Stay safe, avoid tubing Yampa River during high flows this 4th of July |

Stay safe, avoid tubing Yampa River during high flows this 4th of July

Eleanor C. Hasenbeck/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Rafters take a spill in the 2019 Yampa River Festival in May in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Katie Berning/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s currently unsafe to tube the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs.

High flows on the river have delayed tubing season this year.

“Recreating on the Yampa is best left to experts right now. The flow rate needs to be about 700 cubic feet per second before it’s safe for tubers and typical recreationists,” said Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby.

The river was flowing at about 2,000 cfs through Steamboat on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s nearly three times higher than a safe level for tubing. The National Weather Service forecast that these high flows would continue through the weekend.

Commercial outfitters typically start renting tubes out when the river falls below 700 cfs.

High flows also keep the river cold. On Wednesday, the river was about 54 degrees. This temperature is low enough that without the protection of a wetsuit or drysuit, exposure to river water is cold enough to cause hypothermia and a total loss of breathing control, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety.

“Keep an eye on pets and children,” Cosby said. “Play it safe, and don’t go near (the river) right now.”

City Water Resources Manager Kelly Romero-Heaney guessed — based on data from 2011, a similar water year — that the river might fall to a tube-able level in mid- to late-July.

If you’re itching to get on the water, a safer bet for those without whitewater experience or with young children is to head to area state parks such as Stagecoach, Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake state parks. Several Steamboat area outfitters rent out paddleboards and lake kayaks.

Remember to always wear a personal floatation device and avoid using alcohol or other substances that impair your judgment when on the water.