Summer Float Party FAQs
Summer Float Party 2023
~ Frequently Asked Questions ~
What should I wear and bring?
- A Life jacket or personnel flotation device (PDF)
- A floaty
- Water shoes - water shoes, sandals with a strap, or an old pair of sneakers
- Costumes!!! We encourage you to get creative, wear a costume or something special while floating and splashing around on the day. Your clothes/costumes need to be flexible enough for you to easily get on and off your floaty and comfortable to wear for at least 1.5 hours on the water.
- Quick dry clothes, swimsuits or other clothing you don’t mind getting wet
- A paddle - anything from an actual paddle to a dustpan, webbed gloves, frisbies, or the like is recommended for navigating.
- Full water bottle
- Change of clothes and towel for after the float
- What not to bring:
- Anything you don’t want to lose. See below for more details about checking personal items at registration so they do not get lost during the float.
- If you choose to bring your phone, we recommend bringing it in a waterproof case.
- Anything that will end up as litter in the river, like snacks with wrappers
What counts as a “floaty”?
Floaters creativity is boundless. Some folks use pool loungers, big dinosaurs, peacocks, and unicorns, other folks float with friends using blow up kiddie pools. We are open to using anything you can fill up with air and float on top of the water. Homemade floaties made with pool noodles are acceptable, though they may not provide the driest or most stable of floats
Is this family friendly?
Yes! Floaters under 18 are welcome with a parent or guardian present. This event is recommended for age 10 and above. A waiver must be signed for each participant (more information below). Tell your friends and family to come cheer you on and watch from along the river.
Can I bring my own boat?
Hard sided, foldable, or full-sized canoes, kayaks, or SUPs cannot be used during this event.
What if the weather is bad?
This event is rain or shine, except in the event of a thunderstorm or a recent discharge from un upstream sewer outfall. In the event of a delay or cancellation, Friends will notify all participants via email.
The float may be delayed or cancelled if there is a storm or incoming storm with the potential for lightening, as that would create unsafe conditions for floating.
The float will be cancelled if there is a heavy rain event within 48 hours of the float that causes discharge from a combined sewer outfall upstream or in the service area of the event, as this would create unsafe water quality. These discharges are tracked and reported on by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Where am I floating and how long will it take?
- Participants begin at the River Park kayak launch (near the boathouse and track at Argyle St. and Whipple St.) at 3000 W Argyle, Chicago and float down to the Horner Park outtake (just south of the Montrose Ave bridge) at 2741 W. Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60618.
- This will take between 1 – 1.5 hours.
What time should I get there?
- Each floater is assigned a wave time after registration, with Spirit Teams and Sponsors leading the float in the first wave at 11:30 a.m. Floaters are spread out into waves of around 50 people every 15 minutes. Information on your wave assignment, check in, and start time will be sent to you following registration.
- We highly recommend arriving an hour before your wave start if you are taking the shuttle from Horner to River Park and a half hour early if you are getting yourself to River Park.
- If you are taking the shuttle from Horner to River Park, DO NOT have your floaty inflated to ensure there is space for everyone. More shuttle information below.
How do I get there?
- Arrive at River Park via public transit or drop off
- There is very limited parking around River Park, so we suggest you take public transportation or have someone drop you off.
- The closest transit: bus #81 Lawrence & Clarendon, bus #92 Foster & Francisco, Brown Line Rockwell
- Take the shuttle from Horner Park
- Free shuttle buses are available for all floaters who wish to park at Horner Park and be transported to River Park.
- If you choose to take the shuttle, plan to arrive no later than an hour before your wave time. It will take at least 10 minutes to travel there via our shuttles so this gives you time to load on and off the bus, and to check in and inflate your floaty at River Park.
- Transit closest to Horner Park: bus #78 Montrose & California,bus #49 Western & Roscoe, bus #80 Irving Park & California, Brown Line Rockwell
Where will I park?
- We highly recommend you do not park/bring your car to River Park, because there is EXTREMELY limited parking at River Park and the float ends at Horner Park.
- We suggest parking at Horner Park and taking our free bus shuttle to the start. Horner Park has public parking lots along California Avenue as well as free parking on nearby side streets. Parking at Horner is first-come, first-serve to anyone using the park, and we are not able to reserve any parking for floaters, so please allow extra time to park or find alternate ways to arrive.
- If you choose to park at River Park, you are responsible for getting back to your vehicle after the float.
How do I inflate my floaty?
- After you check in at River Park, multiple Inflation Stations will be available to fill floaties. Volunteers will be available to help inflate your floaty to 90-95%. If you want it fuller, you can do so yourself. We don’t want to accidentally pop anyone’s floaty!
- Keep in mind there may be a line to inflate, so please be patient with your fellow floaters and volunteers.
- This is one of the reasons we encourage you arrive at River Park at least an hour before your wave time.
What will I do with my things?
- Don't bring anything onto the water that you're not prepared to lose! We love photos from the water, but the bottom of the river has become home to many phones over the years during other events.
- When you check in at River Park, you can choose to store your keys, phone, and wallet in a quart-sized Ziploc bag (note: we are not responsible for your belongings). We will transport all of these bags to Horner Park so you can pick them up after you get off the water.
