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Tubing and Floating on the San Juan River

The Riverwalk Inn sits right on the San Juan River, only one of two hotels in Pagosa Springs located with river access, giving you an easy and quick drop-in point for tubing, floating, and rafting for the whole family. With the arrival of warmer days in the spring and summer, the high-elevation snow begins melting in the nearby San Juan National Forest, feeding directly into the San Juan River and kicking off the season of river adventures.

Being so close to its mountainous source, the San Juan River section running through Pagosa Springs is pristine and one of the best places in the country to float or raft. By late June, the water temperature warms into the mid-50s, eventually reaching 60 degrees as the summer stretches on – it’s brisk at first but refreshing on the hottest days. Tubing is generally best once the river flow rate gets below 300 cubic feet per second (cfs); meanwhile, anything over 300 cfs is more suitable for rafting (as the higher and faster flow leads to more rapids and is safer on a larger river vessel). The USGS has an active online tracker of the current river flow, which dipped from over 1,200 cfs to below 730 cfs in the just the last week of June, so prime tubing season is quickly approaching.

Whether you rent tubes and float the in-town portion of the river or join a longer guided rafting trip, there’s no better way to experience the thrill and fun of the San Juan River!

Floating Through Town – A Tubing Paradise

Our unique riverfront location allows you to walk just a few hundred feet from your Pagosa Springs lodging to the bank of the San Juan. River Center Park, directly behind the property, and Cotton Hole Park, just around a bend in the river, are also two great places to start your day of tubing, kayaking, or rafting. If you already have river gear, you’ll be ready to jump right in the water here, with a prime floating section leading through the town center.

If you need to rent tubes, Pagosa Outside Adventures has been a tubing and rafting mainstay in town for the last decade, run by passionate river guides with tons of experience. Their downtown location is just a half mile from the Riverwalk Inn, across from Pagosa Springs Town Park, and their tube rentals are very reasonable ($19.95 for 3 hours or $29.95 for a full day). They also rent 2-person tubes for a slightly higher price and top-grade kayaks.

If you start at Cotton Hole Park, use the inviting and popular swimming hole to get your feet wet and acclimate to the cool water before jumping on your tube, kayak, or raft. As you approach the bridge at Hot Springs Boulevard, you’ll go through Whitewater Park, where several exciting rapids sections add to the fun while navigating downstream. As you continue, you’ll pass through the main in-town area of the river, floating by hot spring pools along the way. Depending on how long you want to stay in the water, you can get out at either Centennial Park (look for the iconic Greenhouse Project geodesic domes, which are impossible to miss) or continue to the takeout at Yamaguchi Park.

Helpful Info and Tips About Floating and Rafting the San Juan

– Even if you have lots of river experience, bring the essentials for a safe floating day, including a lifejacket, river shoes (you’ll lose flip flops instantly), and sunscreen. If you don’t have these, you can rent them from Pagosa Outside Adventures. Also, don’t try to bring your keys, wallet, or smartphone along while on the water — you’ll likely lose them, so avoid the hassle and leave such valuables on dry land.

– One of the best parts of floating in Pagosa Springs is that the Riverwalk Trail follows the water through town, so you can jump out wherever you want, walk back upstream with your tube on the trail, and get back in the water for another float! For more details, see our recent blog about the Riverwalk Trail.

– Although the river water can feel chilly at times, there are plenty of opportunities to warm up, as you can stop during your float at any of the numerous free mineral water hot springs along the river as you pass through the center of Pagosa Springs. The hippy dip pools are right after the Hot Springs Blvd bridge, and you’ll pass other free thermal pools along the river route. These laidback and relaxing pools are often over 100 degrees, so you’ll be ready to hop back on the river after a quick soak.

– If the San Juan is still running too high during your visit (making tubing unsafe) or if your group would prefer to do a rafting outing, Pagosa Outside Adventures offers multiple guided rafting trips. Their Splash and Dash is an excellent introduction to rafting, with a 4.5-mile beginner-friendly trip through the Whitewater Park and a couple of extra miles leading into town. For longer outings more suitable for intermediate-level rafters, opt for their Mesa Canyon or West Fork trips, which are 13+ miles and feature diverse landscapes, traverse river canyons, and show off the stunning beauty of the San Juan as it winds through our neck of southern Colorado.

Stay with us at our hotel on the San Juan River, where your next tubing and rafting adventure is just steps away!


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