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Seven Perfect Summer Spots for Tubing in the United States | Travel

Tubing on the Saco River in Hollis, Maine

While river tubing is prominent from coast to coast, some spots stand out for their scenery.
Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Late last summer, a couple of friends and I decided to go tubing along the lower American River, a spring-fed body of water in Northern California that runs right through Sacramento. For nearly four hours we floated along, each of us in our own heavy-duty, mesh-bottom inner tube with our feet dangling over the sides, twisting and turning with the slow-moving current as we went. At one point our group encountered some easy-to-maneuver rapids, but otherwise we mostly just sat back, sipped on sparkling water, snacked on trail mix and simply watched the world pass by.

River tubing requires nothing more than an inflatable inner tube (or something similar) and some water. By most accounts, this recreational activity—letting the river carry you downstream—first gained popularity in the 20th century, alongside the rise of automobiles. “It goes back to the basic idea of people trying to beat the summer heat,” says John Bevell, resident manager of Arizona’s family-owned Saguaro Lake Ranch, which runs tubing excursions along the banks of the Salt River. “If you go back far enough, most car tires had inflatable tubes inside,” he says, “and there was inevitably a spare or miscellaneous tube lying about that people could use to go down, sit in the water and cool off. It just kind of evolved from there.”

While the official history of tubing remains murky, a Life magazine article from July 1941 credits Wisconsin’s David Breault with being one of America’s tubing pioneers. Earlier that year, Breault had invited about 200 people to join in a 45-minute float along the Apple River, near the town of Somerset, where he owned a nightclub, supplying them with free tubes and transport. It was strictly promotional, but the endeavor was such a hit it helped triple his business.

Whatever the origins, river tubing has morphed into a bona fide summer pastime, with hundreds of thousands of tubers taking to U.S. rivers each year. Arizona’s Lower Salt River is especially popular among tubers thanks to its cool spring-fed waters and easy proximity to the Phoenix metro area (about a 50-mile drive east of downtown). The slow-moving current also makes it a good starter river for…

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