On Sunday, July 31, 2011, an armada of floaters in tubes, rafts, air mattresses, kayaks and other human-powered water vessels will be setting sail across the mighty Willamette River, an often overlooked, undervalued and misunderstood natural treasure. Will you and your family take part?
The event is called The Big Float and it’s open to all ages with a $5 suggested donation per floater, going to support Willamette Riverkeeper.
This is the first year for the event, and it will serve as a celebration of our river – highlighting the recreation it offers as well as the restoration it has undergone in recent years. The idea is to have fun on the river, inspire Portlanders to have positive aspirations for the river, and engage people to create lasting, meaningful change to the river. Media sponsors are the Portland Mercury and Kink FM 102, while a rockstar cast of sponsors who are directly related to clean water causes include City of Portland Rivers Office, Vitamin Water, Popina Swimwear and Kona Brewing Co. out of Kailua-Kona Hawaii.
As its website states, “The Big Float is an opportunity for the people of Portland to partake in a public display of affection for the Willamette River. In grand style, the event will begin with a parade of floaters.” Participants will gather with their watercrafts in a parking lot near the Eastbank Promenade beneath the Hawthorne Bridge. At high noon, they will parade across the bridge and head south along Waterfront Park to the put-in point at Marquam Bridge beach, below the Marquam Bridge. Floaters will head northeast to cross the river, taking out at the public boat ramp adjacent south of Hawthorne Bridge. An after-party will be held following the float with food carts, exhibits, beer garden sponsored by Kona Brewing and live music.
DEQ acknowledges that “the Willamette River is safe for swimming and other recreational uses.” And while Willamette River water quality ratings have improved in the last 5 years, public perception is the opposite. The Big Float serves to spread the word that the Willamette River is fine for swimming. Weather could be a factor in postponement or cancellation of the float, in an instance when Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) conditions are present.
All ages are welcome, and kids under age 14 must wear a lifejacket. Lifejackets may be purchased at Popina Swimwear Portland for $7. Anything float-worthy people can sit on or lie on is allowable, but participants are not permitted to just swim across; Everyone must have a flotation device of some sort.
The event occurs simultaneously on the last day of the Oregon Brewers Festival at Waterfront Park.