This page documents my tubing adventures, both on water and snow.

In the photo above, a group floats down Gunpowder Falls on river tubes to escape the heat of a hot summer day.

AboutOpen accordion icon
While my true love is paddleboarding and kayaking, river tubing is also a great way to get out on the water. Depending on the route, it doesn't require any experience or technical knowledge so it can be well-suited for most people. It is also extremely low budget. Many outfitters rent them at a reasonable price. You can also purchase your own from a truck tire store.

Floating down a lazy, cool river on a balmy, humid, summer day in Maryland is relaxing. Add some whitewater and it can be exhilarating.

In the winter, racing down a snow-covered hill on a tube is a delightful activity for all ages. This was actually my first taste in tubing as a child. I remember flying down a hill at what seemed like the speed of sound, heading up a snow ramp I made, being airborne for a second, and then coming to a gradual stop. It was cold but I didn't notice it once I started climbing back up the hill for another ride. It was the poor-man's sledding. These memories I will cherish forever.
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This section describes some of my tubing adventures. Nothing too exciting. Just good times.

Monkton: August 20, 2006Open accordion icon
Allison, Mark, Norma, and I met at Monkton. Allison and Mark rented tubes which came with the nice "Tube Pro" nylon cover and a mesh bottom. Norma and I had our own new tubes. My last pair were dry rotted from leaving them inflated outside next to the kayaks for several months; hence, they were thrown out. That morning, I inflated the new pair enough so I could put both knees and hands on one of them and only sink into it an inch. Hard to tell exactly how much air they need.

This was my third time tubing in this area. It was a first for everyone else. I went over the route plan, then we began.

We started walking on the North Central Railroad Trail (NCRT). We launched onto Gunpowder Falls from about a half mile north of Monkton, across from the old brick and stone building that lies in ruins. As always, the water was cold. The forecast was a humid 90 degrees. We floated down the river at a rather slow pace. The river seemed quite low and we spent a good deal of time scraping the bottom. Some time was spent getting unstuck from rocks that held onto our tubes.

Norma flipped my tube and sent me over backwards. The water was refreshing and clean.

As one might expect, there were numerous splash fights. Also a good deal of time soaking in the rays and replenishing our vitamin D supply while working on our tans.

We saw some small fish and I found a crab claw. Not much else in the way of wildlife. We saw one heron, some ducks, and a couple of squirrels. A friend had warned me that during the recent heat wave, there were numerous angry snakes in the area but we saw none.

Numerous kayakers were seen. Most had recreational boats and three had whitewater boats. We also saw one canoe loaded with two adults and five small children. They passed us then we passed them later as one of the kids flew from a rope swing into the water.

My tube sprung a small leak but I didn't lose much air.

The route was scenic and narrow. The water was shallow. I don't remember any parts of the river where I could not touch bottom.

Norma didn't flip and hadn't been flipped. Near the end of our adventure, she was sitting upright with most of her weight on her shins and her hands lightly touching the tube. She was floating backwards, not seeing where she was going. I saw this as a recipe for a flip. Sure enough, she hit a rock and fell backwards. As she let out a scream, her upper body disappeared in the water and her feet flew up in the air, legs spread eagle. I was fortunate to have witnessed the entire event. I got a good belly laugh out of it. I haven't laughed that hard since...well, since I saw Brian flip his surf ski on August 19, 2006.

After floating 4.3 miles, we exited a little after the fourth bridge on the left, at the "Warning, Petroleum Pipeline" sign. During the entire trip, we didn't see any other people tubing. But at our takeout point, we saw about eight people get in to float downstream.

Norma and I deflated our tubes. We all walked about 1.5 miles back to Monkton which took about another 30 minutes. Allison and Mark found the easiest way to carry their rental tubes without deflating them was to use their heads, literally.

Back at Monkton, I fetched a meat and cheese sandwich from the car. Everyone else bought lunch at Monkton Village Market. For some reason, they don't serve meat products. We ate at the picnic tables just north of the restrooms. Just as we finished eating, it started to rain.

We tubed 4.3 miles and walked two miles. The whole trip lasted almost five hours.

It was an easy and fun day to get outside with friends.
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North Central Rail Trail Biking and TubingOpen accordion icon
For a trip report of a Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC) biking and tubing event led by Norma and me on August 25, 2007, see North Central Rail Trail Biking and Tubing.

Snow tubing at the Wisp ResortOpen accordion icon
For a trip report of snow tubing at the Wisp Resort with Norma, see February 18, 2008.

Tubing in Savage: February 9, 2010Open accordion icon
On February 6, 2010, the Savage area got hit with record-breaking snowfall. My office was closed for a full week while the roads and parking lots were being cleared. There was so much snow that a three-story parking garage in our area collapsed after the snow plow pushed too much snow in one side of the lot.

