This summer has been one heat wave after another, which has led me to daydream about tubing constantly. I have been tubing a few times before – once on the Delaware River with a commercial outfitter, once on the Susquehanna River while hiking the AT, and once on the Owens River while hiking the PCT. Now I wanted to find something close to Philly, centrally located to the friends who wanted to go along, and somewhere we didn’t need a commercial outfitter. I found Brandywine Creek in southeastern PA / Delaware. Some info was online, but I was able to get even more from a friend of a friend who lives near there.
The First Trip – Museum to Smith Bridge
(Yes, I’ve gone multiple times already.)
For the first trip we decided to meet at the Smith Bridge Parking Lot and shuttle up to the Brandywine River Museum of Art to get in the water. The Smith Bridge lot is free, but very crowded and loud with seemingly lots of parties going on at all times. The museum lets tubers park for $20/car and there is plenty of room.
Because of recent rain, the water was higher than normal. As soon as we got in the water, we started zooming down the creek. Some people tied their tubes together, and some did not, so we were separated quickly due to the speed. It wasn’t too hard to paddle back near each other when needed though.
There were lots of other tubers out, along with kayakers and canoeists. As far as I can, tell there are two commercial outfitters on the Brandywine – Northbrook Canoe Co and Wilderness Canoe Trips – and a lot of the boats were from them. The boats had to weave in and out of the tubes, but everyone was friendly and had no problem with the occasional traffic.
The water in Brandywine Creek is typically three feet deep on average, but it ranges from a few inches to six feet deep in places. I had heard that we might have to walk parts of it because it was so shallow, but the high water kept us afloat the whole time.
We saw a few places to pull over and sit on land if wanted, but they were few and far between. We all had snacks that could be eaten on the water, so we just kept going.
It took about two hours and forty minutes to float the 4.7 miles to Smith Bridge. I had heard the section would take four hours, so we were definitely faster than normal with the high water.
The Second Trip – Creek Rd to Thompson Bridge
It was such a great time that I found more people to go the next weekend. I had scoped out some new put in and take out points after the first time and decided to try something different. This time, we met at the Brandywine Creek State Park lot at Thompson Bridge ($8/car), then shuttled up to a bend in the road where a few cars can fit to park (free).
The water was a more normal level this time, if not low, so I figured it was about the same distance and would take us the predicted four hours. Well, it turned out the water was very low. We had to get up and walk in multiple places, and it seemed to be taking a very long time. When we got off the water at Thompson Bridge after 5.1 miles, we discovered it had taken six hours! So a little longer than expected.
Things to Consider
You will be in the sun the majority of the time so sunscreen and hats are a must! I also highly recommend water shoes to be able to walk on the rocky bottom comfortably if/when needed. If you are bringing drinks, there are cooler floats available, or you can just do what I do and drag your cans in a shopping bag in the water. They stay mostly cool, but not cold, that way. A dry bag is recommended for car keys, snacks, cell phones, etc. Finally, a waterproof bluetooth speaker for some tunes is a great addition to the day.
I’m still searching for that sweet spot of distance and water level to be on the water four to five hours. I’ll just have to keep going until I find it!