The Port Huron Float Down is a tradition steeped in history. Though it is impossible
to know who the first people were to float down the St. Clair River, the float down
as we know it today dates back over 30 years. This flyer from 1986, dates itself
as being the 9th annual event, placing the first “official” float down in 1977. (click
pictures for larger image)
As is quite evident from the home-made nature of this flyer, the float down has
always been a home-grown Port Huron event.
In the beginning the float down was held on the first Saturday in August at noon.
In 1986, a storm put an end to the fun, and was officially ended by the United States
Coast Guard in 1987. Though people continued to float every year, the Float Down
did not officially resurface as an organized event until 2008, with the help of Mark
Bills and the River Rat Society.
2008 saw the first true float down since its cancellation in 1987. Veteran floater
Mark Bills, with volunteers from the River Rat Society, successfully brought the
Float Down back with a crowd of over 3000 floaters, on a new day, being the Third
Sunday in August, to satisfy various concerns. The New Float Down went off without
2009 brought even more success. Under the new leadership of Erik Kimball, another
floater from the Float Downs of the 1980’s, Lighthouse beach saw more people on its
shoreline simultaneously than at any other point in history. With an estimated 6000
floaters, and scores of spectators, the float down saw the peak of it’s turnout.
With an 88 degree day, the conditions would have been perfect, if not for the strong
south wind that largely prevented forward progress. Yet still the Third Sunday in
August brought plenty of fun to the community, and the public anxiously awaited the
return of the Float down in 2010.
2010 “Float Down Event Cancelled Order of U.S. Coast Guard”
Despite public opinion, the Float down was officially cancelled, yet again, in 2010
by the United States Coast Guard. Thusly the River Rat Society, the Bills Family,
and the Kimball Family stepped down as organizers. Despite the Float Down’s official
fate, the event had assumed a life of it’s own, and over 1000 people chose to float
down the St. Clair River on the Third Sunday in August of 2010, and once again, took
place without incident, and the Coast Guard officially calling it “Successful” in
the news. More information about 2010
Erik and Melissa Kimball, the safety organizers
from the 2009 Float Down, were charged for
illegally sponsoring and organizing the Unofficial