Cold river water is one way to cool off on a hot summer day

Tubing is an activity that both locals and students enjoy, although students from Chico State have turned it into something quite spectacular.vcb Tubing involves floating down a river using a tube for flotation. Many people choose to take food and beverages along for this activity, and some people will put their coolers inside the tube for flotation as illustrated in the example below.

Many locals regard Labor Day weekend 2004 as the last great tubing weekend on the Sacramento River This was the year that rock star energy drink allegedly set up a booth on Beer Can Beach, and people partied at the river all day. After this river tubing on holiday weekends lost slight popularity, but it is slowly making a comeback.

During Labor Day in 2007, a group of students rented a bus to help ferry students to a popular tubing location on the Sacramento River. Over 15,000 students participated in the annual tradition. It made headlines for its sheer scope and questions of legality over the busing. Coordinators intended to help make the festive time safer for tubers by providing a way to avoid driving.

Another popular weekend is Memorial Day weekend, or the weekend prior to finals at Chico State. In 2009, the weekend prior to finals saw at least 5,000 people clogging waterways with their tubes.

More recently, the unofficial "alumni weekend" 2010 saw an insane amount of tubers and rafters on May 1, 2010, beer can beach was pretty much just that with more stepping on cans than the rocks, and there were 2 easy ups, a generator, and music.

Businesses all over Chico try to cash in on tubing by renting the tubes and offering "free air." Many gas stations will give out air for free, however since California state law only requires gas stations to give out free air for automotive purposes, a few gas stations will charge or attempt to charge for air. Stations most notorious for not honoring requests for free air are the Tower Mart on Walnut Street and 6th Street, the Chevron on 9th Street between Broadway and Main, and the 7-11 on the corner of Forest and 32.

Another interesting aspect of tubing is the various methods tubes are secured to cars and trucks for transport to the river.

Local Places to Tube

This is "Scotty's Boat Landing" Photo used with permission.

  • Sacramento River - There are many public access sites on the Sacramento River for river tubing. A) The most popular launch spot is the Irvine Finch River Access right off Highway 32, just east of Hamilton city. Most floaters elect to rest at Beer Can Beach and then get off the river at Scotty's Boat Landing. Others however choose to continue further south to Wash-Out Beach where one can see river road from the river. B) Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area is another potential place to start off. Ending locations may be Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park or Irvine Finch River Access. Time: Irvine Finch -> Scotty's Boat Landing = 2 hours (one-way, single-tube, no stops, Labor Day).
  • Butte Creek - Less crowded than the Sacramento River with a little rougher water, Butte Creek is an alternative place that locals enjoy for tubing. The most common drop-off is at the Steel Bridge by Centerville, with an end point of the Covered Bridge downstream. The entire trip takes several hours, and can get fairly rocky at points, but allows you to miss many of the crowds. Note that much of the land surrounding Butte Creek throughout this area is privately-owned. Be respectful of those living along the creek: don't leave your trash on the bank, stay off people's private property, don't be obnoxious and noisy.

Non-Local Places to Tube

  • Bear River - Bear River Tubers. For over 25 years they have braved the river’s rapids and the parties and lived to tell about it. Bear River is a bit of a drive from Chico as it flows through Placer, Nevada, Yuba, and Sutter Counties.
  • American River in Rancho Cordova. Main Launch points are sunrise blvd or hazel avenue, with takeouts at Goethe park or gristmill park. Hazel to Gristmill is at least 4 hours with no stops. A note about this river is that possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited between Hazel and Watt avenues on Memorial day weekend, July 4th, and Labor day weekends thanks to Assembly Bill 951 signed into law by Arnold Schwarzenegger on July 2, 2007. Prior to 07 the same restriction was in effect but only on the banks of the river because the county could not extend their law to the state waterway, and the county law did not prohibit possession, only consumption.

Skills & Safety

Things to know for fun and safety in river tubing include equipment, skills, choosing a river & safety. Leave valuables home, empty your wallet with exception of driver's license, health insurance cards, and automobile club cards. You'll likely want to lock those into your car while keeping your non-electronic car key with you in the safest place possible. Most male swimming trunks have a hideaway pocket sewn on the inside of the waistband where putting a key might be safe. Stores like Tomfoolery offer waterproof hideaway bags that can strap to your body. A neck lanyard with waterproof ID card holder may be advisable. Park in high traffic areas if at all possible and do not leave any valuables in the car! Be sure the car being dropped off downstream also takes similar precautions.

Remember to apply sunscreen every half-hour or whatever the instructions on the sunscreen indicate. Do not jump out of the tube just anywhere, as the under-surface current may catch you off guard. Important places not to get out are cut banks where river flow is fastest! Logically, it would likely be best to beach yourself on a point bar or gravel bar and cautiously enter the water. There are exceptions to this rule such as during increased flow due to storm or release from a dam. You are not guaranteed safety swimming off a point bar. Also note that water is fastest just above the riverbed where there is little resistance to flow. BE CAREFUL.

Use common sense and don't drink while tubing!

