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Raft - You need a reliable inflatable that can support you and we suggest one which you can easily maintain control of, and be able to paddle to stay out of the shipping channel. It is also wise to choose a float that can keep you dry and out of the water to prevent possible heat loss or resulting hypothermia. For these reasons we suggest a 2 or 3 person inflatable boat.
PFD - You must have a Personal Floatation Device or Life Jacket. Children should wear them at all times, and competent adults should at least keep them at arms reach at all times. Now is a good time to mention: If you cannot swim DO NOT enter the water. Parents and guardians should also not allow minors to float without being accompanied by an adult for safety reasons. There are no lifeguards or safety personnel in the water so your safety is your own responsibility.
Oars - Oars, paddles, and even swim fins have proved to be greatly helpful in staying on course. Have these with you.
Other Suggested Items:
Cooler - gives you an easy way to store drinks and snacks to keep you refreshed on your lazy float.
Sunblock - Prevent some morning-after burn with an ounce of prevention - water-proof sunblock will come in handy.
Litter-bags - Keep the river blue, by staying green. Don’t let your trash float away.
Rope - numerous reasons to have rope with you. Emergency towing, tying rafts together, mooring, ect.
Whistles - Emergency whistles to draw attention to yourself if you find yourself in trouble.
2-way radios - If you have a ride waiting for you down river, these could prove indispensable in coordinating your pickup. Also being able to communicate with other floaters, or emergency channels.
Have a Float Plan!
Always make sure to notify others of your plans, and have contingency plans, for sudden weather changes, or other happenings. Where will you be getting out? How long do you plan to be out? Will you have a way to be contacted? If you have to cut your trip short, where will you be?
Use the buddy system!
Don’t go alone! It isn’t as much fun and it certainly isn’t as safe. There is safety in numbers, so always have a buddy that can keep an eye on you and vice-versa.
Weather in Michigan is temperamental. Bring appropriate attire and be sure to check the forecast before leaving.
Leave Valuables at home
There is no need to tote your expensive jewelry our electronics along with you, as it is simply asking for disaster from being lost or soaked. If you must bring a cell phone, be sure it is in a waterproof container (which can be fashioned from locking sandwich bags and rice if need be) and be sure that the waterproof container is kept safe.
Digital cameras can be found rather inexpensively for splash-proof or water-proof models quite readily nowadays.
The traditional course of the Port Huron Float Down is launching at Lighthouse (Conger) Beach in Port Huron, and then floating 8 miles Downstream to Chrysller Beach in Marysville.
The current moves quickest under the Blue Water Bridges, and then will pull you out towards the center of the river, when it turns near the mouth of the Black River. Keep this in mind, that the first portion is the fastest.
The wind direction can make all the difference between a 2-3 hour trip from a North Wind, to a 6 hour trip from a strong South wind. Having a “sea anchor” may be of benefit, which is essentially a bucket or another scoop attached to a rope, to grab the current from beneath your raft. It can help pull you with the current, or just prevent being pushed backwards by the wind.
Groups floating down the river together is always entertaining to watch, and there are numerous places to do so that are in public hands.
The Edison Parkway, The Flag Plaza, The Blue Water Bridges, Pine Grove Park, Kiefer Park, and Lincoln Park are all great places to watch floaters, or boaters!
If you decide to float down the St. Clair River, there are several things you must take into consideration before jumping in. Here are some tips from the experts.