River Rat Tubing welcoming guests on river: precautions taken during pandemic

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TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WATE)- Guests lined up at the head of the tunnel that leads down to the Little River, waiting with tubes in hand eager to disembark on a river adventure.

River Rat Tubing officially opened today, welcoming guests of all ages back on the water. The popular attraction aims to open around May 1st, that deadline was pushed back this year over weather and coronavirus concerns. As businesses and public places re-open under phase 1 of re-opening the economy, River Rat general manager Jennifer Duerer says they did not want to open prematurely.

“We wanted to kind of allow people to ease back in to doing things out in public, and ease ourselves into that,” said Duerer.

With new rules and guidance coming down from local and stat government, she noted that they did not want to open with certain rules, then have to change them in case of new rules or restrictions to keep everyone safe from this novel virus.

“It seems to change every week and it’s much easier to wait a couple of weeks and prepare than have to re-invent your business every single week,” said the general manager.

There will be some changes to operations this year with staff and guests taking extra precautions to keep everyone safe while enjoying a river ride.

  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • Self-sanitizing stations for customers to spray down life jackets
  • nine people maximum on shuttle buses

Life jackets are already sanitized after each use and when it comes to the tubes, Deurer notes that the sun does the heavy-lifting for that. Staff members are allowed to wear masks if they choose to but most of their team works outside in the open. The nature of tubing on the river keeps people socially distanced.

A new rule regular river riders will notice is the requirement for all ages to wear a life jacket. The general manager says while ages 12 and under are already required by law to wear a life jacket, anyone who rides the ride, regardless of age, 12-years-old and up, must at least take a life jacket with them–a coast guard regulation.

Deurer says they are expecting to see more guests during this time than they normally would due to the hot temps and no competing extracurricular activities like sporting or school events that would normally keep people away. They are expecting to be even busier for Memorial Day weekend.

When it comes to season-pass holders, they were very much eager to be able to tube again.

“They were ready and waiting saying, ‘we were watching social media we wanted to be the first people here,'” says notes Deurer.

Staff along with tubers are taking advantage of the sunshine and warm temperatures, happy to get active and out of the house.

“It’s really nice that they’ve started to open up the outdoor activities, such as the park and the hiking,” Deurer says,”I think this is a great way to get out and get some fresh air and be in the sunshine.:

As a first timer at River Rate Tubing from Johnson City Robert Haney says he was pleased to find a offering this type of recreational activity that was open, as he and his girlfriend were visiting Gatlinburg to get out of the house.

“I feel very comfortable doing this,” Haney says amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “It’s the best way to social distance, riding the river away from everybody; just be me and my girlfriend and enjoy the time.”

If you are interested in reserving a time or want to check out River Rat Tubing click here.

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