Floating down the Potomac River with my butt in a tube and the 85-degree day warming my arms and legs, I had one thing to yell at my husband, who was bumping easily on some light rapids a few yards away with a peaceful smile on his face: "How do you like this for a Monday?"
He'd taken a long weekend to celebrate his birthday, and on this particular beautiful Monday just before Labor Day, my family of four had the whole stretch of the Potomac River near Harpers Ferry, WV to ourselves. For the entire 6-mile, 3-hourish white water tubing ride, the only people we saw were the ones waving at us from atop the pedestrian bridge that crossed the river.
They looked like ants. Little envious ants.
As summer draws to a close, it would seem wise to put aside such warm-weather activities. But what I learned from that gorgeous Monday white water tubing with the help of the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center is that there is no better time to go than when no one else is going.
"Our motto is, 'If you can think of it, we can make it happen,'" said Chase Gregson, an employee at Harpers Ferry Adventure Center, in reference to the many out-of-the-box adventures they put together for customers. "We've had people go white water rafting or tubing when there was snow on the ground."
Now, for me, that would be pushing it. But Gregson says temperatures at their location -- just west of Loudon County in northeast West Virginia, about an hour drive from the Beltway -- can stay warm until mid-October. Can you imagine bumping along in a tube, the wide expanse of the river all around you, and gazing at all the trees brilliant with oranges and reds and yellows? That's a way to see the fall leaves without the traffic!
White water tubing is a way to add a little spark to a tube ride. The tube acts like a bumper to the rock-causing rapids in the Potomac and you generally bounce off the rocks and spin away. The Adventure Center promises Category I-III rapids; on the day we went, we enjoyed bumps and some shoots, but nothing that felt dangerous. The Adventure Center appropriately requires everyone to be 12 and over; between the rapids and still water that requires paddling with your hands, it's easy for large expanses of water to separate various members of your group.
Chase with the Adventure Center offered these additional tips to guarantee a fun, off-season tube ride:
- Bring a wetsuit or rent one from the Adventure Center if you are concerned about the temperature of the water. They also rent splash tops, which are windbreakers that resist water and are not as constrictive as wetsuits.
- Wear close-toed shoes. This area of the Potomac River is actively fished and you wouldn't want your tubing day ruined by a cut foot.
- Call before you come if you're wondering about the conditions. The Adventure Center will not let you out on the river if there is ice flowing or lightening and thunder in the area. If you're already on the water when a storm hits, employees trained in swift water rescue will raft to you and get you out of the water.
- Come on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and early Friday if you're looking for a less-crowded experience. The Harpers Ferry Adventure Center is closed on Tuesday.
- The Adventure Center offers many deals after Labor Day. Check online before you go.
37410 Adventure Center Lane Purcellville, VA 20132
In-Between Tip: Harpers Ferry Adventure Center offers tubing, white water rafting, kayaking, zip lining, horseback riding, Segway tours, hiking expeditions and, come three scary nights in October, a Haunted Hayride and Zipline Tour. What better way to wig you and yours out than by zipping through a West Virginia forest in the dark?