THIS is the life. Does your idea of summer recreation include enjoying the local wildlife, sharing the day with your friends and family, water lapping at your feet? We get it.
Floating down the Puntledge is the ultimate summer vibe. Here’s how to do it well.
Words By Salinas LaPerriere
One of the most iconic summer fun activities in the Comox Valley is tubing down the gorgeous Puntledge River.
There is no doubt that a fabulous time can had by all 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 https://www.adventuresmart.ca/water-safety/ .
Follow the AdventureSmart advice, plus the following five guidelines from Mike Bryan of Comox Valley Search and Rescue, and your float experience is bound 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 what’s the reason for this? (tying tubes together makes me think of pregnancy, so I had to change it 😊)
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 is a constant flow of sopping-wet folks wearing only bathing suits, water shoes, and waterproof fanny packs scattered around our parking lot on 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. Check it out on our website, or pick up a pamphlet in 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 before you go is crucial for a stress-free float. One easy solution is to lock your bike somewhere near your takeout point before you go and bike back up 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 you use a high-quality floating device. Far too often there are no-longer-floaty pizza slices and unicorns left all over the place after a failed attempt of floating 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 yet another heap of plastic out of our landfill, we provide free patch kits if needed.
Our community here in the Comox Valley is so 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 extremely fun year on the Puntledge River! Oh, and one more last piece of advice that I’ve learned the hard way… before you head out, put on some sunscreen. We’re learning that sunscreen does have 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, but try not to get too greasy before you head out! That’s a whole other sport: trying to stay on your tube in rapids while slick as a Salmon.
Blue Toque Sport
1. Puntledge Park – Approx ½ hr float (20 minutes walk back to Blue Toque)
2. Condensory Bridge – Approx 45 minutes float (5 min back to Blue Toque)
3. Lewis Park – Super slow chill part of the river – Approx 1.25hr float ( 2 minutes walk back to Bue Toque)
Smart Tube Purchase
We strongly believe that if you make a smart tube purchase once, it will keep heaps of abandoned budget tubes off the banks of our beautiful Puntledge river.
Our Tubes are ordered from a Canadian company Tube Pro, industrial grade and very high quality. Over the past years, we have sold and rented hundreds with only a couple of punctures due to poor navigation into a sharp pokey object! They do, however, come with a patch kit.
Leave a Bike locked up at Blue Toque Sports to bike up and get your vehicle after your epic floating experience, or call our friends at Coastal Rides 1-855-921-2226 https://coastalrides.ca/or get a buddy to bring you back to your car.