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Summer Fun at the Big Float

The Big Float
The Big Float

The sight of several thousand Portland residents and visitors floating on the Willamette River on a lazy summer afternoon with musical groups playing in the background sounds like a Portlandia skit. Willie Levenson, Ringleader, Human Access Project, offers this reflection to those who call The Big Float a Portlandia thing. "I kind of want to understand that they mean it as something positive. But for me, the fact that more people don't have a love for the Willamette River is not really funny. I think it's sad and pathetic. The Big Float is not a spoof but a movement disguised as a party."

This event dubbed by Levenson as the "World's laziest revolution," enables people of all ages to make a difference by getting on their butts and having fun. Proceeds from this event are used to support the Human Access Project, a group whose mission is to transform Portland's relationship with the Willamette River. As Levenson notes, "Right now there's a severe lack of access points to the Willamette River for one to go kayaking, swimming and other activities. We need to create more water access opportunities."

The event kicks off at 1pm with the inner tube parade followed by the first group of tubers entering the river from "Poet's Beach" (West Bank under Marquam Bridge) at 1:15pm. They will float downstream under the supervision of Coast Guard personnel. Also, Kayaker chaperones will provide escort help. Tubers can launch as late as 3pm. Take out is at Tom McCall Bowl just south of the Hawthorne Bridge and join in the summer beach party replete with a music barge and three bands. Tubers can recline in their watercraft on the river or frolic on the beach or grass. At 1:45pm, the first live band starts on the barge with the last band wrapping up at 5pm. No alcohol is permitted during the float though craft beer will be available once one is out of the water.

Register online or on site for $9. Tubers must bring their own inner tube and lifejacket. Lifejackets are available via online registration or on location for $8. Those who register online will receive a %15 coupon at Popina that they can use to buy an inner tube. This store, the largest women's swimwear store in the West Coast, features a bar that serves complimentary Kona beer, large fish tanks and a children's area,