The annual Port Huron Float Down is still taking place this Sunday, an event that has previously seen thousands of Americans floating along the shared border — and potentially across it.
Canada’s borders remain firmly closed to our neighbours to the south, but each year, an “unsanctioned marine event” takes place that has previously sent over 1,000 Americans accidentally spilling onto Canadian shores.
Taking place on Sunday, August 16, along the St. Clair River participants in Michigan spend the day floating nearly 13 km (that’s eight miles for our American neighbours) from Lighthouse Park at the edge of Lake Huron to Chrysler Beach, Marysville.
Concerns are high enough this year that the Canadian and US Coast Guard leadership have issued a joint statement advising caution.
“The fast moving current, large number of participants, lack of lifejackets, alcohol consumption, potentially challenging weather conditions, water temperature, and limited rescue resources can create difficult emergency response scenarios that can result in serious injuries or fatalities,” a statement read. “Large crowds of people in close proximity also increases the risk of spreading COVID-19.”
We’re ready to work with our emergency and law enforcement partners during the Port Huron #FloatDown to respond to emergencies. We strongly recommend that you do not participate, but if you choose to do so, consult these safety tips: https://t.co/abXxJ2Cc5m #SafetyFirst #Covid19 pic.twitter.com/VvNtt20K25
— Canadian Coast Guard (@CoastGuardCAN) August 13, 2020
They added that the water increases the effects of alcohol consumption and the risk to participants.
The problems with previous events have largely been the result of the weather, as in 2016, strong winds and rain resulted in 1,500 Americans being blown onto the Canadian side. All of whom had to be bussed back by law enforcement.
According to the coast guards, this left “them stranded, subject to Canadian and US border security and, often without identification, money and means of communication. Some had injuries and were suffering from hypothermia.”
There have also been more serious tragedies, the coast guard says, when in 2014 a 19-year-old, experienced swimmer drowned during the event.
The float down does not have official organizers, but videos previously put together give you a good idea of what the event looks like.
The event began in the late-1970s, according to porthuronfloatdown.com, though it was cancelled in 1987, and would not resume again until 2008.