Memorial Day weekend is often known as the start of tubing season and the unofficial start to summer. While many tubing companies are re-opening, the prime season for water recreation will look different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tubing operators we spoke with said they are taking extra precautions to keep people safe as they venture out on the water while social distancing.
Some of the precautionary measures include cleaning and sanitizing shuttles and limiting shuttle rides to 10 or less people.
Haley Bonnette, co-owner of Louisiana River Adventures and Tubing in the Park in Franklinton, said guests are also required to wear masks while on shuttles and remain six feet apart.
“Our customers health and well being are our top priority while also giving them an opportunity to escape reality and enjoy a relaxing day on the river,” Bonnette said. “We are taking every measure possible to ensure the safety of all persons while also providing a safe and fun outdoor water activity.”
The company said they launched weekday operations a little earlier in the season than normal due to school closures. Bonnette said they were eager to provide a safe, healthy outdoor activity for people to enjoy while social distancing.
“It is important for people to access outdoor and water recreation during this crisis because they are able to keep distance and remain safe, but also escape quarantine for a day,” Bonnette said.
Tony Mizell, owner of Bogue Chitto Tubing Center in Bougalusa, said he’s received lots of interest and calls filled with excitement from customers hoping for a float down the river.
“They start screaming and hollering,” Mizell said. “You think they won the lottery or something!”
Mizell said most of his customers come from New Orleans and surrounding areas like Hammond and Mississippi, but he’s been getting people willing to travel from Lafayette for a tubing trip.
In addition to following guidelines, Mizell said he will also have a deputy on duty during weekends to supervise float trips.
While many tubing companies already opened in early May, Sandy Bottoms Tubing and Kayaking planned to hold off until May 15. Now, owner James Pugh said he’s ready to welcome customers this weekend after recent severe weather impacting the North Shore caused delays.
Pugh said he secured an additional vehicle to facilitate transit of smaller groups — not exceeding 10 people — and plans to disinfect vans, life jackets and tubes after use.
The North Shore is home to a few places you can go tubing, with most in the heart of Washington Parish along the Bogue Chitto River.
Here's a list of places adventure seekers can go tubing in the area.
Louisiana River Adventures
Louisiana River Adventures offers two-hour and four-hour floats on the Bogue Chitto River. Guests who want to take advantage of a full four-hour float must be present and on the river no later than 2 p.m. Two-hour floats are guaranteed if tubers arrive by 4 p.m. Both courses are the same price, $20 per tube. Opens daily from 9 a.m., with last float at 4 p.m.
Bogue Chitto Tubing Center
Known as the oldest tubing company in Washington Parish, the Bogue Chitto Tubing offers two or four-hour floating trips down the river. You can extend your trip for more leisure time by stopping to enjoy the beaches along the way. The family-run tubing center in Bogalusa, La. offers the newer “blue tubes,” which features a headrest, cup holder and inner safety chambers. Tubes are $20 per person, and ice chest tubes are $5. Opens daily from 8 a.m., and the guests must clear the river no later than 7 p.m.
Sandy Bottoms Tubing & Kayaking
Formerly called Rocky Bottom Tubing, Sandy Bottoms Tubing & Kayaking moved to a new location in Franklinton. Vistors can choose from a two-hour or four-hour float trip sown the Bogue Chitto. The company says it also has been working on upgrading equipment, including adding trampoline tubes to the river course and bathrooms with showers. Tubes are $15, kayaks are $30 and canoes are $40.
If you want to test out a float down the Amite River, Tiki Tubing offers four-hour trips at their location in Livingston Parish. Tubes cost $25 each, plus tax, for any style, including a fancier lounge tube. Ice chests and ice chest floats are also available to ren. Tubers can also book trips online in advance. Open Fridays through Sundays from 8 a.m., with the last trip at 3 p.m.