By Terry Ward

Tubing down the Saluda River, to the Congaree, may be the most popular tradition of a West Columbia summer. Sometimes hundreds a day tube the clear waters of the rivers, riding the rapids, ending up at West Columbia’s Riverwalk Park.

Palmetto Outdoor Owner Michael Mayo tracks the location of those who come to tube. They come from all over the country. When here, many of those visitors visit West Columbia’s restaurants or stay at the hotels.

August and Aubrey

Who comes to tube our river? Audrey Farnan is from Central Illinois.

“This is my first time floating down any river,” Audrey said Tuesday as she stood next to the Palmetto Outdoor booth at West Columbia’s Riverwalk Park.

Her boyfriend, August Dean, booked a trip for the two of them. He is from Illinois. He’s in the Air Force and stationed at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter.

“It was a surprise,” Audrey said of her tubing trip. “The river was awesome. It was beautiful and I loved the Spanish moss. The water was cool and the rapids were fun.”

Sheila and Marianne

Sheila Bresnan and Marianne Gaskins made the trip over from Florence to enjoy a tubing trip, Tuesday. Between the two of them, they brought five kids.”It was a very good day trip,” Bresnan said. “It’s a perfect day for it, too.”

Gaskins said she was impressed with the natural beauty of the river and the wildlife.

“We saw herons and turtles. It was so nice,” she said. “I’d definitely like to come over and do it again.” Some came from much further away.

Bob Villarreal is from California. “I really enjoyed the river,” he said. “It was a very nice trip.”

Bob came to the river with his daughter Megan Garvin. She is stationed at Fort Jackson. Bob and Megan tubed in a Palmetto Outdoor Double Tube. This is the first year it’s been offered. The tubes accommodate two people, with a space for a cooler or bag in the middle. The Double Tube is perfect for parents and children, friends, or partners.

Karen Johnson has lived in Columbia since 2014. “I’ve driven by the river so many times, but I never came to Riverwalk,” she said. “But in the last month, I’ve been here three times.”

Tuesday, Karen tubed the river. She finished the tubing trip with Bob and Megan. “It was great to meet new people from other places on the river,” Karen said. She also said she’ll bring a snack next time, because she was hungry after the float of more than four hours.

Martina Musa is from Fayetteville, NC. She tubed the river with Karen. “The trip was awesome,” she said. “The temperature of the water was cool and it was relaxing. I loved it.”

Featured photo_ Bob, Karen, Martina