The blizzard hit us in two waves. The first brought about 28 inches. Then the second dropped another eight or so inches on the 10th. After digging out, Norma and I set out to explore the neighborhood, armed with our snow tubes. Our little town had become a winter wonderland.
Snow-covered Savage, Maryland with plowed street

We looked for the biggest hill we could find that was clear of obstacles. On the south side of Gorman Road, just a little west of Foundry Street, we found what we wanted in Laurel. This is a man-made hill in the Bowling Brooks Apartment Complex.
Person carrying tube in front of apartment complex hill

There was one kid sledding on a smaller hill but he soon joined us after we packed down some of the fluffy snow. It takes a few passes on fresh snow to get things at the right consistency and a tube does this better than a sled. During this time, it is important to avoid walking in the tubing path.

We managed to get in several good runs before calling it quits. By the time we left, word had gotten around the neighborhood about our sledding/tubing hill. Several kids ended up enjoying the path we created.
Tubing down the hill
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Shenandoah River: September 30, 2017Open accordion icon
On the final day of September, Norma and I got together with Joyce and Jimmy and their kids to spend the day together.

After eating lunch, we headed out to Murphy Farm at Harpers Ferry for a very short but kid-friendly hike.

Here's Jimmy giving one of the kids some air time on the trail.
Jimmy throwing a kid in the air

Along the way, we saw a place that Major General "Stonewall" Jackson captured during the Civil War that overlooked the Shenandoah River.
View of the Shenandoah River

On its sloping fields in 1862, Confederate General A.P. Hill forced the surrender of 12,000 Union troops and concluded General "Stonewall" Jackson's brilliant siege of nearby Harpers Ferry. Later, Murphy Farm was home to a famous brick firehouse that had become known as "John Brown's Fort" for its role in the abolitionist's 1859 raid on the Harpers Ferry that helped spark the Civil War.
- from The Trust for Public Land - Murphy Farm at Harper's Ferry

I found some paw paw trees but no fruit, though I thought I could smell it when I was deep in one of the patches.

After the hike, we prepared for tubing. It was a cool and cloudy day with a high temperature in the 60s. We hadn't had rain for well over a week. It was not a great day to be on the water but that was the plan.

We drove to River Riders. We had been planning this now for quite some time and today was the last day of the year that we could all participate in this activity together.

I brought a lot of cold weather kayaking clothes. I wore my wetsuit. Based on how everyone else was dressed, I should have been the warmest in the group.

A shuttle bus dropped us off at the launch site on the Shenandoah River and the driver took our picture before he left.
Group with tubes on land

The kids were in blue inner tube-like devices while the adults were in red things that were a cross between an inner tube and a kayak. We also had very long, heavy paddles. These red things were very difficult to make go straight. They reminded me of whitewater kayaks. I was able to get them to go where I wanted but it wasn't easy.

It was a good thing we had the paddles because even though we were floating downstream, the current was very weak because there was so little water, and we faced a strong headwind that kept blowing us upstream. So without the paddles, we would have had to walk to our take out.

We scraped bottom quite a bit and had to portage in several spots. It really wasn't a good day to be tubing but one could argue that it is always a good day to be with friends and family.
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Norma and niece on tubes
Norma and niece.
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Joyce with her daughter
Joyce and daughter.
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Joyce, her daughter, and Jimmy
Joyce, daughter, and Jimmy.
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Norma paddling like a true sea kayaker
Like a sea kayaker.

Eventually, the youngest tired of being in her own tube and wanted to join Norma. Norma did a great job of keeping her from going overboard.
Norma with kid on her tube

I mentioned that the water was low. Jimmy found it easier to walk in the shallow areas than to have to paddle over rocks and then get unstuck.
Jimmy walking in the water, pushing the tubes

As the only one wearing a wetsuit, I should have been the warmest in the group. But I ended up being the coldest. My hands were numb. I don't do well being wet and cold. It took well over an hour for me to warm up. But everyone else seemed fine. The water really wasn't all that cold. The air was colder. A splash jacket would have probably been a better choice for me than neoprene. I guess I'm just a cold weather weenie.

After tubing, we ate dinner at White Horse Tavern before saying farewell.
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When preparing for tubing, wear footwear that won't come off if your foot sinks down into mud. Wear plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent for the walk to the put in. There isn't much you can bring tubing but if possible, bring a water bottle and an "Off Deep Woods Towelette" (insect repellent towelette) for the return walk so you don't get bitten by insects.

Most importantly, bring your car keys. Secure them to your clothing with at least two safety pins. If you've got one of them fancy cars with the battery in the key, then I suggest putting it in a Ziplock page and then putting that in another Ziplock bag. If you have a dry bag, that's even better. The best thing is to have one of those cars with the push-button combination entry so you can leave your keys behind. If you're doing a car shuttle, let the person with such a vehicle be your driver.

