Three kids in tubes on the river

Know Before You Go: Tubing on the Neuse River

Nature Connection

View of the Neuse River with drop out spot

Judging by the number of cars that park on the side of Old Falls of Neuse Road every Saturday from mid-May to the end of August, tubing down the Neuse River has become a very popular summer activity in Raleigh. And guess what? The hype is worth it. It is a great activity for people of all ages. You’re outside, connecting with one of the city’s greatest natural resources, you’re bound to see some wildlife along the riverbanks, and all you really have to do is sit there. What could be better?

Whether you go every week or this is your first time, here are five things you should know before you go tubing on the Neuse:

1. Are you prepared?

It is always important to take some time and prepare for your trip. While this idea runs through the next four points, it is the foundation of making your trip on the Neuse River enjoyable. One item that may be overlooked in a tubing excursion is having a float plan. Float plans are essential to ensuring the safety of yourself, those in your group, and the people around you. A float plan should include the time you are going, where you will meet, how you will transport yourselves from the end point back to the starting location, how long you’ll be on the river, etc. It is always recommended that you share your plan with at least one other person outside of your group in case of emergency.

Canoe on banks of Neuse River

2. Where are your put-in/take-out spots?

While this may be a part of designing your float plan, it is very important that you be aware of the public launches along the Neuse River. Most people put in at the Falls Dam Access and try to exit at the bridge that goes over Capital Boulevard. That access point is privately owned, so use it at your own risk. The next public access from Falls Dam isn’t for another 10 miles! That would be at least a 4-hour long float trip. River access points with public parking are much more frequent along the part of the Neuse that runs along Southern Raleigh. Take a look at the River Access webpage for more info on our public launches. 

3. What condition is the river in?

The Neuse River is fed by Falls Lake and the flow of the river is determined by how much water the US Army Corps of Engineers are letting out of the dam. While it may not be on the forefront of your mind, the flow level of the river can drastically affect your trip. If the flow is below 200 cf/s, it will be a slow float down the river. The higher the number goes, the faster the river will be moving. While the Neuse doesn’t have any large rapids, it can still move fast and make exiting the river a difficult task. You can check this website for the daily flow rates.

Two water bottles stacked on each other

4. What gear should you have?

Tubing is a great activity because it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, but there are still a few things that we recommend you bring on your trip! 

  • Water Bottles: While it may not be the most physically exhausting activity, tubing down the river puts you in direct sunlight for most of your trip. You should have 64oz per person to help everyone stay hydrated on the river.
  • Sunscreen: On the river, you are at a high risk of UV exposure. Even if you are in the shade, the water can reflect the UV rays at you. Check the UV index before you go and apply and re-apply that sunscreen.
  • First Aid Kit: Having a first aid kit is recommended for any trip or activity. Check out our article on the different kinds of First Aid Kits and how to pack them here.
  • Shoes: Take notice of strainers along the banks. Strainers occur when roots hang off the trees near the bank and end up underneath the water. Having shoes with straps may allow for a strainer to latch onto the straps which could be a serious hazard. We recommend that you wear closed-toed water shoes while you’re on the river.
Trash symbol on green background

5. How can you help?

The river will only be as clean as we keep it. Here are a few common areas 

where river tubers fall short:

  • If you are opening your tube for the first time when you get to the river, please keep all trash in your car, or find a trash can to place it in.
  • Take everything out of the river that you bring into it. Food wrappers, bottles and cans, sunscreen bottles. Anything and everything!
  • If you bring a picnic, please do not throw food scraps into the water or into the woods!

Please do your part to ensure that the Neuse River continues to bring a much-needed connection to nature for the people in our city, the people who visit from surrounding areas, and the animals that call it their home.