The Skinny: Tube the Poudre Dude!
Probably my favorite Fort Collins past time has to be tubing the Poudre River. It has inspired me to stay here over the summer in the past and it is something I regret missing whenever I can't. The coolest thing about Fort Collins tubing is that it gives you options. There is the Cache de la Poudre farther up Rt. 287 which features a longer ride with intense rapids but at the expense of colder water. For the person who prefers the leisurly float, there is the part of the Poudre which extends through the middle of town. It's a shorter ride with barely any rapids, but for some, that's the appeal.
That's What's Up: Tubing the Poudre River
For only $12 at either Big O Tires or Discount Tire Co.(both on College Ave.) you can pick yourself up an entire summer's worth of fun, a nice big round black tractor tire inner tube. Surprisingly, a lot of tire places in town don't carry the right inner tubes for the job so make sure you check these two businesses first or be prepared to waste a day just trying to find your raft. Once you've acquired your vessel, prepare to cast off and have fun tubing the Poudre River. There are two spots which I typically go to and they both provide about an hour and a half to two hours of good tubing pleasure. Make sure that before you try either of these spots that you have the three essentials:
1.) a large inner tube or raft
2.) a pair of water moccasins or sneakers you don't mind getting wet, sandals have a tendency to fall off and get lost, same with sunglasses. The bottom of the Poudre River is extremely rocky and will cut up your feet, plus you may have to fend off some rocks while your floating along tubing the Poudre River.
3.) a buddy with a car. Like any activity, you never want to tube alone in case you get hurt. Also, you're going to need at least two cars so that you can shuttle one car to your launch point and have a second car at the finish to bring you back to that first car.
Now that you've got the three essentials, here are the spots to check out when tubing the Poudre River.
Cache de La Poudre:
For this part of the river, which is much more extreme than the in town ride, your going to need to have your wits about you. There are boulders sticking out of the river everywhere that you could potentially hit your head on and the rapids are up to a class IV out of a class V depending upon the time of year. But if you got the cajones and seek that adrenaline rush, then this part of the river is the perfect place. Head North on College Avenue until it turns into Route 287. Turn left at the Gas Station and head up the Poudre. Leave your first car at the parking lot at Picnic Park on the left hand side of the road, its the first one you pass going up the Poudre. Throw the tubes and all the tubers in your second car and keep heading up the river. Park your second car right next to the Silo at Greystone Park(it's on the right side of the road just after the entrance to the park, you won't have to pay for parking if you don't enter the park.) Hop out and walk down the road into Greystone Park, here's where you start your journey. The hairiest rapids found while tubing the Poudre River are in the very first bend right after you take off so get ready. After that there are plenty more rapids so be prepared. You'll see when you've reached the end (and your car) when you come up on a large rock slanting up on the right side of the river. People are usually jumping off it and you can too. The earlier in the season you go the colder the water is going to be. Its bareable at pretty much any time, but a wet suit is suggest in May through mid June because the water really is that cold!
The Fort Collins Scenic Tour (In Town Tubing):
This part of the river is much calmer and suggested for the first time tubing the Poudre River. Note: You're going to have to get off your raft and walk around approximately twice (depending on where you start) for this trip but its worth it. You can start tubing at pretty much any major cross street in town (Overland, Taft, Shields or College) after Vine St. (North end of town) where the road goes over the river. I personally use Shields because there is ample parking space near the bridge and you can jump off the bridge for a fun start to the trip. I always park our pick up car at the Jefferson St. Park just past the railroad tracks on Jefferson. You know you're coming up to it on the river when you pass the factory on your right. The in town river features two rope swings. There is one just past Sheilds when you start tubing the Poudre River and one a bit farther down (near lemay and mulberry) which marks the first place you need to get out of the river. After you pass the second rope swing, you can float for another couple of minutes but when you see the grates up ahead make sure you get out on the left hand side of the river. After this, the next place you have to get out is at the Dam. I have gone over the Dam myself and know that it is possible and actually quite fun, but you must be warned, I have heard many reports of rebarb sticking out of the concrete which could be very dangerous and hurt you severely. There will be two signs leading up to the Dam that will warn you to get out and walk around, I would advise listening to the signs. Afterwards its about another 20 -30 minute float to the factory and the end of your journey. By the end of it all, you should have had a fun and unique Fort Collins experience. So when the sun starts coming out again and the snow has melted, get your swimsuit, tube and sneakers together and get out there, but most of all, as always HAVE FUN!