Unless I really want to spend time on land walking, my goal is to maximize the float time to walk time ratio. Of course, if you have a car or bicycle shuttle, this probably won't matter to you. But if walking back is in your agenda, then consider deflating your tube once you're done with it to make the walk less cumbersome.


Very little equipment is needed for tubing. Some of the stuff I use are things I purchased relatively cheaply or made myself.

TubeOpen accordion icon
Every tube I have owned was asymmetrical so don't be surprised when you find that one side of your tube inflates larger than the other.
Big view of tube harness on asymmetrical tube

How much air do you need? You should be able to rest your entire body weight on the inflated tube and only sink into it about an inch. Measuring things by pounds per square inch (PSI) is not helpful.

How should they be stored? Deflated and out of the sun. I've stored inflated tubes outdoors only to have them dry rot in time for the following season. I don't know if there is a particular coating to help preserve them.

As of 2006, for $20 (only $5 more than a low grade rental), you can purchase a brand new tube at Maryland Truck Tire Service located in Baltimore and Jessup. Be sure to have the guys there show you how to take apart the air valve so your tube can be quickly deflated.
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HarnessOpen accordion icon
I made two canteen and money harnesses for my tubes.

The tube's air valve is attached to a long hooked stem which I use to secure the harness. I made a loop out of parachute cord and attached it to a military canteen cover. Knots are tied in the cord to prevent the canteen from moving in the loop. End 'A' of the loop fits around the stem of the tube. End 'B' of the loop has a nylon web strap with plastic clips attached to it. The nylon strap is adjustable. It is used to attach end 'A' to end 'B.' After doing so, the strap is tightened around the tube. This prevents the canteen cover from moving.
Harness, not on tube

Scraps of nylon webbing are sewn onto the canteen cover to fit a small waterproof case (dry box). A loop is tied to the case which fits on the webbing. A plastic clip keeps the case attached to the canteen cover. The loop serves as a backup in the unlikely event the clip comes undone at an undesirable time.

I have used this canteen and money harness successfully multiple times.
Close-up of tube harness on tube

Inside the small waterproof case, you can put your car keys. Just be sure to put them in a Ziplock bag prior to doing so if they have a battery.
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This section lists some tubing routes in the central Maryland area.

MonktonOpen accordion icon
The Monkton area is a spectacular place for tubing. The water is always cold and fairly clean. No dangerous rapids; easy enough for beginners. Almost all of Gunpowder Falls in this area is shallow enough to touch bottom.

What makes the area around Monkton particularly nice is the way the river bends back and forth near the North Central Railroad Trail (NCRT). It was renamed the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail but a lot of old-timers like myself still call it the NCRT. Basically, you get to spend the most time tubing with the least amount of time walking. No other part of the NCRT offers this luxury.

Bring your own inner tube or rent one at Monkton Bike. You can also rent bikes here.

I wrote these notes in August 2006. Hopefully they are still useful.


Walk north along the NCRT and look to put in on the west side (left). After about a third of a mile (~seven minute walk from the start) you will see a place on the west where you can get to the water just after the small post marked with the 'W'. This can be quite slippery.

A little further ahead on the west (~11 minute walk from the start) is another put-in. There are quite a few, especially across from the benches. It seems people made places to access the water and wanted a good landmark.

Probably the best and easiest launch point is ~14 minutes from the start, directly across from an old brick and stone building that lies in ruins. This is ~0.49 miles north of Monkton...yes, I did pace it out to approximate the distance. Here is the building.
Norma at brick and stone building


From the put-in across from the old brick and stone building, it takes about an hour to travel ~1.2 miles to get to the first bridge at Monkton Road. This assumes moderate water levels. From here, it is only a ~0.15 mile walk to get back to where you started. Just exit the river on the west slightly before the bridge, cross over the bridge, and continue east.

If you wish to extend your trip, float another 0.8 mile to the second bridge. This is not a named road, but rather an NCRT bridge. This will take ~45 additional minutes. Get out of the river on the south side (right), just before the bridge. This is a somewhat difficult exit. Cross over the bridge and walk 0.4 mile northeast back to the start.

If continuing, float another 0.8 mile to the third bridge, Corbett Road. This will take ~45 additional minutes. Get out of the river on the south side (left), slightly after the bridge. This is an easy exit. Cross over the bridge, heading northwest and continue walking on Corbett Road. After about a half mile, turn right (north) onto the NCRT. Walk one mile back to the start.

If venturing onward, float another mile to the fourth bridge, which is the second NCRT bridge. This will take ~60 additional minutes. Get out on the northeast side (right), just after the bridge. This is a steep and sometimes thorny exit. Do not cross over the bridge. Instead head the other direction (northeast). Walk 1.6 miles back to the start (45 minutes).

