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.
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.
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.
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 History:
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