Portneuf River Lava Hot Springs

Portneuf River Float

Lava Hot Springs
Tubing & Rafting

           Just north of the Utah-Idaho border sits Lava Hot Springs, which is one of my favor places to visit and relax. However, I have a bad habit of becoming bored when just relaxing so one of my favorite ways of spicing up my visit is to tube the Portneuf River. This adventure is perfect for friends, couples, seniors and families with older children.

General Information:
Click Here for Google Earth KMZ file.Click Here for Topographic Map.          The Portneuf River Float is approximately 1/2 mile long and will take approximately 15 minutes to float from put in to take out. The walk back to the top is also 1/2 mile long and takes about 15 minutes. You can purchase a shuttle ride from the various outfitters in town for a few dollars. The shuttle ride is very amusing as they load you on a long flat bed trailer like a herd of cows and parade you right through the center of town so all the tourists can admire you in your swimming suit.

          Late spring, summer and fall are the ideal times for this adventure. This activity is suitable for the entire family, excluding young children.

          Idaho law does not require life jackets when floating the Portneuf River, which is just crazy to me but whatever. We always wear life jackets when floating the river. At a minimum you should at least put life jackets on your kids. Commonsense dictates that you do not bring glass or glass bottles on the river, but I have to mention this fact because commonsense isn't nearly as common as you would think it is.

          Hot summer days are the prime time for this adventure. Wetsuits are not normally used during periods of hot weather. Tubes, rafts, kayaks and just about anything that floats is suitable for this trip. I always use a large inner tube. Everything not tied to you or your tube will get lost, don't say I didn't warn you.

          A GPS is not required for this adventure but I have provided the waypoints for the tech junkies.

Portneuf River Lava Hot Springs Portneuf River Lava Hot Springs

Trailhead Information:
          The trailheads are both located in the town of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. Both trailheads are accessible to all vehicles in all weather conditions.

          The lower trailhead is located at the Lava Hot Springs Senior Center at 150 Center Street, which is just across the street from the Olympic Swimming Complex. This is the easiest place to park as there is always ample parking.

          The upper trailhead is in a park located at 430 Main Street, which is across the street from the Lava Hot Springs Hot Pools.

Portneuf River Lava Hot Springs Portneuf River Lava Hot Springs

Route Information:
            From the Lower Portneuf River Trailhead (N42 37' 13", W112 00' 41") you will find a paved hiking path that follows the north side of the river, follow this path east for approximately 1/4 mile to a walkway heading south (right) over the Portneuf River. The walkway deposits you on 3rd Avenue. Walk south on 3rd avenue for one block and turn east (left) on Main Street and keep walking. The road will soon cross the Portneuf River and you will reach the Lava Hot Springs Hot Pools, the Upper Portneuf River Trailhead (N42 37' 07", W112 00' 16") is located in the park on the south (right) side of the road. Walk to the southeast corner of the park and you will find a gravel hiking path that leads down to the river and two places where you can put in. The second put in is the best and most popular as it's a little larger and has a dock to make things easy.

          From here down it's really easy, just put your tube in the water, jump on and enjoy the ride. Just below the put in you will encounter hot springs on the left side of the river that are popular a popular hangout.

          About a third of the way down river you will go under the first bridge and a large retaining wall will appear on the right side of the river. Just past the bridge is the first small waterfall, I find staying to the right side of the river against the retaining wall to be the easiest. About 70-yards after the first small waterfall is the second waterfall and the largest obstacle on the river. I find the second waterfall to be easiest if you stay to the left side of the river away from the retaining wall. Below the second waterfall the river mellows out considerably.

          As you approach the end of your float you will see a highway bridge (Center Street) and a sign stating exit and pointing to some wooden stairs on the right side of the river. Exit the river to the right before going under the highway bridge. The wooden stairs lead up to the parking lot at the Lava Hot Springs Senior Center and the Lower Portneuf River Trailhead where you began.

Portneuf River Lava Hot Springs

Professional Outfitter:
          You can't throw a rock in the town of Lava Hot Springs without hitting someone renting tubes for a couple of bucks. You can rent by the hour, the half-day or the day. Most but not all rentals will have life jackets available as part of your rental. Many of the local stores also sell tubes at a reasonable price.

          If you want to make this adventure really easy several of the larger commercial outfitters will rent you a tube, life jacket and shuttle service for a very reasonable fee.

          I have used Mountain Mayhem for their shuttle service and found them to be friendly, professional and well organized. They are located at 155 E. Main Street, right in the center of town. They are a full service outfitter (tube, lifejacket and shuttle).

          I have never used TPD Tubes, but they have a good reputation. They are located at 356 E. Main Street, near the upper trailhead. They are a full service outfitter (tube, lifejacket and shuttle).

          I have never used Portneuf Rapids Tube Rental, but they have a good reputation. They are located at 150 Center Street, next door to the lower trailhead. They have the advantage of being located where you finish your float which makes returning your tube easy, but they do not offer a shuttle service. They are also very affordable ash the cost of tube rental is $3 for the day (current as of 2017).

Portneuf River Lava Hot Springs

Portneuf River History:
          The Portneuf River is a 124-mile-long (200 km) tributary of the Snake River in southeastern Idaho in the United States. It drains a ranching and farming valley in the mountains southeast of the Snake River Plain. The city of Pocatello sits along the river near its emergence from the mountains onto the Snake River Plain. The river is part of the Columbia River Basin. The Portneuf River was given its name sometime before 1821 by French Canadian voyageurs working for the Montreal-based fur trading North West Company.

          Enjoy a short video of what you can expect while tubing the Portneuf River in lava Hot Springs.

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