Although Los Angeles doesn’t offer any flowing rivers of significance, thus limiting rafting and tubing opportunities in the city proper, outlying areas are goldmines for floating on scenic waterways at various speeds. That said, certain experiences of this type may take a bit of driving while others that offer a twist on this typical outdoor adventure are closer to the City of Angels than even some locals ever realized. Consider the following ace places to ride a river in an inner tube or on a raft.
Pasadena Paddle Tubing in Kern River
11101 Kernville Road
Kernville, CA 93238
All-day lazy river tubing with the family is a highlight at picturesque Kern River, located some two and a half hours northwest of Los Angeles proper in glorious rushing waters that pass through scenic Sequoia National Forest. Super-friendly guides are on hand from Pasadena Paddle Tubing to prep all who opt for this adventure so they’re ready for the journey ahead (children must weigh more than 50 pounds). This pre-trip part of the package includes navigation of the roaming river and maneuvering of the tube so that you’re soon able to execute spins and other fancy moves. You’ll also learn new ways to splatter lots of water on each other while taking on the three miles of rapids dubbed names like Big Daddy, Sidewinder, Freight Train and Ewings. All worn out after a day on the Kern? Don’t worry. No walking is required to get back where you started because shuttles will be waiting as you pull out of the river.
Tributary Whitewater Tours
20390 Paoli Lane
Weimar, CA 95736
Serious whitewater rafters who have logged lots of paddle time in less than calm conditions will fall in love with the Kaweah River that runs through Sequoia National Park. Situated only 217 miles from Los Angeles and claiming colorful rapid names like The Chute, Osterizer, Willows, Bumper, Powerhouse and Suicide Falls, this particular tour passes through the hamlet of Three Rivers at a slow pace for some respite. Then it’s on to the Slickies, a polished granite slalom that feels like being on the teacup ride at Disneyland since this point in the Kaweah surfs to one side and then to another, all the while swirling your raft until you nearly get dizzy. Talk about a wild ride!
LA River Expeditions
2810 Clearwater St.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
You’ll be surprised when you learn that the typically dry Los Angeles River is now wet and ready to explore in certain parts of this massive expanse. Not only that, but the revitalized recreational area is now open to rafting and other water activities for the first time in 80 years. So what does this mean? An enticing urban adventure that is most popular when beginning at Frogtown, a smidgen downriver from Rattlesnake Park and close to the end of Clearwater Drive. From there on in, it’ll be a two-and-a-half-mile journey where you are not only able to stick to your very own metropolis for your special river run but you’ll also enjoy previously unnoticed scenery along the river banks. You’ll also spot a plethora of exotic wildlife, like herons and hawks, along with an assortment of flora you’ve never seen before. Go and explore while moving through through LA in a fresh and fascinating way.
Splashtopia at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort
41-100 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 97255
If you’re looking for a more relaxing, floating experience, book a room at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort, where the hotel has redone its pool as a full water park, including a 425-foot lazy river. Parents can float along the river as they watch their kids indulge in the waterfalls, fountains and spritzers.
Soak City Orange County
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
Sometimes a lazy river means going at a much slower pace, especially when you have precious cargo like your little kids in tow. For that kind of adventure, go where the water flow is controlled and where the fun never stops. Soak City Orange County at Knott’s provides a whole lot of fun in the sun while getting really wet in the process. Tubing on the park’s scintillating Sunset River is an exciting activity among so many where families bond as their rubbery vessels take everyone on board around and about in a pattern that resembles a giant figure eight and that measures one third of a mile. That’s a long and winding way for this wet scene, a truly popular water-filled venue that is among the longest and the widest of its kind in the world.
Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on Examiner.com.