A few weeks ago, I did something I’ve always wanted to do. Something I read about most of my childhood, heard about how fun it was, even planned at one point, but never did it. Until now. I tubed the Delaware. Y’know, like, filling up a rubber tube, plopping in the water, plopping yourself on top of it, and floating downstream to wherever-the-river-takes-you. And I can tell you it was so much fun!
We had a local guide with us; a friend who’d grown up in Port Jervis, New York and had done this particular route 50-100 times. He didn’t live in the area anymore, but last spring he’d offered to take my whole group tubing if we’d be interested. If we were interested? Of course!!!
We carried all our stuff down a fairly wide trail (maybe about a quarter mile (0.4 km)) to the river’s edge, and pushed off from the bank. Almost immediately a set of rapids sent us splashing and bobbing in the swift current. It was such fun – I especially loved riding the kayak over the waves (especially when they’d crash over the bow and get me wet!)
Because I wasn’t in charge of planning the trip, and I didn’t bring my GPS for fear of it getting wet (we’re in nothing more than bathing suits, life jackets, and tubes on a river, after all), I can’t tell you a lot about where we went, except that we started somewhere upriver from Port Jervis and of the Eagle’s Nest (Mongaup may be right). There was a nice little parking lot where we could unload our gear, pump up our tubes (mostly cheap $6 ones of the vinyl variety from Walmart) and load the rest of our gear (mostly coolers and a backpack full of water bottles) into our friends’ kayak. A national park ranger was in a little portable information booth nearby. Purportedly, she was there to give information, but really I think she was there to stop anyone who tried to get on the river without a life jacket (a law that’s unavoidable; there are plenty of park rangers and volunteers patrolling the river, too – not that I’ve had wanted to go out without a life jacket!) The patrolling rangers were generally very nice, although one did give us the what-for, making sure we knew where we were going and what we were doing.
Somewhere along the way, we pulled over to the left bank. Our friend made sure we were well-beached, then led us through a hole in the stone wall. At one time, this was a sluice for the Delaware & Raritan Canal. He then led us up to the toe-path – above the hole – and along the path to an old lock. It’s got to be the coolest lock I’ve ever seen. Not only is it not full of water, but you can walk into one end and look up at the old stonework – cool! There is some poison ivy in the area, so be careful.
We returned to the river for lunch, then launched again. Just before a train bridge came the best of the rapids. Normally, the other rapids are better, and these are pretty blah, but the water was extremely high due to recent rains (we’d gotten 5 inches (13cm) south and west of there over the last couple days) which changed the water flow a bit. These rapids were even more fun than the first set, with many waves and bobbing up and down and over the water.
Just after the bridge, several of us pulled out on the right bank (there’s a swimming area) so I could change my front-seat in the kayak for a tube and another group member could have a turn kayaking. We floated for a bit, then pulled out on the right bank in a little cove among some cliffs. A rope was hanging down, but after four of us didn’t make it out far enough to miss the shallows, we decided we’d settle for jumping off a rock where the water became very deep (well over my head) immediately.
We sat around in the shade for a bit, talking and eating the last of the candy bars our friend had graciously provided (yum!) When we finally put back into the water, I was hooked up with one of the younger members of the group who wasn’t big enough to paddle with his hands. Some of the tubes had strings on the side, made to attach together so you could all float downriver together. We found that two worked quite well, but that more than that was a little bulky, especially if you wanted to get someplace specific. On your own, or even with two, it wasn’t too hard to paddle with your hands to get across the river.
After the cliffs, the river seemed to become calmer. Usually, there are two more sets of rapids, and you have to be careful not to run into rocks that stick out above the water or near the surface. However, with the high water the rapids virtually didn’t exist. So I was just as thankful I’d experienced a little bit of real rapids just after I’d gotten into a tube, because these weren’t very exciting.
We pulled out at a sandy non-swimming beach, and our friends call the relatives he and his wife were staying with to come pick him and one member of my group up so they could go back to where we started and pick up our vehicles. The rest of us deflated the tubes wandered in the water, and generally chatted while we waited for them to come back.
Overall, it was such fun! I’m so thankful we were able to finally tube the Delaware…and to do it with good friends, besides!
Regulations: The only regulations I’m aware of are 1) you must wear a life jacket and 2) you must pack out what you pack in (no littering!)
Facilities: I believe there was a portable restroom where we began, but I didn’t use it.
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We used tubes very similar to this without any trouble, the handles great for keeping the tube during rapids and more or less intentional spills into the river. They’re also a fraction of the price of buying true rubber tubes. I expect to get more use out of it in the future!