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This video will answer many of your questions.


Is The Big Float big on safety?

Safety is a critical component of TBF. All participants are required to wear a flotation device. The event will be supervised by the Coast Guard, Portland Fire Department, Multnomah County River Patrol, and AMR River Rescue. Safety kayakers will line the route to provide additional visual surveillance. Please review the safety guidelines provided during the registration process carefully. Help keep the event safe by being observant while on the river. If you see anyone in distress, please alert safety personnel.

Do I have to wear a life jacket?

Yes, all floaters must wear a life jacket. This will not only help keep you safe, it will make our friends in the local Coast Guard happy. And we want everyone to be happy! Which explains in part the origin of the name Human Access Project (HAP)   (links to www.humanaccessproject.com) the grassroots nonprofit that is funded by TBF.

Where can I get a life jacket?

You can purchase one when you register online and pick it up either at the pickup party or when you arrive to the event. You can also purchase one when you arrive at the TBF registration table.

Why should I pre-register?

Participants are encouraged to pre-register to save money and time in registration lines.  People who are pre-registered will have expedited entrance to TBF. Plus, you’ll get additional river karma by helping organizers plan for the event. So please be a peach and pre-register.

What should I bring?

Watercraft, life jackets, water shoes, and sunscreen are the most essential. Recommended: towels, money for food and beverages, sunglasses, and anything else you want to make your day more enjoyable!

How do I inflate my watercraft?

We’ll have a couple massive air compressors on site that can each inflate up to eight watercraft at a time. It goes quickly, but there may be a bit of a line so please be patient.

Where should I park?

There is a SmartPark at SW 1st and Jefferson. Since you don't have to travel with your inflated watercraft, you can park at any SmartPark downtown and hop on the streetcar. You can also park in SE Portland and walk over the Hawthorne Bridge.  We recommend you don't drive and that you either walk, bike or take Tri-Met.

Will food and beverages be available at the event?

Yes, we will have a variety of food carts present that take cash and card. We’ll also have Kona Brewing Company Liquid Aloha, 2 Towns Cider, and wine at the bar.

Can I bring in my own food and beverages?

Water is okay. Refillable bottles are great. Otherwise, outside food is not permitted.  Thank you for supporting HAP and the food carts by only purchasing food and beverage at the event.

What do I do with my keys/phone/bag while I'm floating?

We provide a space to store personal items as long as what you are bringing is not larger than a standard school sized backpack.  Just inside the entrance there is a check-in area for valuables. You can drop off your things before you float and pick them up afterwards. This tent will be monitored at all times but please keep in mind TBF cannot be held liable for any missing items.

What is the schedule and route?

8am - 11am: Beach Bash clean up, participants receive free entry to TBF
10am: Onsite registration begins, pre ticket purchase entry begins
1:00pm: First Inner-Tube parade (meet at the bottom of the bowl to march)
2:30pm: Second Inner-Tube parade (meet at the bottom of the bowl to march)
4:30pm: Final Inner-Tube parade (tentative, meet at the bottom of the bowl to march)
1:30pm - 4:20pm: Floating Barge band
2:15pm - 6:30pm: Main Stage Barge bands
6:30pm: Event ends

The route begins at the bottom of the Tom McCall Waterfront Bowl and marches south on the Esplanade to Poet's Beach under the Marquam Bridge. Launch yourself there and float back to the bowl! Easy peasey.

Are air mattresses allowed? Water wings? What about other types of watercraft?

Air mattresses – yes. Anything float-worthy you can sit or lie on is allowable. Any watercraft you create is fine as long as it is human-powered. You may swim the river but must wear a life jacket.

Where can I get an inner-tube?

TBF sponsor Popina Swimwear Portland is offering a 15% off coupon through registration. A limited number of inner-tubes and floats will be available on site the day of the event for purchase. Inner-tubes are widely available through various outlets in Portland.

Can we tie our watercraft together and go as a group?

Yes, but everyone tied together still needs to wear a life jacket.

Can we bring alcoholic beverages with us on our voyage?

