White-Water Tubing

Every year I suffer through the spring snows, frosts, and winds, waiting to embrace my summer passion: water. Some say that the only way to enjoy the gift of water our lady summer bestows on us is by doing something pricey, e.g., waterskiing, rafting, or kayaking. I say bull. And if you promise not to tell my mother, I’ll tell you my favorite inexpensive way to play.

Tubing. That’s right, I’m talking about sitting in a ring of old black rubber, and no, I do not mean behind a ski boat. I mean down a river, like the Yellowstone in the Yankee Jim canyon. All you need is a ten-dollar inner tube from a tire store, a life vest, two vehicles, an interesting river, and an afternoon.

Have you ever coursed down a river feeling the water rush by your butt? How about in a dubious floatation device? I, of course, am a seasoned veteran of this cheap form of entertainment, but the first time I experienced tubing Bozeman-style I was a wee bit scared.

It was two summers ago, on a first date, in early August. "It’s too late in the season to be exciting," I thought disappointedly. And as we put our tubes on the river my estimation seemed correct. I had to paddle to keep up! But just as I settled in for a long slow ride, I realized just how premature my judgment was. Looming on the horizon was a rapid too monstrous to have survived all the way into August. And before I had time to think about how big this baby must have been in May, the person floating in front of me completely disappeared. I’m not generally queasy when it comes to water activities, but as I approached this ornery rapid I shut my eyes, said a prayer, and held on tight.

Before I knew it, my date was hollering at me from the riverbank to get over there! He wanted to enjoy that strip again. We spent another hour riding that ol’ rapid and I didn’t close my eyes again...this was better than a roller coaster!

So, if you’re short on dough this summer, grab a tube and head for Yankee Jim. I promise you won’t be disappointed with this low-tech way of enjoying the rivers, even if you do consider yourself more sophisticated than a tube and a life vest.