In Louisiana, we live with the reality that summer temperatures can spike up to over 100 degrees. Waterfront getaways can be expensive and hard to arrange.

But take heart. For about $20 and a tank of gas, you can enjoy a cooling, easy staycation just an hour outside New Orleans: floating in an inner tube down the scenic Bogue Chitto River.

Lined with pebble and sand beaches, the Bogue Chitto wanders through Washington Parish. It's long welcomed swimmers beneath its shady banks. Tubing lets you lie back and enjoy the ever-changing view, or stop here and there to laze on the riverside.

After a quick Google search and a moment to remember whether there was sunblock in the car, my partner and I set off to the north shore on a recent weekend to see what we would find.

Once we got past the Causeway we spotted a Walmart and decided we might need more than just sunblock for the trip. As we pulled into the parking lot we saw something better: a Mexican restaurant and a sign for margaritas. We got two large frozen margaritas to go, filled up our water bottles and decided that our tubing needs were complete.

We rented our inner tubes from Bogue Chitto River Tubing Center. In addition to the tubes ($20 each), we rented a cooler float ($5) to stash our shoes, clothes and cellphones sealed in a Ziploc bag. A driver took us up the river in a school bus where we’d start our journey.

The staff was kind and hospitable, and once you’re in the water, it's just you and the river.

We waited for about five minutes before setting off to allow a group before us to go ahead. That small window of time allowed us to be alone in lazy river bliss for hours. We rarely ran into other people.

As you bob down the river, you pass small sand or pebbly beaches where you can take a break from floating, hang out, eat or swim at your own pace. It feels like lounging on your own private beach. The landscape was clean, thanks to the occasional trash can posted nearby.

Tubing venues offer a choice between a two-hour or a four-hour float. Our journey lasted about three hours, which included paddling over to the side to swim and relax on the beach.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but my afternoon of tubing was not like anything I imagined when friends extended weekend invitations to drive up to the north shore.

The water felt clean, cool and safe. A fish splashed on the surface, and turtles darted away as we approached. I find it hard to relax and let go of my phone, but it felt natural to ease into the pace of the river. The margarita definitely helped. 

At the end of the trip I felt like I had done something good for my body — and my mental state.

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While contaminants can find their way into any natural body of water, the Bogue Chitto flows through forest land that's remote from the usual culprit — human habitation. The 2018 Water Quality Integrated Report (still under public review) from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which tests waters, does not list any bacterial contamination as a problem in the Bogue Chitto.

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Bogue Chitto River Tubing Center

10237 Choctaw Road, Bogalusa, 70427

(985) 735-1173

Open seven days a week

Two- or four-hour trips

Also offers camping, canoe and kayak rentals

Ages 5 and up

$20 tube; $5 ice chest tubes

Louisiana River Adventures/Wayne's World Tubing

12413 Camp Cir Road, Franklinton, 70438

(985) 795-2004

Two- or four-hour trips

Ages 6 and up

Shuttle service available (call to inquire)

What to bring

Biodegradable Sunblock (found at Trader Joe's or Walgreens)

Hat

Towel

Refreshments

Ziploc bag for your phone or waterproof case

What not to bring

Glass containers