Negative, Skipper. The Multnomah County River Patrol and Coast Guard will be keeping a close eye out for alcohol and will issue tickets. Sorry!

Are there age restrictions for floaters?

All ages are welcome to participate. We offer discounted tickets to kids 13 and under.

What if it rains the day before or the day of the event? What if it's cold outside?

Bad weather COULD be a factor in postponement of TBF. But we have yet to cancel it in our history. Check this website or HAP Facebook for last-minute updates.

Can we wear costumes?

Costumes are strongly encouraged. Portland has many good costume outlets. Be as creative as you want!

How does one gracefully board an inner-tube?

Forget graceful. Just plop your butt in the center of the tube and start paddling. You will need to paddle out into the river and an oar can be helpful. There will be inner-tube handlers at the put-in spot to help you get launched.

Where does the name Willamette come from anyway?

Wikipedia states that Willamette derives from the French pronunciation of the name of a Clackamas Indian village. Other sources say it is thought to mean a long, beautiful river. There is no definitive answer. However, it is a fact that the Willamette River is the largest U.S. river lying entirely within one state. The state of awesomeness known as Oregon.

Who invented the inner-tube?

In 1911, Philip Strauss invented the first successful tire, which was a combination tire and air-filled inner tube. It is not known whom the intrepid individual was who first sailed down a river in one.

What does TBF do with the money it raises?

After paying event expenses, almost all money raised by TBF (through registration) is donated in support of our nonprofit – the Human Access Project. TBF is our annual fundraiser. This year, a majority of the proceeds will go towards starting a life guard program at Portland’s second official swimming beach, Audrey McCall Beach, directly across the river from Tom McCall Waterfront Bowl Beach Park.

What exactly is the Human Access Project?

The Human Access Project (HAP) was conceived in November 2010 by founder Willie Levenson. It is a grassroots not-for-profit almost totally volunteer-driven. HAP's mission is to "Transform Portland's relationship with the Willamette River." How: create more public spaces, beaches and access points in downtown Portland; inspire Portlanders and visitors to connect with the river; and support conservation, education and stewardship of the river.

How long does it take to float from Poet’s Beach to Tom McCall Waterfront Park?

Between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours depending on current, your paddling ability, and how much time you lollygag along the way. Go at your own pace. Do it twice if you want.

Are the floater parades the only times I can put in at Poet’s Beach or can I launch in between parades?

You can put in any time. The first parade tends to be the longest wait to get in the water. The line can be up to 30 minutes so make sure you hydrate and please be patient (THANKS). We offer a shorter route that starts halfway between Tom McCall Bowl and Poet’s Beach, which will have shorter lines.

If I have someone watching my towel and valuables who does not plan to float, do they need to register to enter the area?

Your shore friends do need to register if they want to be at the beach party. We try to keep the admission fee low. All proceeds go to support our nonprofit, the Human Access Project. Could be your friends will change their minds and want to jump in. If so, they will need to be registered with waiver and emergency contact info completed. Also, we do have a check-in for valuables.

Can I swim in the Willamette River anytime?

Yes! At 4,000 acres the Willamette River is Portland’s second largest public space and natural area. It’s owned by the citizens of Oregon. It’s your river – get into it! Organize your own float among friends! But please be safe, wear life jackets, and respect the river at all times.

If the Willamette River is owned by the citizens of Oregon why do I have to pay to participate in The Big Float?

The Big Float is a big production. It costs close to $20,000 alone to just rent the Tom McCall Bowl for the beach party. Overall, it costs over $100,000 to put this event on. We provide a lot of support, services, and live music that you will not get any other day of the year or anywhere else in the known universe. Plus it supports HAP’s mission of Transforming Portland’s Relationship with the Willamette River. Hey, it only costs $5 in advance! If you’re really hard up for cash you can get in free if you volunteer for a few hours at the Beach Bash and Cleanup before TBF. So thanks for your help! And if you can contribute a few extra dollars to support our work, then you can be a true river revival champion.