As a family that’s still navigating the waters of social distancing, we’re looking for fun things to do outside and away from large groups of people. For us, a tubing trip at White River Canoe Company was a great fit. This outdoor adventure business gives visitors experiences canoeing, tubing and kayaking on the West Fork of the White River northeast of Indianapolis in Noblesville.
River Tubing with Kids
Before we had kids, our group of about 20 adults would spend one of the last weekends of August camping out. Our Saturday entertainment was a river excursion aboard a tube on the river. We would pack giant coolers full of adult beverages and snacks and spend 3-5 hours just floating, listening to music and telling stories. About ten years ago, all of us started having children and it became difficult to get away for a weekend.
This summer, we decided to take our 4, 5, 8 and 10 year old on a similar adventure, with Noblesville just about 30 minutes from our home near downtown Indy, it’s the perfect location for this summer activity.
White River Canoe Company
This outfitter sits right on the White River and their site is where you’ll start your adventure and end your adventure. Pull in to the driveway and check-in at the office. Be sure to fill out your waivers online before you arrive to save time and avoid a $5 paper waiver fee. Otherwise, you can do this from your phone when you arrive.
After checking in, drive your vehicle to the bottom of the hill where you’ll be given a life vest (children age 13 and under are required to wear life jackets). You may want to consider bringing your own if you have a more comfortable option in your collection. These life vests are the standard blocky, orange type. If your child is under 30 pounds, please bring your own that has the strap between the legs. If you’d like to join your tubes together, ask for some tube straps.
From here, you’ll wait for a school bus to come pick you up and take you upriver to Potter’s Bridge where you’ll begin your journey down the river. This is the location that you’ll end up getting out of the river after your tube trip. You can also leave one vehicle at this site (River Road Site, 17180 River Road, Noblesville) and then drive yourself to Potter’s Bridge and meet the equipment truck there. This is what we did to maintain social distancing. Just don’t forget your keys!
River conditions dictate how long your tube float trip is. When there has been a lot of rain, the river is higher and moves quicker. When it’s been dry, the river moves slower and you may need to get out of your tube more often to drag your tube through low areas.
On the day that we took our trip, it hadn’t rained significantly in about two weeks. My daughters enjoyed dragging us through some areas and steering us clear of fallen tree debris, but it wasn’t bad at all. Our trip took about 3 1/2 hours and it was fantastic, save for a few moments in the beginning when one of my children decided this wasn’t the activity for her — but she changed her mind after a little while.
While you’re floating down the river, you’ll see all kinds of animals and insects, beautiful homes, hiking and walking trails, bridges and trestles. You’ll have opportunities to get out on islands and shorelines. There are shells to find, creek stomping, fishing and so many other things to do along the way. We typically eat our lunch and snacks in our tubes but we’ve also stopped along the shore to enjoy a snack.
What to Pack for Your Indiana Tube Trip
My children are happy as long as they don’t get “hangry” or thirsty, so I bring a lot of snacks and water. I pack them in a soft sided cooler and then I rent a cooler tube to drag the cooler down the river with us. You’ll also need to slather yourself with sunscreen (we use Cotz Mineral Sunscreen so that it doesn’t burn our eyes when we swim or sweat), as the sun is intense in the water and there are very few shady spots. I also bring along sunblock to reapply when we’ve been swimming or I feel the heat getting into my skin. For reapplying, I typically bring along a spray sunscreen so I can get my kids with it from my tube. Don’t forget to get the tops of your head, or wear a hat.
Sunglasses are a must, as the glare and reflection on the water can cause a world of hurt and damage. I also bring along my phone in a water proof floating case so I can snap photos of my kids. Make sure you bring a soft sided cooler bag with pockets to store your car keys in a ziplock bag. It’s always fun to bring along a waterproof bluetooth speaker so you can listen to music as you drift along. You’ll need to secure it to your raft or cooler, so I like this one with the clip.
You’ll probably want a towel for the car ride home and maybe even a change of clothes.
What to Wear on a River Tube Trip
Swimsuits are the best attire for an inner-tube trip, but anything will do. I also bring along a t-shirt just in case I need more sun protection. Proper footwear will make your trip more enjoyable, especially if you need to exit your tube and traverse rocky areas. I recommend Tevas or similar water shoes like Sketchers that have a strap, but I’ve also been able to get by with my Crocs.
Best Snacks for a River Float Trip
Drinks: Water (lots and lots of water), Gatorade, Powerade. Glass is not allowed.
Snacks: pretzels, chips, granola bars, fresh fruit like apples, oranges, peaches, cheese sticks.
Lunch: Uncrustables/PB&J, deli sandwiches, cheese and crackers.
If you’re looking for a summer adventure in the water, a float trip should be on your summer must-do list!