River Rafting for the Lazy

Bozeman’s weather can be rough, especially for those who aren’t from Montana. You spend all of fall, winter and spring waiting for the snow to melt and adapting to the below-freezing temperatures. Then summer hits with 80 and 90 degree weather, and nowhere in town (except maybe the movie theatre) has air conditioning. Walmart sells out of fans the day they get them in stock. So, what is a good way to cool down before the cold hits?

Floating. The most popular place to do so is on the Madison River, just a short drive out of Bozeman. The water is mostly melted snow, so it’s usually pretty cold. Generally, floating is best in August and September (assuming it hasn’t started to snow yet), when the water has had the chance to warm up a bit and feels refreshing rather than hypothermic.

There are a few requirements for floating, the primary one, obtaining a tube to float upon. Big O’ Tires sells and inflates large, black inner tubes — perfect for floating — for about ten dollars. They can be reused and reinflated for your next trip with a bike pump. Walmart also has several tube options, though they tend to be more expensive. They also offer a floating drink cooler ($27) you can tie to your tube and stock up with your drink of choice.

A note on the drinks: Glass is not recommended, and definitely do your best to keep your trash out of the river. Nalgenes work well because they carry a lot of fluid and are river-friendly.

If you aren’t sure you want to go more than once, or if you simply don’t have the storage space (dorm rooms are pretty small), there are quite a few places in town where you can rent tubes and even get advice about where to go, including the Outdoor Recreation center on campus and Madison River Tubing.

Madison River Tubing, located on the corner of 11th and Main streets, (madisonrivertubing.com) offers shuttles for those of us that lack vehicles. If you do have a car, be sure to drive down with two separate cars — one for the drop-off point and pick-up point. Drive together to wherever you would like to get out of the river and park one of the cars — equipped with towels and clothes — then pile into the other car, with inner tubes, sunscreen and your drinks, and drive up to the place where you want to get in.

Absolutely remember to bring sunscreen, as you’ll probably be sitting in the same position in the sun for a few hours — unless you’d like to come back to class slathered in aloe and red from head to toe.

Before you go, check the weather and fire information to ensure there’ll be no thunderstorms or forest fires nearby. This Sunday, Sept. 8, is supposed to be a sunny 75 degrees with no chance of rain. So, go get your float on!