park and Carver Park, two popular end destinations, both close at 9 p.m. and any cars left in the parking lots after this time will be towed.
Clackamas County spokesperson Kimberly Webb also warns floaters that waiting until 4 p.m. to get to a park is not the best idea. The parking lots fill up quickly and people might not be able to find a spot to park. It’s best to arrive earlier in the day.
4. Pack out trash
Pack it in, pack it out – it’s the classic phrase taught to campers and the same guideline applies to floating the river. Any food or drinks brought along on a float should leave the river with floaters. It might not be a bad idea to tie a garbage bag to your innertube to store items in. Floaters are asked to respect private property along the river.
5. Haul out empties
Just like trash, empty bottles and cans need to leave the river. Alcohol is not allowed in county parks, but anyone who comes across discarded bottles and cans is asked to haul them out. It’s never a good idea to bring glass bottles on the river. They can break and pose a danger to other people on the water. Not to mention they might pop someone’s tube!
6. Be prepared
Just because you’re on an innertube doesn’t mean you don’t need to wear a life jacket. Clackamas County reminds people that life jackets save lives. People should also have a whistle on them in case they need to call for help.
Riggs said one of the biggest things he’d ask of people is to be prepared to walk their innertubes through shallow water. Tubes often pop in shallow places.
“Every weekend, we have people who are going out and buying inflatable pool toys, basically, to float down the river and every weekend, they’re throwing them in the dumpster at the other end because they got a hole in them,” he said.
There are some weekends when Riggs said an entire park dumpster is filled with discarded flotation devices. He thinks it’s not sustainable and it’s a waste of people’s money.
Bonus tip: Webb wants people to stay safe on the water by not using drugs or alcohol. These intoxicants can disorient people, making it easier for them to drown. People should also have swimming and survival skills before floating the river and should supervise people who can’t swim. The county has more information online about how to stay safe in hot weather.
Where to go:
Clackamas County has a lot of rivers, but Riggs said he feels the Clackamas River is the best one to float on.
He recommends the lower ramp at Milo McIver State Park to Barton Park. For a shorter stretch, he said people could go from the lower ramp at McIver to the Feldheimer Floating Launch. They could also go from the Feldheimer Launch to Barton Park.
Another option is to go from Carver Park to Riverside Park.
For people who have all day to spend on the river (and a lot of sunscreen) Riggs recommends going from the lower McIver ramp to Carver Park. He warns this float could be a long day in the sun.
Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory also has a list of recommended routes.
Where to avoid:
While the upper ramp to the lower ramp on Milo McIver State Park is a great route for kayakers, Riggs said people on innertubes should avoid this stretch due to the choppy water.