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Tubing down the Gaspereau River: a Kings County summer tradition

A group of tubers lounging around the entrance of the river.
A group of tubers lounging around the entrance of the river. - Chris Saulnier

Whether a tubing newbie or adept at keeping afloat, floating down the Gaspereau River is an activity that’s fit for everyone.

GASPEREAU, NS - Tubing down the Gaspereau River has become a classic summertime tradition and staple activity in the Annapolis Valley enjoyed by those coming from near and far for decades.

The float down the 2.5-kilometre stretch of river - from the Nova Scotia Power Station on Black River Road to the bridge on Gaspereau River Road - with its subtle twists and varying degrees of speed in certain areas, takes approximately 30 minutes. Tubers pass by the scenic farm lands of the area, and sometimes even get a close-up view of local farm animals as they navigate around cattle crossing the river.

It’s even become a summer business for some area residents. Places like King of the River Tubing (KOTR) rent tubes at a location close to where people enter the river on the Black Rock Road.

While KOTR owner Joy Power has been renting tubes to people looking for a fun way to cool off on a hot summer day for the past two decades, the activity itself has been around long before that.

“People are coming left and right from everywhere, we had a group recently from England,” says Joy Power, right, with King of the River Tubing.
“People are coming left and right from everywhere, we had a group recently from England,” says Joy Power, right, with King of the River Tubing.

“I’ve been here renting for 22 years,” says Power. “But tubing in the Gaspereau River has been around long before that, there used to be tubing festivals years ago.”

The first tubing festival took place nearly 44 years ago, from July 26 to 28, 1974, and while the annual event no longer occurs, the activity itself has only become more a popular.

So popular, Power adds, that, while it’s a well-known activity in the Annapolis Valley and beyond, it’s also been known to draw interest from outside the province, and even outside the country, as far away as from England.

“People are coming left and right from everywhere, we had a group recently from England,” says Power. “It’s a big thing, and it’s a cheap day for people, $5 a tube, and you can tube as many times as you’d like.”

And it’s something that any age can enjoy, she says, adding that no one is too old or too young to enjoy tubing down the river.

“We’ve even had people who aren’t born yet tubing,” says Power. “The oldest person I think we’ve had is 93, and this year we had someone, I think in their 90s, that had this on their bucket list.”

Read more about tubing

A few more days of Gaspereau River tubing (July 2017)

Family Fun: Tubing safely with kids

NSP: Tubing safely on the Gaspereau River

Sarah Burchell (fourth from left) and her family prepare for their departure down the river.
Sarah Burchell (fourth from left) and her family prepare for their departure down the river.

Meet the tubers

On July 8, Sarah Burchell, a Nova Scotia native currently living in Ontario, made sure that the river was a stop on her family’s summer trip to the Annapolis Valley.

“It was epic and awesome,” two of her children said after experiencing the river, adding that their favourite parts were the rapids.

Her sister, Alanna Burchell, a Gaspereau River tubing newbie, says that after her first float down, she has to agree with the children’s verdicts on the experience.

Another avid tuber is Sophie Chambers, a residence assistant going into her third year at Acadia University. She sees the activity as a great opportunity for new students to have a good time getting to know their new home.

“I’ve had great experiences coming here and I love introducing the incoming Acadia University students to the river,” says Chambers. “It’s something that’s quite unique to the Valley and, for someone not from the Maritimes, it’s a great opportunity for them to fall in love with their new home.”

Chelsea Beaulieu, a Mount Uniacke resident, also enjoyed floating down the river July 8. She’s been coming to the Valley to tube on the Gaspereau River for the past 11 years.

Wolfville native Wes Booth adds that he has actively enjoyed floating down the river since childhood and says that, on a hot summer day, the first question to pop into his head is always “Is the river up?”

Chelsea Beaulieu, front, relaxes as she and her family float down the river.
Chelsea Beaulieu, front, relaxes as she and her family float down the river.

Is the river up?

For those who might not know, Power explains why the river isn’t always open every day for tubers to enjoy.

“It all depends on the water levels and Nova Scotia Power,” says Power.

Nova Scotia Power’s dams along the Black River system actually create the water levels that allow tubing downstream on the Gaspereau River.

How much water Nova Scotia Power can flow down the system is regulated by environmental permits which require them to either flow more or less water corresponding to either fish migration or low water levels in Black River Lake.

For years, King of the River Tubing has rented tubes near the spot where tubers enter the river.
For years, King of the River Tubing has rented tubes near the spot where tubers enter the river.

“But they’re really good with us,” says Power. “They notify me when the river’s up or down.”

Power also adds that, while the tubing season is dependent on Nova Scotia Power, tubers can usually expect it to begin mid-late June and can sometimes run right through until September.

“July 1 weekend, they try to run us no matter what, so that’s a big weekend,” says Power. “They usually try to have it up for us on the weekends, and usually open the dam for good for the rest of the summer about two weeks into August.”

Read more about the Gaspereau River:

Gaspereaux fishery tradition continues

Did the Apple Blossom Duck Race lead to fish kill?

Update on fish kill in the Gaspereau River

Eyewitness to truck crash in Gaspereau River shares astonishing account

A group that includes tubers who have come from as far away as Alberta to tube on the Gaspereau River.
A group that includes tubers who have come from as far away as Alberta to tube on the Gaspereau River.

Tubing events

Aside from just floating down the river, Power says that some tubers like to use the tubing as part of special events.

“We’ve had wedding parties come down, we had one group who’d gone to Frenchys and bought an old wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses and went down,” says Power. “And we just had a couple who were here last week that had gotten engaged on the river back in 1995.”

Powers adds that there is also usually a day in August where Red Bull sponsors a tubing event as well.

“We usually have a day where Red Bull comes down and they do a big promotion here,” says Powers. “It’s usually around August, because they know they can get a definite date in August.”

Power also runs the closed Facebook Group ‘Tubing Gaspereau River’, which she uses to let tubers know when the river is up or down, and to answer any tubing or rental related questions.

A group of tubers stand on the Gaspereau River bridge after completing their journey down the river.
A group of tubers stand on the Gaspereau River bridge after completing their journey down the river.

Want to try tubing? Visit the Tubing Gaspereau River Facebook page, run by King of the River Tubing, to find out whether the river is up or down. 

Chris Gertridge also tracks the river at the Gaspereau River Tubing Facebook page

Wondering how to get there? Check out this map:

Three facts to know about tubing on the Gaspereau:

  1. There are no lifeguards on the river – it’s done at your own risk. There are also no life jackets provided and tubers should consider bringing their own.
  2. It’s a long walk up the White Rock Road back to the entry point, so it’s best to bring two cars with you or have one person designated as a driver. Remember not to block traffic when you park at the bottom of the bridge.
  3. People get out of the river at the bridge on Gaspereau River Road, near the gas station. Water is usually a couple of feet deep at that point. Direct your tube to the left to make it easier to exit the river and hang onto your tube or else it will carry on down the river.

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