Summers in Wisconsin get HOT! And we can’t think of a better way to cool off than taking a classic float down a river in an innertube.
This past weekend, we took the family to Pliska’s Crystal River Tubing in Waupaca, Wisconsin. We’d done the Wolf River trip before, but were looking for something a little more family orientated. Those of you that have done that trip know how wild it can get, and if that is your thing, then more power to you! While Pliska’s will still offer to rent you a tube for your cooler full of adult beverages, they really catered well to us as a family and we didn’t feel out of place not having beers in tow.
There are two different options for tubing trips. You can either choose the long trip which lasts 2.5 hours and costs $22 per person, or the short trip, which lasts 1.5 hours and will cost you $18 per person. Whichever choice you make, you can ride as many times as you like before 4pm at no additional charge. We chose to do the short trip, and departed at 10am.
We piled into an old school bus attached to a trailer that housed all of our tubes, and headed to the drop-off point. We were dropped off on the side of the road, next to a bridge with a steep embankment. We cannot stress enough how important it is to wear water shoes- or even a pair of old tennis shoes. To get down to the water we had to climb over rocks, and the river bottom is full of them too. This can make for a dangerous situation that we will explain later on.
The Crystal River is a small, winding river with fairly clear water. On a bright day it is easy to see to the bottom in all areas (none of which we found to be more than chest-deep). For the most part the current is slow, with a few exceptions where there are “rapids” over some small rock gardens. None of these however were too scary for any of our children who range from 4 to 13.
One nice feature of the tubes is that they have backrests. It was very easy to relax and take in the Wisconsin nature. They also are all equipped with a short length of paracord for lashing one tube to another. This was where we ran into an issue. My wife, Lindsey, is pregnant with our sixth child. Being the caring husband I am, I tied my tube to hers, along with our daughters. When Lindsey’s tube became stuck on a branch at the beginning of a short run of fast-moving water, the only way I could get her unstuck was to exit my tube. Remember when we said to wear shoes? Yeah, I didn’t. I was able to free her tube – sending her, my daughter, and my youngest son Sully (who had been sitting on my lap) down the river…Leaving me standing in the middle at the beginning of the rapids. Thinking back to an episode of “Man vs. Wild” that I may or may not have seen ten years ago, I proceeded to lay on my back and float the rapids feet first- trying to deflect any incoming rocks with my feet. Although I survived, my feel took a beating and ended up with several battle scars.
There were a couple nice, sandy places along the river where we stopped and let the kids get out of their tubes and swim. They really enjoyed taking in the nature, and we were able to see many fish, turtles, and other wildlife along the trip. Even a couple spiders managed to find their way onto the tubes and scare the girls!
Waupaca is a beautiful area, and this tubing trip is just another fantastic thing that we’ve found to do while spending time in the area!
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