One of the most iconic summer activities in the Comox Valley is tubing down the Puntledge River.
There’s no doubt that a fabulous time can be had if you know and practice a few key tips and tricks. First of all, get acquainted with the water safety section of the AdventureSmart.ca Guide.
Follow the advice, along with the following guidelines from Mike Bryan of Comox Valley Search and Rescue, and your float experience is sure to be a blast!
> Float with a buddy or posse – The Puntledge may seem pretty tame, but don’t take it for granted. You may need some help along the way, so never float alone.
> Never tube intoxicated – Do we really need to spell this out?
> Dress appropriately – In case you need to walk or wade a bit, wear water shoes or sandals—it’s rocky on the bottom!
> Know the flow – Make sure everyone in your party is comfortable with the river level and current, and watch for hazards.
> Never raft up your tubes – With lots of narrow, shallow places along the river, you increase your chances of getting stuck if you’re all tied together.
As co-owner of Blue Toque Sports Ltd (the place with the piles of colourful tubes stacked outside) on 5th St. in downtown Courtenay, I spend a lot of the summer thinking and talking about tubing. We’re located only a stone’s throw from the popular Puntledge River tubing takeout point at Lewis Park, so there’s a constant flow of sopping-wet folks wearing only bathing suits, water shoes, and waterproof fanny packs scattered around our parking lot on warm sunny days.
Here are some of the most common questions we get about tubing, along with the answers we usually give:
We want to go tubing. Where do we put in?
We’ve been asked this one so much we made a map. Find it on our website, or pick up a pamphlet in the store. You can also ask one of our seasoned employees.
So how do we get there?
Tubing down the river can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Obviously, you end the trip down river from where you start, so having a plan is crucial for a stress-free float. One easy solution is to lock your bike somewhere near your takeout point, then you can bike to your car when you’re off the river.
Or you could cab it back up to your car after your float. This requires a little extra planning, as you’ll need to change—no wet bodies allowed in taxis! You can leave a bag of dry clothes at the store to put on for the cab ride. Note: On hot days, the wait can be over an hour due to high demand.
Do I need to rent a tube, or can I just use this inflatable swan I found in the garage?
We recommend using a high-quality floating device. Far too often there are no-longer-floaty pizza slices and unicorns left all over the place after attempting to float down the rock-and stick-laden river. These department-store “disposable” items are hard on the environment and not great in terms of safety. We can rent or sell you a high-quality, durable, industrial-grade, Canadian-made tube that’s unlikely to get a hole. And, to help keep another heap of plastic out of our landfill, we provide free patch kits if needed.
Our Comox Valley community is amazing. One can often see people picking up extra garbage from the river bed or lending a helping hand and advice to first-time floaters. Karma definitely counts on the river.
Cheers to a super-safe and fun year on the Puntledge River!
Oh, and one last piece of advice (that I’ve learned the hard way)…
Before you head out, put on sunscreen. However, we’re learning that sunscreen has an impact on the river, so try to use a brand that’s marked “coral-friendly” to help protect the riparian ecosystem.
Slather it on so you don’t get burned, but try not to get too greasy. That’s a whole other sport: trying to stay on your tube in rapids while slick as a salmon!