Watch CBS News

Guide: Summer Float Trips

By Lauren Wulf

This summer, try something other than the annual camping trip. With beautiful rivers flowing through Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, a real lazy river adventure is only a couple hours away. Groups of tubes are tied together to keep you and your friends/family connected as you float down the river. Stopping at sand bars and taking swimming breaks makes for some fun along the way. As a seasoned, float trip taker, I've injected my years of experience into a quick guide for your day on the river. From camping, to logistics and food, here's everything you need to start planning.

(credit: Lauren Wulf)

The Prep

To have a safe, successful and fun float trip, preparation is key! Think about how many people you're inviting, where everyone is coming from and how many days you're staying before searching for campgrounds. Here are a couple tips on ordering campsites and tubes to keep everything running smoothly.

Larger groups take a little more organizing to make sure everyone has a raft paid for and are on time for the trip.

Typically, a group of 2-8 can fit on one campsite depending on the number of tents. For a group of 8-20, 2-3 campsites will be comfortable enough to set up tents, the seating/eating area around the fire and the food prep area. You can never have too much room.

When ordering your tubes, there are a couple other factors to keep in mind aside from the number of people. One thing to take in to account is the amount of water and drinks you'll be taking with you down the river. For a group of 10 and under, purchasing one tube for a cooler is a necessity. With a larger group of 10 or more, 2 tubes for coolers is recommended. For groups of 21 and older adults, at most campgrounds, beer is allowed down the river. Please drink responsibly! These trips are safe and a lot of fun, if everyone is responsible about what they're drinking.

Here are a few questions to ask when booking your trip:

How many people are allowed per campsite?
How many sites can you book together?
How many tubes can go down the river per group?
Do they allow beer/alcohol down the river in coolers?
How much is it per tube/per person camping?

Campsite Camping Camp
(credit: Lauren Wulf)

The Places

Here are two great options in nearby Wisconsin and Indiana.

Wisconsin Riverside Resort

S13220 Shifflet Rd
Spring Green, WI 53588

Riverside Rentals

589 E Old State Road 14
Winamac, IN 46996

(credit: Lauren Wulf)

The Supplies

While most of these are self-explanatory for seasoned campers, here's a list of a few survival basics:

• Tents
• Folding Chairs
• Sunscreen
• Coolers
• BBQ Food
• Condiments
• S'mores Material
• Snacks
• Waters
• Drinks
• Plates
• Cups
• Napkins
• Paper Towels
• Garbage Bags
• Coolers
• Ice
• Towels
• Blankets
• Pillows
• Air Mattress
• Cash From Group To Pay For Tube Rentals

(credit: Lauren Wulf)


Float trips are great way to change up a traditional camping routine. Not only are you enjoying the outdoors, camping with friends and family, you also get an adventure down a river. Laying on a tube, soaking up the sun, getting a taste of nature is the ultimate summer day.

Typically, on a two night float trip, the first night is spent setting up camp and hanging out by the fire. The second day, the true adventure begins. Start off with a good breakfast and get yourself on the river. Make sure everyone in your group has paid for the tour, you have enough tubes and the sunscreen is applied!

When packing your cooler, make sure you pack plenty of water in the cooler as well. Staying hydrated during a long day outside on the river is crucial. Being responsible about drinking will keep everyone safe and having fun. Leave extra room in the coolers for the empty water bottles, cans and trash. Keep the river clean, people!

Keep your tubes tied together at all times so no one floats to far from the group. Remember the recent weather and keep the water levels in mind. If the river is high, the trip will run a lot quicker. Depending on the river, the more shallow the water, the more sand bars will be visible along the way. Stopping at sand bars to swim, layout and enjoy the river is fun way to break up the trip. The higher the river is, ask an employee about how many sandbars they think will be visible for you to stop at. Depending on the river, you'll want to stay at the sand bars a little longer if there aren't too many on the route. It's a lot more fun stopping and taking your time, than cruising too fast and cutting your trip short. The guides or employees will be able to help you out with that information.

If you only take a few things from this guide, remember to drink responsibly, wear sunscreen, book a cooler tube (or 2) and float on!

Lauren Wulf, CBS Chicago

Lauren Wulf writes about living in Chicago on a budget on her website, A Poor Girl's Guide Chicago.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.