Tubing the Portneuf River Lava Hot Springs
Visiting Lava Hot Springs in the winter months has become sort of an annual tradition. The relaxation of soaking in one of many hot springs as a light snow is falling from the sky is a uniquely enjoyable experience. Each winter we always talk about coming back in the summer months to tube down the Portneuf River that flows through the town of Lava.
Now, we have witnessed the polar plunge during Lava’s fire and ice festival and floating on the Portneuf River looked fun, but not fun enough to brave the frigid cold waters in February. Maybe it had something to do with being half-naked in the 20-degree water... just saying. But hey, it was a hoot watching those participating.
Well, after talking for many years we finally planned our summer trip to Lava Hot Springs. It was July and downright hot, the perfect temperature for tubing down the river.
Our adventure began with the rental of our tubes. There are several locations up and down Main Street that provide tube rentals at reasonable rates. You can rent single-rider, double, triple, and even four-person tubes for one hour, two hours, three hours, half a day and for the full day.
Once we had our tubes in hand, it was time for our first run down the river. There are three different places you can launch and begin your float. The first two are located directly behind a small park just off the river walk, and the third is located farther up the river walk above the “falls.” Launching above the “falls” is not recommended. We will talk about that in a minute.
From the first launch point, you immediately head over the first of many small falls and the first of many of what we like to call “butt rocks.” These are rocks you can see protruding just below the water surface. It’s a good idea to lift your butt, as a smack on the tail bone hurts.
As you continue down the Portneuf River just before the bridge, you experience a nice pocket of rapids. Then, after the bridge, is a fun medium-size fall with a pocket that sometimes claims victims. Not fatally, of course. People just fall off their tube or lose their flip-flops, hats, glasses, or other items. This is an area where the tubes pile up, bouncing off one another, enhancing the experience.
From this point you will experience a few more rapids, a few slower sections, and come to signs that tell you to exit the river. You then load up your tube, walk back up the river and do it all over again!
Now if you choose to launch above the falls, here is some advice. The left side of the falls is where you want your tube to end up, as you will plunge into deeper water. The right side of the falls drops you into shallow water or, even worse, makes you flip off of your tube onto a very large boulder. We witnessed this three different times and—trust me—you hear a lot of ooh, a lot of aah, and a whole lot of words that should be bleeped.
If you want to keep all your skin, your teeth, and all your body parts, we highly recommend you don’t launch above the falls and just enjoy watching those who do.
Your tubing experience will be determined by the time of year you decide to float the river. In early spring the river will be cold and fast. The river during our visit in July was warm, still flowing enough to cover the rocks, and had many sections of fast, fun rapids.
Tubing the Portneuf River in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho is an enjoyable experience. The laughs, screams, wrecks, and the occasional smack on the butt bone, made this trip unforgettable.
Lava is a just 2 hours and 30 minutes North of Salt Lake City. Lava Hot Springs, Idaho is centrally located between Salt Lake City, Utah and Yellowstone National Park.
Directions from I-15:
1: From I-15 take EXIT 47, US-30 E
2: Turn EAST onto US-30 toward McCammon / Soda Springs
3: Follow US-30 East to Lava - 11.2 miles