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Your how-to guide for tubing down the river in Columbia

If you’re planning a tubing trip with friends or family, this guide is for you and highlights everything you need to know about tubing down the river in Columbia


A group floating down the river by Gervais Street Bridge | Photo by Forrest Clonts

Table of Contents

So you want to go tubing down the river in Columbia because it’s famously hot in summer, but don’t know where to start. No worries — we won’t leave you up the creek without a tube. If you want to catch some rays, see some wildlife, and have a water day with friends + family, we recommend taking the Riverbanks Zoo to Gervais Street Bridge Route (Aka, the Z-G route).

This ~3-hour, 2.5-mile-long float will put-in near Riverbanks Zoo and take you down the lower Saluda River until you reach the West Columbia Riverwalk. This route has Class I + Class II rapids — one to two feet tall rapids over rocks — so children must be 10+ to participate.

Note: Shuttles run from Memorial Day to Labor Day but you can call ahead if you plan to float before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.

Where to meet

Meet at the West Columbia Riverwalk (131 Alexander Rd., West Columbia) at the Kiosk by the bathrooms 30 min. early to check in. Walk-up reservations are available but you will need to bring cash and show up ~45 min. before the shuttle takes off to fill out paperwork for registration + waivers.

Pro parking tips: Park for free in the lot at 109 Alexander Rd. If you run out of space by the river, park in the lot across the street (212 Hudson St.) If that lot is full, head to the multi-level parking garage (310 Court Ave.) located on the corner of State Street — just a 3 min. stroll from the riverwalk.

Shuttle services

Shuttles run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays and 12-3 p.m. on any other day. Shuttles run promptly at the top of the hour every hour. The shuttle will pick you up at the West Columbia Riverwalk + take you to the put-in by Riverbanks Zoo.

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The shuttle filled with standard tubes and life jackets | Photo by COLAtoday team

How to book

Palmetto Outdoor offers four options to enjoy your river adventure. Choose between:

The Standard tube | $20 | This tube is the basic model vinyl tube with an open bottom for people who want to swim in and out easily.
The Deluxe tube | $25 | This tube is the most-booked tube. It has a mesh bottom + “D” ring sewn on the side so you can tie tubes together for group outings.

The Star tube | $30 | This tube has a raised mesh bottom, provides more support, and is recommended for pets, children 10+, or coolers.

The Double tube | $85 | Introduced this year, this newest tube option accommodates two people + has space in the middle for a cooler.

Note: Dogs + coolers are allowed but require their own tube rental. Glass or styrofoam coolers are not permitted and all dogs will need a doggy life jacket. Pro tip: You can grab some river gear at REI (2300 Bull St.).

What’s included

Your shuttle ride, a life jacket, and your tube are included when you book which tube you wish to use on your floating experience.

What to bring

  • Waterproof speaker | We suggest listening to this playlist to jam to some local bands
  • Sunscreen | You are in direct sunlight ~70% of the route.
  • Cooler with snacks + drinks | Pro tip: Stop along with route at any point to have lunch on rocks + see some wildlife.
  • Trash bags | Protect our wildlife by having somewhere to put your trash
  • Rope | Bring rope so your group can stick together
  • Foot protection | Bring shoes that have a strap of some kind for safety.

Other local tubing options

Palmetto Outdoor also offers an option for visitors to rent Grab-n-Go equipment. For $15, you can take a tube + life jacket to any public put-ins — including Lake Murray. This option allows guests to have more flexibility with their tubing adventure but all gear must be returned to Palmetto Outdoor by 7 p.m. Note: This option does not include shuttle service.

If you have children 5+ who don’t want to miss out on the fun or just want a flat water adventure, we recommend renting tubes from Saluda Shoals Park (5605 Bush River Rd.).

This river experience is ~2 hours long, tube rentals are available seven days a week from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and the last tube rental of the day must be on the water by 3 p.m. Tube rentals are $15 and a shuttle service is included. See all other tubing information + restrictions here.

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