Portland, July 26th, 2015. Despite the overcast weather, The Big Float V was dubbed a success. Over a thousand water lovers, including some four-legged friends, flocked to the Willamette River in downtown Portland for the fifth annual event. The goal, according to organizers from the nonprofit Human Access Project, is to encourage people to “get into the river” and support its preservation and healthy development as a recreational resource…and they add, to have a whale of a good time in the process.

It takes a lot of volunteers  from the Human Access Project to manage the boaters

It takes several dozen volunteers from the Human Access Project to manage the boaters.

This group of friends is ready for the river. They're With Scott Landia, Jayna Lamb, Chaska Ñahuicha, Flū Rangpor Nęsnah, Michelle Stoll and Tina-Marie Novak.

This group of friends is ready for the river and includes Scott Landia, Jayna Lamb, Chaska Ñahuicha, Flū Rangpor Nęsnah, Michelle Stoll and Tina-Marie Novak.

It's a competition to come up with the most colorful floats and hats to boot!

It’s a competition with bragging rights on the line to come up with the most colorful floats and, in this case, hats to boot!

The pirates were out in force including  Brandon CS Sanders and Max at Willamette River.

The pirates were out in force and are always bent on pillaging.

This group favored flamingos and swans for the afternoon on the Willamette.

This flotilla  favored flamingos and swans for their afternoon on the Willamette.

Open to all ages, the event begins with a parade. Floaters gathered at Tom McCall Bowl then carried their floatation devices south, along Waterfront Park, to the put-in point at “Poet’s Beach” beneath the Marquam Bridge. Floaters paddle down river and land on the west bank at the Tom McCall Bowl. That’s where Portland’s downtown beach party was held – complete with a music barge and live bands, food carts, beer/wine garden, sponsor booths, and a kids’ activities area.
From the Human Access Project HAP:

HAP uses funds from events like the Big Float to fund important projects. is actively working on a few projects on the Willamette River (in no particular order):

1) Marquam Beach (“Poet’s Beach”) Access.

Under the Marquam Bridge on the west side of the Willamette River is a perfectly good small beach, but there has never been a safe way to access it. HAP has changed that. Working with many others, we have created a new pathway to this beach. Along the path are stones that are engraved with children’s poems and native words from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

2) Tom McCall Bowl Beach.
We have UnRocked the Bowl to create a beach area at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. We will continue to do so every summer so Portland has a city beach to use. Numerous volunteers join us every year in this “unrockin'” community effort.

3) Audrey McCall Beach.
This summer we will continue removing concrete, glass and debris from Audrey McCall Beach, on the eastside of the river just south of Hawthorne Bridge. Our plan is to remove 50 yards of concrete from the bank this year.

4) Operation Deep Clean. 
We hope to bring in a barge with an extremely heavy duty crane to work with divers to see how much junk we can pull out of the depths of the Willamette.

5) Bridge Signage.
When you drive over the bridges in downtown Portland there is very little acknowledgement that you are driving over a river.  We need signs that remind people that the Willamette River is indeed a river that we are proud of in this city.

6) Softening the seawall.
We are hoping to enhance the ugly forboding seawall with artwork until the time it can be reengineered to provide better access to the water’s edge.

7) Concrete removal.
We will continue to remove concrete from the banks of the eastside. Let’s face it, when you see chunks of discarded concrete on a riverbank it kind of communicates that we do not love our river.  We are hoping to pick our river banks clean of ugly concrete chunks.  More to come!

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in Portland could actually get into the Willamette River? Simply stroll down to the water’s edge, wade out into it, and swim or paddle around to their heart’s content in a safe, public area? It’s time we did something about that. And that’s what our not-for-profit organization, Human Access Project, is all about.Let’s face it, even if you wanted to swim in the Willamette River in downtown Portland today, how would you do it? There’s no easy way to get into it.  It’s like this:  if you want birds to come into your yard you put up a bird feeder and plant trees to create a bird-friendly habitat. The same is true for humans and the river. If we want to make it so people can swim in the Willamette we need to create better access and a more inviting environment. For instance, imagine the Tom McCall bowl area redesigned with a beach instead of the unfriendly jagged rock river edge currently there.In short, the Human Access Project is driven to promote activating the Willamette River for recreational use that considers all the critters that live and love the water including humans.
The Human Access Project vision is simple:  a city in love with its river. This grassroots not-for-profit group has three concentric goals: 1) Create a human habitat and more access points along the Willamette River in downtown Portland. 2) Inspire people to get into the Willamette River.

3) Facilitate stewardship of the Willamette River and Watershed.

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