We picked our lodging location specifically to be on the Shenandoah River mostly for swimming and fishing, but after doing our research one of the major activities is tubing. Our house was situated on the South Fork of the River. This section is a popular paddling and floating section. The South Fork offers 20 put-in and take-out points on public lands. There are several companies that offer tube, kayak and canoe rental and shuttle services.
The South Fork is 97 miles in total and the ideal paddling and floating is in a 28 mile section between the Luray and Brentonville dams. Yes, the river flows north and that is not unusual. I get that asked when rafting on the Genesee River which also flows north. Rivers can flow in any direction, it all depends on the local topography. We are just conditioned to think they flow south because major rivers in the US like the Mississippi River flow south.
The river is well marked with mile signs (1-28) in the Luray to Brentonville section. Our house provided us all of the gear needed to float or paddle; a couple of kayaks, a canoe, several tubes and ample PFDs. Not really knowing the river, I did not know what the ideal put-in and take-out were. We could see people floating past the house in all kinds of crafts. There was a popular put-in across the river from us. My plan was to find a place to put-in upstream of the house and take-out at the house. Many of the public launch sites are on river left, or the west side. This would be a rather longish drive and we would need to shuttle back and forth a couple of time.
Luckily, our house had another bonus. The owner provided us passes that allowed us to put-in upstream from a private launch. The launch site was one meander upstream near mile marker 14 and our house was situated just past 16, making our float about 2-2.5 miles. At first I thought this was kind of short, however, in the July heat, the 2+ hour float was nearly perfect. On a kayak or canoe, I would suggest a little longer route.
Tubing was a blast. We took 5 tubes for 4 people. We used one of the tubes for a cooler and other essentials like snacks. When my family wanted to be together (i.e. they were hungry or thirsty), we carabiner’ed the tubes together. Other times, my kids wanted to goof around, they floated ahead.
Floating in tubes was also a perfect opportunity to fish. Floating down the middle and casting toward the shoreline produced many Smallmouth Bass. I got a hit with just about every cast. Over the 2 mile float, I would catch about 20 fish. Just be careful with the hooks around your tube.
Tubing was a one of the most enjoyable times of the vacation. It was a great activity for the young and old as well as those that can’t sit still like myself.