Tubing: it’s one of those quintessential summer pastimes. Who doesn’t want to spend an afternoon floating lazily down a river? However, tubing in Rochester, instead of heading to the Root, Cannon, or Zumbro Rivers, hasn’t exactly caught on. Yet.

Just because a thing isn’t done, that doesn’t mean that the Sievers won’t try it. My family and I set out recently for a lazy float down Rochester’s waterways.

Our first job was to find some creek- and river-worthy vessels. You can get sea-worthy tubes at area stores like Target or Fleet Farm for between $10 and $20. Your friends may also have extra tubes they’re willing to give or lend you – ask around! Since we weren’t sure if this was going to become our newest family obsession or a flop, we didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and borrowed four.

We decided that we could get our tubes into Cascade Creek pretty easily if we drove to and parked at Kutzky Park. We’d hop out when we’d had enough relaxation, deflate our tubes, take our (dry!) towels out of a tightly bungeed cooler that we’d float along with us, and catch an Uber back to get our car. (Editor’s note: This plan does require someone to have a dry, functional smartphone at the end of the trip. Maybe bring some plastic baggies, or look into other ways to protect your electronics from splashes.)


The Sievers family on their urban tubing adventure.

And that’s exactly what we did. Our route ended up taking us north on the creek, past Cooke Park, past the spillway at Thompson Mill Race Park, and into the Zumbro River. We finally got out of the water at a park shelter just north of Elton Hills Drive in time to deflate everything, dry off, and hail an Uber for the hustle back to the lot at Kutzky where we’d left our car.

Though it was shallow at times and at others presented obstacles like fallen trees, the creek tubing was fun. However, the water was far from pristine. It included a few noxious reminders of human pollution like a rusty bike, a few scuzzy eddies, and bags snagged on trees.

Despite these imperfections, it was surprising how green our city looked from Cascade, and a few small “rapids” made our hearts beat faster. Along the route, we spotted some big fish, flitting monarch butterflies, prairie flowers, and buzzing, bright-green dragonflies.

The ease of being able to leave the water whenever we wanted, and the novelty of doing something a little zany, made the trip a real treat for our whole family. One indication of how much fun we had might be the fact that after I managed to drop my water-proofed cell phone in the water (where it was lost for good), I was still able to enjoy the rest of the float without too much crying over my own expensive stupidity.

While “urban tubing” might not take off just because my family was willing to experiment, it does prove that there are many ways we can choose to explore our own backyards. Hopefully, our voyage will embolden other adventurers.

Abigail (age 10):

Me and my family went tubing, and it was so fun. We passed by six or seven people, and I waved to them all. A few of them even took photos. Although we did get stuck a few times, in the end it worked out.

There were a few rapids and rocky spots we had to get out and walk through. One of my favorite parts was getting out of my tube and pulling my sister and mom along when they were behind. I called it the unicorn express since I love unicorns.

Eleanor (age 11):

Our latest adventure was a lot of fun. It was cool to see the creek and river we walk along so often from a different point of view and try something I’ve never done before.

On our trek back, we made a pit stop at Old Abe Coffee Co. during which we sipped different lemonade-based concoctions with the exception of Dad’s iced coffee. Tubing on our own without an organization providing stuff was fun. It was nice because we could stop or get out when we wanted and we knew the route really well.

Beth (old enough to know better, but young enough not to care):

When we pulled out of the water to the park that was our end point, I went ahead and requested a ride through Uber and we hurriedly started deflating all the innertubes. Our very friendly driver, Zakaria Mahadi, arrived even earlier than the six-minute wait that was projected.

On the ride back to Kutzky park, he shared that he is going to school to be a lab technician while working nights for a home health agency and enjoys the flexibility that driving for Uber provides. He’s been driving for Uber for almost 2 ½ years and that particular day he’d been working for two hours and already provided rides for nine people. We appreciated Zakaria’s kindness at the end of our tubing adventure!

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