Looking for some chill-out time in the sunshine, motor-free? Tubing the Pine River is fun and easy! Lay back in your tube, sip on a cold soda, and watch the woods move by slowly and silently.
Perhaps the easiest spot to tube the Pine River is from just below the dam in Crosslake to one of two landings about 1.5 river miles downstream.
Where to get tubes: Tubes are available for purchase at most local hardware stores, including at Ace in Crosslake. You can also rent tubes from Riverside Inn in Crosslake, which is on the river and has its own access point. Tubes are $10 for large tubes and $5 for small tubes. Kids 12 and under and coolers generally fit in the small tubes.
Where to put in: There's plenty of parking at the Cross Lake Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area. On the north side of the river, just before the river passes under County Road 3, is the canoe access point. It's a great place to get into the water and start your float.
Where to take out: Both exit points are roughly 1.5-2 miles downriver of the dam. The first choice of landing is the Staircase Landing just off County Road 36. Since the Pine River is a state water trail, this access was designed for canoeists as an entry/exit point. It has a parking area and stairs down to the river. This is probably the easiest exit point, especially if you have small children or if the water is very low.
Just past the Staircase Landing is Gould Rapids, a class-one rapid that won't pose a problem for most tubers, and can definitely add a bit of excitement. If the water is low, however, tubers generally find this area tough to pass without standing up and trying to walk over the slippery rocks, or bumping and getting hung up on the rocks as they sit in their tube.
Further down the river and just below the small rapids, County Road 36 has a bridge over the river. This is the other, most popular take-out point for tubers, who park a car on the shoulder of the road near the bridge. To get out here, just climb up the shore to get to the road. You can't miss the bridge. Be aware of other vehicles as you load your car- the speed limit on this road is 55.
The main advantage of the bridge take-out point is that is extends your tubing run, as the river does a sort of S-bend between the staircase landing and the bridge. While it adds a lot of river distance, the road distance between the bridge and the staircase landing isn't far- only about a quarter mile. So if you miss the Staircase Landing, hop out at the bridge and walk north on the road to get back to your car.
What to expect: Between your put-in and take-out points, you'll pass a few houses and docks before mostly only passing through tracts of public land that remain natural. Watch for wildlife, including deer, beavers, great blue herons, and more. You'll almost certainly be able to see fish swimming below you in the river.
The lower the river level, the slower your journey will be. When the river is high, travelling the 1.5 miles downriver sometimes takes less than an hour, but at moderate river levels the journey takes longer, sometimes 2 hours or more.
Safety: Remember to be safe on the river- always make sure that the river is at a safe level to tube. Life jackets are recommended. Don't forget the sunscreen. Bugs are generally not an issue on the river, but can be vicious at the take-outs.
River levels: Before you go tubing, be sure that the river is at a safe level for tubing. When the river is very high, though rare, it can be dangerous. Wind, Water and Wheels in Crosslake prides itself on keeping an eye on the river, and owner Jim Bergquist has generously said that his store is happy to take calls about river levels whether renting his kayaks or not. The store can be reached at 218-692-1200. Riverside also keeps tabs on the river and has informational pamphlets and maps for those who rent their tubes.
If you see only two or three gates open at the Crosslake dam, chances are the river is too low to tube.
If you tube the river, expect a fun, lazy float and a different perspective on Crosslake. It's a great way to spend a summer afternoon!