How do you act like a local in Northern Idaho? You float! While the tourists flock to downtown and fill up the parking spots, we get sly and take a cue from the locals. And guess what? It is awesome! With a little preparation and investigation…our crew was on the river for an amazing day of family fun.
Developing The Plan
Soon after arriving in Idaho’s panhandle, we began to hear about floating the river. After a bit of online research, I knew this was something we wanted to do…but without knowing anyone in the area, we were not sure where to start. Let me tell you…it seemed a bit crazy at first.
I read about floating the St. Joe River…and then I read how it has class III rapids in some areas until the end of July…is this true? I don’t know…but we just did class III rapids on the Payette, and we did not want that encounter with our floating gear! Don’t get me wrong, we loved river rafting on the Payette River and you can read all about it HERE…but you need life jackets, a boat and paddles…and well, we were looking to float in tubes this time around.
I found other rivers on Pinterest and Google…but struggled to find details on where to enter and exit, and where to park.
Then Chris found this great post online by a local realtor. It had just the details we needed! You can find the blog post HERE.
So after purchasing some tubes, we packed the cooler with lunch and cold drinks…and headed to the river.
Location & Parking Details
From Coeur d’Alene, we took the 90 East, about 30 miles, and then took Exit 43. We turned left on Coeur d’Alene River Road. You will pass the Snake Pit Restaurant/Coffee Shop on your right. Continue on the road a few miles and you will find a high bridge on your left. We parked one car in a parking pullout on the right side of the road and then continued on up the road, 3.4 more miles in a second vehicle with all of our gear.
We turned left on CDA River Road and drove down a half a mile or so. There we found dozens of cars with people all inflating their tubes and creating their own flotillas.
Note that you will want to have two vehicles for this….or you will be walking a long way after you float…with your stuff.
Our First Float
We inflated our tubes by the truck and then carried them down the embankment, where we tied them all together.
We originally had two single tubes and one double tube, but since my parents were planning a visit to see us, we went out and purchased one more double tube. The doubles have awesome little coolers in between the two seats. So we filled them up with ice and had cold drinks, salad, carrots & hummus and watermelon to snack on as we floated. Snacking our way down the river made it all the more fun!
Brendan spent the first half hour with his mask on and his face in the water. He could not believe how clear the water was! He spotted all sorts of fish…and well, even a ladies bathing suit on the bottom of the river! By the end of the day, he found and retrieved two pairs of sunglasses, both in unscratched condition!
In some areas the water moved quite swiftly, and then in many spots we were at a snails pace.
There were areas where it was so shallow that you had to lift your bum, so that it would not hit the rocks. In other places the kids could walk through the river in their Keen sandals and explore.
The kids hopped out and swam whenever the felt like it. Brendan even found a small beach to sit on for a few.
All along the way we encountered giant flotillas and groups of two or three floaters. Some times we would pass one another, and occasionally even bump into another float. We had no ores to help with direction…but I think we will bring a set in the future.
We exited by the bridge, where we had left one car. This proved to be a very helpful and large landmark, to cue us as to when we should exit the water.
Our 3.5 mile float ended up taking us about 3.5 hours. This area where we exited also has two fun rope swings, which were a hit with the kids.
Our Second Float
We had such an amazing time, that we ended up floating again…two weeks later when my parents came up to visit.
As we now had seven people, we utilized every float that we had. I got creative and put together a little dry storage area, which I attached to the center of our flotilla. This held the masks and goggles, sunscreen and dry snacks.
The kids had a blast showing their grandparents the ways of the river…and of course there were plenty of giggles…
The grandparents seemed to really enjoy the whole thing…Grams even floated in the water for a bit.
So wether you have the kids, or the whole family…floating is a fun way to spend a summer day!
Tips From The Newbie, For The Newbie Floater
- Bring soft cord to tie your rafts and tubes together. Our tubes came with little connector cords…but they did not stay together…even with the correct knots! Some people use dog leashes.
- We had an extra raft connected just to hold a gallon of fresh water, our shoes, masks, a trash sack and a giant zip-top bag with dry snacks
- Water shoes are very helpful. A few times we got stuck in an eddy and had to get out to relocate the flotilla. Other times we used our feet to push of the banks to prevent the raft from hitting branches.
- Please bring a trash bag. We were so sad to see what others leave behind. We filled up an entire trash bag on the shore with other peoples litter before we left.
- If you are taking a cell phone, you must have a way to keep it dry…everything gets wet in one way or another.
- Do get on the river before noon so that you can complete your float before the sun gets behind the trees…it will cool you off fast.
- Where we entered, there was a bridge…then we exited at the other bridge. It made it helpful to know where to get out.
- Do not bring anything in glass. Wether it is kombucha, a jar of pickles or a cold beer. It is a Federal offense and the Rangers and Police patrol for this offense. Broken glass is dangerous on the river.
- You are in direct sun for most of the float…think sunscreen, hats, sunglasses…
So we have decided that floating is pretty awesome. Have you tried it?