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Coast Guard to close St. Clair River for 40th annual Port Huron Float Down

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

The U.S. Coast Guard will close the St. Clair River for this year's Port Huron Float Down after 1,500 Michigan residents unexpectedly visited Canada last year

High winds last year steered floaters to Canada. Some had no identification or a way of communicating with others. This year, the U.S. and Canadian coast guards have plans to steer floaters to safety. 

The 40th Port Huron Float Down will be on Aug. 20. The event draws about 1,000 floaters but has had more than 6,000 at one event, according to the website. 

St. Clair River will be closed to vessels from noon to 8 p.m. Aug. 20 and the U.S. Coast Guard will be patrolling and working with emergency responders.

The event is unsanctioned, which means there is no official sponsor, ticketing or tracking of participants.

Coast Guard Lt. Jodie Knox said the river closing will prevent people from illegally entering Canada. She warned, though, of the dangers on the water.

"That waterway is cold and a fast-moving current. When you pair that with alcohol consumption, it’s a lot of bad factors," Knox said. “We do the best we can, but this amount of people, unsanctioned, stretch our resources thin."

Come prepared, she warned the participants.

"One of the biggest problems last year was nobody had any form of identification, money or communication when they ended up in Canada," Knox said. "Take a lesson from last year and come a little more prepared. Bring a rope, waterproof bag and method of steerage like a paddle, and that can be tiring so we ask people to wear a life vest."

Thomas Hoffman, 55, has participated in the Float Down since 1976. His brothers, Steve and Greg Hoffman, were among the original founders. 

"Have respect for the river," Hoffman said. "It has a 7.5-knot current, many undertows and back currents. Everyone should be aware of what's going on around them. Life vests should be worn for those not familiar with these waters. 

For information, visit the Float Down's website

Twitter: @SarahRahal_