There is a much easier take out point about another 0.19 mile downstream of the fourth bridge. This should take about 25 additional minutes and will give you another 0.4 mile of tubing. At 39.562439, -76.632447 you will see a grassy area with no trees on both sides. There will be red and yellow round signs about a foot in diameter that read "Warning, Petroleum Pipeline." These signs will probably be most visible on the right. Before coming to the sign, exit the river on the left (east). There are some nice flat rocks and a fallen tree to make take out easy. You'll find a trail that leads east, back to the NCRT. At the NCRT, face left (northeast) and walk two miles back to the start (55 minutes). This take out point is about 5.7 miles from the southermost part of the NCRT.


A good, easy, fun trip is to park near Monkton and walk on the NCRT, heading north for 14 minutes until you come to the old brick and stone building on your right that lies in ruins. Face west/left, take the beaten path to the river, and begin your tubing adventure. Float to the third bridge (Corbett Road), which will take about 2.5 hours (2.8 miles float distance). Walk back 1.5 miles (about 45 minutes). Total time: 3.5 hours.

Another nice trip is to launch at the same place but get out at the take out point 0.19 miles downstream of the fourth bridge. This is a bit longer but provides a high float to walk ratio with a float distance of 4.2 miles and a walk distance of two miles. I estimate 3.5 hours in the water with 60 total minutes of walking. Including put in and take-out time, plan for 4.6 hours total.
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Deer CreekOpen accordion icon
This trip is a 2.8 mile tubing trip with a three mile hike at Rocks State Park. It should be a promising route if done within one week after a good rain.

Disclaimer: I have not done this trip and I wrote these notes ~2006. I highly suggest you use the below just as a guideline, confirm the route on a map, and visually scout the float section from the road (as best you can) before launching.

Here's the route:
  • Launch at Hills Grove Picnic Area.
  • Float down 1.4 miles on Deer Creek.
  • Remove the tube at Rocks Road mile 18.6. Be sure to land at this site as there are class three rapids just beyond.
  • Cross Rocks Road (route 24).
  • Deflate tubes.
  • Hike the purple trail south to King and Queen Seat.
  • Catch the white trail counterclockwise (start by heading right/north).
  • Turn right (west) on the blue trail. It will split. The right (north) route is a little faster.
  • When the blue trail splits, head northeast (right if taking the shorter route, left if taking the longer one).
  • The trail will end at Saint Clair Bridge Road. Cross the road and return to Hills Grove Picnic Area. This completes the 1.6 mile hike.
  • Do the same thing again but on the return hike, take the white trail in the other direction: clockwise (start by heading left/south). Catch the blue trail at the same spot to return to the start. This completes a 1.5 mile hike.

  • Note that this is a longer version of Tubing Deer Creek with a trail walk added.
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    Harpers FerryOpen accordion icon
    This is a 1.7 mile tubing trip with a two-mile hike at Harpers Ferry. It is a popular route with both tubers and white water kayakers. Several companies make their living renting river tubes to people trying to beat the heat. They shuttle them by bus and charge a pretty penny. If you have your own gear, you can do this route and save some money. You'll find some rapids but nothing life threatening. There may be special regulations regarding wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) on this section of the Potomac River; call 1-800-628-9944.

    Here's the route:
  • Launch at Harpers Ferry just off route 340.
  • Float downstream (east) 0.8 miles on the Shenandoah River.
  • The river will join with the Potomac River and continue east. Float downstream another 0.9 miles.
  • The take out is just before the route 340 bridge on the left (north) side.
  • If you have a second vehicle, you can have them park at Sandy Hook Road under route 340 and do a car shuttle but then you'll miss a scenic walk back. To walk back, get on the Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath and head west.
  • Walk one mile to the footbridge over the Potomac River.
  • Cross the footbridge and head into Harpers Ferry. On Shendandoah Street there is an information center and restrooms. There are various grassy areas just south of Shenandoah Street that make for nice lunch stops. One can also venture northwest on High Street or Potomac Street for less than a quarter mile to buy lunch or find various ice cream shops.
  • Walk 0.8 mile along a trail near the water which will take you through Virginius Island. Continue west until you come to the route 340 bridge where you will find your vehicle.
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    Harpers Ferry Adventure Center: Tubing, rafting, and canoeing opportunities in the Harpers Ferry area

    Monkton Bike: Tubing on Gunpowder Falls

    Mountain Mama Vacation Homes - The Complete Guide to Harpers Ferry Tubing

    River Riders: Tubing, rafting, and canoeing in the Harpers Ferry area

    River Trail Outfitters: Tubing, rafting, and canoeing in the Harpers Ferry area

    Couple tubing on river
    Tubing on the Gunpowder River, August 25, 2007