Thursday, July 25, 2019

Adventure 18/50 : Snoqualmie River Float Trip

When I was thinking about completing 50 adventures this year, I thought about trying to go on a river float during bald eagle season ... but it just didn't work out. Besides, why bundle up and float in freezing cold water then you can do this:

So in June I did a quick search for "river float trips near Seattle" and found Fall City Floating, based out of Fall City and offering float trips on the Snoqualmie River, starting about half a mile downstream from the famous falls.

Last weekend the weather forecast was good, so I reserved two adult tubes for Saturday morning on Friday afternoon, with no problem.

We drove out to Fall City on the early side to find breakfast, and ended up at The Roadhouse, where were midway through an amazing breakfast before I noticed the t-shirt with the Bang Bang Bar logo.

Turns out the exterior of the place served as the exteriors in Twin Peaks. Location-wise, of course it made sense, given how close it is to Snoqualmie Falls...

After breakfast we drove over to Fall City Community Park, where Fall City Floating is located. It was pretty early, so we easily found parking. There were some other groups gathering in the lot, but we were the only folks who didn't look like we were waiting for others. We slathered ourselves with sunscreen -- not a lot of shade on the river -- and got ready for a couple of hours of float time.

First we went to the office, checked in, and paid for the tubes we had reserved. We signed waivers and left my card -- in case we didn't return our equipment -- before going to the trailers outside to pick up our life vests, our "definitely not a frisbee" paddles, and our great big tubes.

We had just missed a shuttle, but went to the "front of the shuttle" line to look at our tubes and wait.

The tubes were large and had a mesh bottom. You could tie them together, too. The shop also offered rentals of "cooler tubes" that you could attach to your tube and float with you ("you provide the ice and food and beverages"). You could even buy special tubes to float your pet, but the wouldn't let you on the shuttle unless you had a life vest for your pet.

A few minutes later, the shuttle arrived, and the two of us piled on. Our driver told us that we were lucky to come early -- we were only the second group to be taken upstream. The driver played a safety tape, reminding us not to stop at the "well-marked red area along the river" (private areas), and to always stay to the right of any orange buoys we'd see.

We arrived at the Plum Boat Launch, noting (with some smugness) the ranger there checking Discover Passes. I should point out that all the Fall City Floating shuttles we spotted before and after our float all had Discover Passes on display. We stopped near the boat launch. got out of the van (note: you're wider when you wear a life vest...) and the driver handed us our tubes and told us to have a good float.

view from the boat launc
Being dim, apparently, and a little worried about my tube floating off without me, I got in the tube too close to the ramp, bottomed out (ha!), and had to clamber out, drag the tube a little farther into the river, and get back in. Wil of course, was already floating gently away... but I managed to get over to him without too much trouble. And then... float...

It took me a little while to really relax ... but after the first five or ten minutes we just tied up together and floated along.

For the most part, we saw no one else on the river, and it was serene and quiet and we talked about doing this again.

There were a few very small rapids to navigate, including one where we both somehow got drenched, but for the most part, it was just a gentle, mellow, floating along. Bliss!

The last stretch was a little noisier as the roadway hugged the river... and having spent over two hours floating at this point, we were ready to wrap it up. In the distance we could see two people ahead of us; I decided we should hang back to watch how they negotiated the dreaded

We had been advised to wear water sandals as the exit is rocky and slippery, and then there's a dirt path to get back to the tube drop-off point. I'm not going to lie -- this was the most challenging part of our float. The rocks are rounded and slippery, and I was more than a little worried about falling. But I made it out of the river with my tube, my paddle, and my camera, so that felt like a win.

We climbed up the bank -- a task only difficult because we were carrying tubes -- and were amused to see a large garbage and recycling area. And then as we approached the trailers we were welcomed back by the same woman who checked our equipment out to us, and noticed THE HUGE LINE. Now, their FAQs talked about how the wait for the shuttle was up to 90 minutes on weekends, and I could believe it.

We had gone from peaceful, watery bliss to a crowded, dusty parking lot with dozens and dozens of people all grumpily waiting for their turn. Suddenly, I thought, well, if I ever did go back, it would be first thing in the morning!

Of course, a lot of people want to go on the river in a big party group -- that's just not my scene. And we inadvertently avoided it by going early!

Coincidentally, a friend of ours also was there for the first time on Saturday. He and his friends -- a group of 10 -- waited in line for TWO HOURS. Oof.

After turning in our gear, we had to go back to the office to retrieve my credit card -- another large line. But as I got my car keys out of the secure lock boxes (a very nice service), someone at the front said, "Did I see someone here to pick up their card?" RESULT! (And excellent customer service.) I brandished my green sheet of paper, walked to the front of the line, was given my card, and was back out of there in under 3 minutes. Well done, Fall City Floating.

We really enjoyed our peaceful float -- and I bet a lot of the people in the longer afternoon lines enjoyed their parties on the water! To each their own. Fall City Floating did a great job every step of the way, from a website that's easy to use, full of information, and where you can reserve tubes in advance, to friendly, efficient staff in the office, at the gear station, as drivers, and along the river. (Oh, and if you're curious, I don't know anyone over at Fall City Floating, paid my own way, and this is a totally unbiased review...)


  1. How funny, I have lovely memories of floating on the Platte River in MI and was wondering about doing it here. Adults don't have to wear a life vest on the Platte, but it's probably much shallower and no rapids. First thing in the morning is definitely the way to go.

  2. "Rapids" is a relative term ... these were "areas where it got a bit shallow and fast and had some rocks you may wish to avoid sticking up". We just managed to hit one completely wrong -- like when you think you're steering to avoid a pothole and drop right into it! Cue a big wave of water that went over both of our heads, somehow!

  3. What a fun adventure...serenely floating down the river sounds like my kind of water adventure!

    1. We really enjoyed it -- and thankfully (and totally accidentally!) timed things just right for a peaceful float!