Sunday, July 24, 2022

Leavenworth WA: 8 Tips for Tubing the Wenatchee River

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Imagine yourself on a big fat tube on a hot day, cruising the river with a stunning Northwest view. The Wenatchee River runs through Leavenworth in North Central Washington. This is one of the most epic experiences I've had in the great outdoors!

8 Tips for Tubing on the Wenatchee River: Leavenworth

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Book at Leavenworth Outdoor Center

If you plan to tube on the Wenatchee River, I don't advise doing it without the guidance of local professionals. We did see several rafters with flotation devices navigating the river on their own.  The river is rough in spots and unpredictable. You definitely need the best equipment and professional advice to have a safe experience.

Leavenworth Outdoor Center  handles all the details of  the tubing experience from beginning to end.  Currently reservations are only being accepted online.  Do reserve your adventure a few months in advance. As you can imagine, this activity sells out fast.  The center also offers paddleboard and kayak rentals.

After arrival at the Outdoor Center downtown Leavenworth, a guide will direct you where to hop on a van. The vans are open air, no windows and a mask is required.  It's a short ride up to the mouth of the river. This is where your tube adventure will begin.  It takes about 5 minutes to arrive.

When you hop off the van, a guide will be there to greet you. A short 5 minute presentation is made to inform you of the " dos and dont's" of tube rafting the river. This is where to pick up your tube and life jacket.  Listen carefully to the instructions. I promise you will be glad you did!


If you are traveling from Western WA: Take Interstate 90. Then cut off at Highwway 97 and take Blewett Pass. Follow the signs. It takes about the same amount of time if you take Hwy 2.  Amtrak also serves Leavenworth from Spokane and Seattle daily.  If you are traveling from Eastern WA, check out directions on Trippy.

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Wear a Life Jacket

The Leavenworth Outdoor Center will strongly advise you to wear a life jacket. It makes no difference if you are a strong swimmer or not.  The strong currents can pull you under fast, it's better to be safe than sorry.  You may be concerned about sweating or getting too hot, no worries the water will cool you off quick. Even thought it was 94 degrees, I kept the life device on most of the trip.

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Wear A Waterproof Pouch

Of course you will want photos and video of this remarkable experience .  How do you navigate the river without drowing your cell phone? Where a waterproof pouch around your neck, and actually keep it closed. ( guess who didn't ? ha ha)  The one I bought was not great quality for taking pictures, so I had to take my phone out to get good snaps.

Pack Light

It's tempting to bring stuff such as food, extra clothing etc. with you on the tube. All you need  is a bottle of water. I brought an extra bag and jacket, both got soaked! Do yourself a favor and bring only water, a waterproof pouch and medications if needed.

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Wear Quality Water Shoes

Invest in a sturdy pair of water shoes before you go tubing. When I first entered the river, I had a hard time grounding my feet to hop on the tube. I was finally able to secure myself and jump on. If I was barefoot or wearing cheap shoes, it would've been almost impossible.

Steer the Tube Strategically

Two VERY IMPORTANT PIECES OF EQUIPMENT are frisbies for paddles. Some opt to use their hands to paddle.  I promise you will be sorry if you don't use the frisbies! I was using my hands to start off with. That strategy did not pan out so well. I kept spinning in circles and ended up in some very precarious places!

The guide gives detailed instructions on how to use the frisbies to steer yourself down the river.   It took the first hour to get used to steering the tube. Let's just say; I spent a good portion of the time cruising the river backwards ha!  The frisbies did not want to work with me.

It's important to pay close attention where you steering, like this curvy bend near the end of the ride. The current tends to pull tubes towards either side of the shore, instead of staying in the middle. I had to battle my tube to keep in the middle. This part of the river is full of pointy sticks and logs.  It was not easy to navigate around them.

Stop for Breaks

The ride down the river takes a total of 2 hours, and you are free to take more time if you wish. There are many places where you can jump off your tube  and rest on the shore. I saw several picnics going on.  The guides at the Outdoor Center tell you to take all the time you like. The only requirement is to have all tubes back to the main check point by 6 p.m.

Let me tell ya, tube rafting down the Wenatchee is not as easy as it looks. OH MY GOSH, it was so much work!  Luckily several spots along the river are shallow and you can hop off to rest on the shore.  We certainly took advantage of those places.

Be Prepared to Jump to End the Ride

This small cove is where the tube rafting adventure ends.  Just before the cove is a HUGE warning sign. It tells you stop and get off the tube!  The river starts to widen and pick up speed and you could be swept away. I was drifting backwards and not paying attention and was caught off guard.  I almost was carried down stream. I jumped off fast, and carried my tube while fighting the current; not fun!  I advise jumping off way before the departure spot, where the water is shallow and calm.

After you're finished tubing, head 4o minutes east to Lake Chelan for some R & R! It's a dreamy oasis you will fall in love with immediately.  I've lived in WA state 30 years and visited for the first time this summer. I know crazy right?!?

Did you go tubing this summer?

Would you like to comment?

  1. I hear a lot about Leavenworth for Christmas or Oktoberfest, and really want to visit, but it's also fun to see some different outdoor activities there too. I've never been tubing but looks fun. I will have to give it a try

  2. That looks so beautiful and relaxing. And what a great idea to use frisbee to steer and paddle!

  3. Great post! Water shoes make life so much easier! I've always wanted to go to Leavenworth!