For more information check out

Also see

Tubing Image Gallery

For some, a leisurely float down the river isn't complete without a cooler close by Weekend before Chico State's finals week, 2009. Lots of tubes heading out Highway 32 How many tubes can one possibly cram into the back of a pickup truck? At least five tubes stuffed into one small car


2009-08-03 11:44:14   Great site, really top notch. —

2009-11-12 06:21:57   Thanks for including my web site in your excelent overview of tubing. -Bear River Tubers Webmaster —

2010-05-01 23:44:16   good fun... I am usually one of the firefighters watching out for everyone entering the Sacramento River at Irvine Finch, heres some tips and recommendations that will give you a better chance of having a good time.

Don't tie your tubes together... The snags can be really bad if you're connected. Sometimes we even have to put rescue swimmers on the snag to cut the ropes as people go through. Don't expect us to be there every time... usually only on big events, and even then we might be busy, (being volunteers we might not be there that day)

NEVER tie yourself to ANYTHING! tying yourself to an ice chest inner tubes raft or keg is absolute suicide... ropes WILL get caught on snags and flip you off your tube or pull you under. you Will drown! the water is fast enough to the point where your friends cant swim back to help you.. few people ever carry waterproof phones let alone to the river... the time it takes before someone can be contacted to save you is MUCH longer than it takes to drown. (2 hr float)

You cannot take glass containers down the river or to the park (some of those bottles break in the water and can be really sharp if you step on one in a shallow area)

You cannot drink alcohol at Irvine Finch so try not to open containers till you're in the water... or on beer can beach.. If you do drink remember alcohol lowers the body temperature and promotes hypothermia.. The water is only 58 - 64 degrees in the summer. On May 1st it 2010 during an event with over 5000 people it was only 47 degrees the weather temperature was around 71 degrees or so. Also, just swimming under the influence can prove fatal or just make it really hard to swim to shore..

Make sure to try and get out at Scotty's bar and boat landing before the washout cause you're in for a long ride if you miss the washout and theres a lot of really bad snags. both exits and beer can beach should be on your left as you face the direction you are moving in when floating downstream (aka river left)..

There is no ground access to beer can beach so if you're going to try and get there plan on taking a tube or boat there..

Sometimes on big events there will be live bands, but also during big events there will be a lot of law enforcement so be on your best behavior or you might end up with fines or a cell mate in the drunk tank.. your call..

And please try to remember that this is near our home. We are just out there to make sure you make it home. Be aware of the environment. Pick up after yourself so others can enjoy it too. keep a water resistant bag for collecting your trash or keep it in your raft

If you plan on stopping at beer can beach make sure you have some shoes sandals flip flops etc. the rocks will be hot from the sun... also remember to get some sunblock and any preferred UV protection... or you will burn up pretty good.. once more shoes are good for reducing the risk of cutting your foot on a rock or bottle dropped by the ignorant ... "individuals" from earlier events.. once again please don't bring glass... no one likes an infection...

There is a fee to park at Irvine Finch (if memory serves me right it is $5.00) there is no walk in fee but the walk can get far as thousands of people go through on the big events so there will be plenty of cars lined down the highway

I personally recommend taking tubes/boats that are not inflated and bringing your own pump, you can get pulled over for having tubes too far out on the vehicle or holding them through the window while the vehicle is moving.

some people take a bus or taxi on the big events.. whichever is most convenient. There is a power plug in you can use to run an electric pump if you bring one.

It may be a good idea to have a friend park their car at the end of the float near Scotty's Landing so you can get a ride back to your car. during the big events there will likely be taxis at Scotty's

(ONLY if you're the designated driver.. remember, lots of cops! and i don't like shoveling brains off the road... think smart.. call a taxi! a few dollars can mean a life or two) .

Once you get in the water, it is recommended to keep with your group.. i cant even count the number of times search and rescue has had to look for someone who could be in danger when they just left with someone else..

If you find that you've gone too far (past Scotty's and the washout) the next boat ramp if I'm correct is at Ord Bend.. which is an additional 8 HOURS!! the usual float is around 2.. in an emergency if you have to get out of the water and manage to find a good spot to get out do not go through the wildlife area.. its nicknamed the "jungle" for a reason.. the fastest way to be rescued is to stay near the shore visible from the water.. many people have been stuck out on the river at night after tubing late and missing the washout.. then get lost in the jungle,its thick, covered with Poison Oak, berry bushes, and Ticks.. best to wait it out.

If you have any questions during a big event ask.. some of us will be waiting to jump to someones rescue at the park benches near the boat ramp.. waiting for a call in the fire engine.. or out on the water looking out for you.. we are happy to help and we do it for free!

i know its a long comment but I'm a newb to html and wiki so copy as you see fit :) and ill see ya on the river ;D


2010-05-12 20:07:48   a correction to garretjames post

"If you find that you've gone too far (past Scotty's and the washout) the next boat ramp if I'm correct is at Ord Bend.. which is an additional 8 HOURS!!"

about 1 hr past scottys on the left there is a park, not sure what its called but you can see the road from the river, so definitely get out there. And do not attempt the float to ord bend, my friends and i were stupid enough to attempt this on purpose in 2004 and luckily some fishermen took pity on us and took us downstream in their boat. —slammin211s