Not a paddler? Not to worry–life on the water isn’t reserved just for kayakers and canoeists. If you’d prefer to sit back and float your way along, there’s no better way to experience the water than on an inner tube. Whether you’re up for a little excitement in some fast-moving water, or you’d really like a true “lazy river” experience, Canada’s waterways have a route that’s perfect for you.
Elbow River, Calgary, AB
The Elbow is a nice, gentle float, perfect for families. The water is relatively shallow (and may be too shallow to tube in some spots, depending on what time of year it is). The water can be chilly, but on a hot Calgary day, it’s nice and refreshing. Just be sure to wear a PFD–it’s the law within the city limits.
Elora Gorge, Elora, ON
A nice float through towering cliffs with a good mix of fast-moving, shallow sections and slower, deeper spots. Wear water shoes if you’re worried about rocks, and consider wearing lightweight shorts so you don’t scrape your–ahem–nether regions. You’ll have to register and pay at the conservation area kiosk, where you’ll get a tube, a helmet, and a PFD. A shuttle bus runs during July and August–otherwise, it’s a bit of a hike from the kiosk to the launch point.
Penticton River Channel, Penticton, BC
Take a break from the beach and relax–the Penticton River Channel, also known as the Okanagan River Channel, is a 7-km channel between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. This is a three- to four-hour ride, so pack a cooler with some (non-alcoholic) drinks–and don’t forget the sunscreen. Coyote Cruises, a local outfitter, runs a regular shuttle bus from one end to the other.
Gaspereau River, Gaspereau, NS
Right now, low water levels means there’s no tubing on this lovely spot in the Annapolis Valley–but locals are hopeful that levels will be back up by late August. The water level is actually controlled by Nova Scotia Power, who limit water flow downriver to ensure fish habitats are maintained and cottages on Black River Lake have enough water. If you go, and the water level is back up, plan to use two vehicles so you don’t have to hike all the way back to the beginning to get home.
South Saskatchewan River, Medicine Hat, AB
Again, make sure you’ve got a PFD. By law, you also need a whistle and a 15-foot tow rope. This route, which most people access at Dale Regional Park, will give you some neat views of downtown Medicine Hat, as well as wildlife along the shores. Say hi to the boaters and paddleboarders who are floating along as well.
Rivière Rouge, Rivière Rouge, QC
Drift down the lazy Rivière Rouge, just north of Mont Tremblant. Shuttles are available from local campsites, and there are beach and picnic areas at either end. Kids under 18 have to wear a life jacket.
Pembina River, Entwistle, AB
Environment Canada has a handy chart that shows the water levels in the Pembina River–too high, and it’s too dangerous to tube. Too low, and you’ll scrape your bottom on the bottom. Right in the sweet spot in the middle, you’ll find a lovely route through a 62-metre gorge carved by the Ice Age.