- You’re welcome to bring your towel and other personal items in bags no larger than a backpack and we can store those for you as well.
- Again, we are not responsible for your belongings, so you should not bring anything with you that you would be heartbroken over losing.
- Your event T-Shirt will be available after the float at Horner Park.
I’m on the water, what now?
Relax and enjoy! The float down to Horner Park will take around 1.5 hours. Keep an eye out for wildlife (Black Crowned Night Heron, turtles, etc.), marvel at the naturalized riverbank edges along Horner Park and businesses that have embraced the river with their own docks, chat with your nearest floater, wave to passersby who will be in shock at this never before seen spectacle on the river. There is a near continuous path along the river from River to Horner Parks.
How do I get out of the river?
- Canoe guides will ensure you do not float past the output at Horner Park. The output is shallow, so you may have to stand up on the river bottom before stepping up and taking the steps up to exit the water. This is why water shoes are required – the river bottom could contain glass, sharp rocks, or any number of painful items if stepped on with bare feet! There will be volunteers available to assist all floaters getting off the water. Remember, the steps will be wet and slippery. Use caution.
- At River Park you will be required to stop at our Pre-Float Safety Checkpoint so that we can track who enters the water. And when you exit at Horner Park you will be required to stop at our Post-Float Safety Checkpoint so that we can track who exits the water, ensuring that each person is accounted for safely completing the float.
What if I need to get off the water before Horner Park?
- We discourage anyone from registering for the event who is unwilling or unprepared to float for the entirety of the route for at least 1.5 hours due to the safety protocol.
- If there is an emergency, and you need to get off the water between River and Horner Parks, alert a canoe guide.
The Safety Precautions
How will I stay safe on the water?
- Your safety is of the utmost importance. Heed all directions from staff and volunteers, including canoe guides on the water.
- Be careful getting in and out of the water. There will be volunteers to assist you, should you need it. Take your time and be mindful that the docks will be wet and slippery.
- Floaters are REQUIRED to wear shoes while floating (water shoes or an old pair of sneakers). If you end up in a shallow area of the water, we have NO way of knowing what's on the bottom (broken glass, broken concrete, buckthorn branches, etc.).
- No rough-housing on the water. Don't knock anyone off their floaty. Play games on land, not in the river.
- If your float deflates, alert the nearest canoe guide boat to assist you.
- No glass allowed out on the water.
- Stay hydrated. Bring your reusable water bottles!
- Wear plenty of sunscreen. You will be on the water for around 1.5 hours with little shade.
- Basic first aid will be available at the check-in tent. And EMTs will be stationed Horner Park.
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) must be worn at all times on the water. You need to be safe in the event your floaty deflates or you fall off. Review the safety information below for how to properly wear your PFD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKS1yc6J004 ; https://uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/life-jacket-wear-wearing-your-life jacket.php
- If you see anyone in trouble, assist them but most importantly get word to the nearest guide boat (have other floaters pass your mayday call up and down the line of floaters to the nearest guide boat).
- There will be bridge spotters on each of the bridges, overlooking the event for signs of distress to report to our safety team.
Do I need to sign a waiver?
- All floaters are required to sign our waiver in order to participate in the float. Help us cut down on paper copies by signing the waiver ahead of time! https://form.jotform.com/Prmwaivers/friends-of-chicago-river--participa The waiver link will be emailed to you after registration, and we will have paper copies at the check-in tent.
What if I float all the way to downtown?
- Volunteers on canoes and kayaks on either end of the procession will keep floaters from floating past the output at Horner Park.
Restrooms: There will be a small number of portapotties on site at both River and Horner Parks, including accessible portapotties. The Horner Park fieldhouse bathrooms will also be available.
- Bring plenty of water with you on the water.
- If you are bringing snacks onto the water, make sure all wrappers and foodware make it to Horner Park with you. The last thing we want to do—during an event celebrating the health and beauty of the river—is to trash it with things we drop from our floaties.
- Food trucks will be at Horner Park to purchase food at the after float celebration.
- Room to picnic: There is a large lawn at Horner Park for relaxing and enjoying food you purchase at the food trucks (patronizing the food trucks supports us).
Garbage disposal: There are limited receptacles for trash at River Park and for trash, recycling, and composting at Horner Parks. Help us make this a zero waste event by bringing reusable items with you.
I see Molson Coors Beverage Company is sponsoring; can I bring alcohol?
No alcohol is permitted on the water, but join us for the After Party at Horner Park. There will be a Molson Coors beer tent for up to two free beers for participants, while supplies last. We will check ID at the check in tent and give you a wristband so you can get right to enjoying after the float. We can check ID at the tent as well.
Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are not permitted on the float. Per usual Chicago Park District rules, leashed dogs are welcome at Horner Park during the After Party, except in closed areas like the beer garden.
How can I make sure this event continues to get bigger and better?
- We are guests of the Chicago Park District; let’s keep things neat and clean so they want us coming back for years to come. Bring as little disposable/trash items with you and/or pack them out with you (as you would on a hike to a remote destination). You are responsible for removing all trash.
- Remember we are guests of the surrounding neighborhoods as well. Be respectful of all property and people you encounter.
- Be safe and smart on the water (see above safety guidance and requirements).