A potentially deadly river party has prompted a warning from officials. The annual Port Huron Float Down is the subject of a new warning from the Canadian and US Coast Guards who call the event "unsanctioned" and dangerous. The float down, which invites people to grab a raft of some sort and just float down the St. Clair River which goes between Canada and Michigan, is set to take place on Saturday, August 18 this year.
In the joint statement with the USA, Canada's Coast Guard warns that "this remains an unsanctioned marine event and poses risks to the participants and other users of the waterways." They go on to say that weather conditions, lack of life jackets, and alcohol consumption, among other factors, can "create difficult emergency response scenarios that can result in serious injuries or fatalities."
Specifically, they mention the tragic case in 2014 when a young participant died at the event. According to the statement, at the 2014 river float down, "a 19-year-old, experienced swimmer drowned during the event. The U.S. Coast Guard and local, state and federal partners including the Canadian Coast Guard mounted a significant search and rescue effort that was eventually suspended after 21 searches lasting more than 36 hours."
They go on to warn that this event is "inherently dangerous" and advise that people do not attend or partake in it by any means.
However, if you are planning to participate in the float down, the Canadian and US Coast Guards recommend that you follow some safety measures:
- all participants should wear a life jacket
- bring your id and personal items in a waterproof bag
- never go alone and use the buddy system
- don't drink
- dress for cold weather and try to stay dry
- stay close to the shore and away from boats
Some of these warnings are also echoed on the official Port Huron Float Down website, but not to the same degree. They recommend having a quality raft to stay dry, having oars to help stay on course, and using the buddy system. However, they suggest that children wear life jackets while adults only need to keep them at arm's reach.
While they don't specifically mention alcohol, they do recommend a cooler in their list of suggested items, which they say "gives you an easy way to store drinks and snacks to keep you refreshed on your lazy float." Narcity has reached out to the Port Huron Float Down and will update this story when we receive a response.
The float down is technically an American event, launching in Port Huron, Michigan, however, since the river goes between Canada and the USA it has become a concern on this side of the border too. In fact, in the statement, the Coast Guard warns that in 2016, "high winds and a heavy downpour led to approximately 1500 participants requiring assistance when they landed on the Canadian shoreline at Sarnia and Corunna, leaving them stranded, subject to Canadian and U.S. border security."
A similar incident happened in 2017 as well, when 168 people had to be rescued on the Canadian side of the river. That year the rescue missions involved the work of the coast guards, RCMP, OPP and local police forces in Sarnia.