A leisurely float on a less busy river in Boise. By ActualRandy (CC 3.0)


Last Sunday while participating in the annual Port Huron Float Down festival in Michigan, 1,500 Americans on inflatable rafts, inner tubes and other flotation devices were blown by strong winds into Canadian waters.

The unofficial festival takes place each year on the St. Clair River that divides Michigan from Ontario. Strong 10-15 knot winds with 27 knot gusts pushed the partying floaters illegally into Canada, where Canadian authorities spent several hours picking them up from points all along the Canadian shore.

Great Lakes freighters navigating on the lower St. Clair River between Michigan, USA and Ontario, Canada. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo (PD)


The un-sponsored event has no organizers, and presumably no permits. Shipping groups have been critical of the unsanctioned event for safety issues and the impact the floaters have on shipping operations on the waterway.

2015 Port Huron Float Down on the St. Claire River. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen


“The Float Down is not permitted or sanctioned by Federal agencies in either country,”Canadian Shipowners Association president Robert Lewis-Manning claimed. “Although the event may appear benign, there are a host of risks to participants that are not evident to non-mariners. This is a waterway that deserves the utmost of respect and this unsanctioned event does not have sufficient safety measures.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has also warned the event “poses significant and unusual hazards“, while Peter Garapick of the Canadian Coast Guard called Sunday’s float down the “worst in the history of the event“. Read more from CBC News here…

posted by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee